Will E-books Kill the Printed Page?
September 29, 2010 | Written by admin
I don't honestly know about "the long run." But we've been living with books for roughly 500 years, and it's hard to see that changing. But sure, there are some rough waters ahead as we go through this change. Technology may be killing the cookbook. (Think about it — the last time you needed a recipe, did you go to a cookbook? Or did you simply go online and do a quick search for the ingredients?) Technology may be killing the do-it-yourself manual. (If you need help with a new software program, do you want to drive to Borders to buy a copy, or look for your solution immediately online for free?) It's clear that technology is changing the way we view books and written content. The Kindle was great because of the wireless ability to download books. The Sony Reader was nice because of the workability for those of us in the industry who want to read Word docs. The Nook is better than both, in terms of handling and use. And I think the iPad may outdo all of them because of the flexibility it offers (and no, I do NOT understand why Apple isn't touting the iPad as the future of ebook readers… THAT'S it's best strength). So, in my view, everyone who is reading this will own a digital reader in the next two or three years. And yeah, you can tell me how much you like the tactile feel of pages, the acrid scent of ink in a real book, etc. I like those too. But change happens, and we adapt.
So the question that seems to be discussed most is usually posed in a fearful manner: "Will ebooks lead to the death of the printed book?" And my answer remains, "Not in my lifetime." We've got a very rich history with printed books, and I don't see them all disappearing any time soon. It'll lead to change, sure — in fact, we're already seeing that change. And change seems to be happening faster than it used to, so the speed with which we change to a digital book world is faster than when the culture was asked to adopt the automobile or the telephone. Still, there is no lack of interest in books. In fact, the world is becoming more literate, not less so (some readers will remember just a couple decades ago when the government was doing a report entitled "Why Johnny Can't Read" — nobody is much concerned with that issue today, since we read all the time). The concern for those of us who work in the industry (writers, editors, agents, publishers, booksellers) is more of distribution than creation.
And this is fun — we were cited in the Publishers Weekly report on that convention — complete with a photo of an author we represent, double-Carol Award winner Jenny B Jones: