I attended an SCBWI conference recently and heard lots of talk about writing and editing and agenting and the future of publishing. What’s that future? According to one speaker it is a decentralization of publishing, way fewer brick and mortar bookstores, and way, way fewer libraries. Printed books? They’ll limp along for a while and then fade a way. It will be a brave new world of e-books.
And out there in blogland, from a multitude of sources, I hear again and again talk of the end of bookstores and of printed books. A lot of people compare books to music and say that it will be just like what happened to CD’s and music stores.
Nobody knows, of course, but I do think of Mark Twain who read about his death in newspapers when he was sitting at home and quipped, later, to those same newspapers, “Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Is there an e-book revolution happening? Of course. Will it change things? Of course. But people do like the “new” and a lot of people who love their new readers might not want to use them exclusively once the newness has worn off. Also, it’s in the interest of reader sellers to make this “revolution” seem as overwhelming as possible. So you hear things like—there won’t be any bookstores in five or ten years and certainly no libraries etc…
But are books like CD’s? I don’t think so. People like the feel of a book in their hands. They have a loyalty to it, a relationship with it. No one had that kind of loyalty to CD’s. It just isn’t the same kind of experience. Some people say that the generation that is coming to reading now will not have that loyalty and this is probably true. UNLESS it isn’t. We’ve had several generations now growing up with videos. And now we can get movies not just with videos/DVD's but in many, many other ways without leaving our house. And the quality is excellent. So why do people? Leave their houses, I mean. Why do so many people still go to movie-theaters? They watch movies at home AND they go to movie theaters because the experience of seeing a movie in a theater still appeals to them.
I think there are plenty of people who will just read e-books in the future, but I also think there will be people who will read e-books and will still want to read printed books (I’ve read teens saying that so much of their life is spent starring at screens they enjoy looking at a page of print) and like going to bookstores and libraries. It will certainly be fewer than yesterday and today, but they’ll be around for some time yet.
Or so I think today.