I recently started a forum thread asking what people thought the future held for traditional bookshops, and was somewhat surprised by some of the views.
I’m not sure what I expected. Being a lover of the traditional book, I maybe just wanted to be patted on the back and told ‘there, there, everything will be alright.’ Maybe that’s why I was so surprised by the general direction the majority of the views went. It seems that most people thought e-publishing is already set to take over from the paper-book in some areas, such as the ‘throw-away’ paper-back novel market. Just now paper-books still vastly out-sell e-books, in terms of sheer numbers, but various statistics seem to all show a sustained growth in e-book sales. It seems that a substantial amount of people who were quoting these e-book sales figures are quite keen on seeing the rise of e-books. Is this a trend that will grow? I don’t know, but as the e-world becomes more entwined with our daily lives perhaps more and more people’s opinions may change towards e-publishing. If the core book buyers adopt e-reading as the norm this market-share may well be set to grow well into the future, but will it ever push the ‘throw-away’ paperback-novel out of the market? I personally hope not.
Another thing that became obvious from the thread was that people are already starting to polarise. There are some people, admittedly like myself, which just like paper-books for the sake of them. We may wax-lyrical about having a solid object with history behind it, rather than an ethereal string of data. We may come up with various reasons why paper-books are better, but in the end our argument just boils down to the fact that we love 'real' books, and what’s wrong with that?
We did all more-or-less agree that, at least for the foreseeable future, there were some types of books that are more resistant to change and may possibly always remain in a paper format; such as the more tactile children’s books, how-too manuals, coffee-table type picture books, and those that generally heavily rely on pictures, diagrams and other illustrations; in general those that employ some form of tactile or graphical aspect to demonstrate their function.
A rather surprising bone of contention, to me anyway, seemed to be how the money was divided out from e-book sales. Bear in mind that there were a fair amount of published Novell Authors in the discussion group, so this probably wouldn’t be as much of an issue for readers. Having said that there were some good points made about who should make what from a book sale. I’d be interested to know a readers perception of where the money goes. Who would you like to see getting the lions-share of your hard-earned cash?
So what do you think? Are e-books destined to be a niche product and nothing you will ever personally be interested in? Or are they the next big thing, destined to resign paper-books to history? Are the current trends a flash-in-the-pan, or a portent of future change? Let me know!