Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sober Truth: The Book Is Dead, The E-Reader Ascendant

We are converted to the view that our print libraries are on the verge of slow obsolescence. And we have seen no finer exposition of this truth than from the Globe and Mail's Margaret Wente.

It's e-reader Christmas this year, gentle readers. If you buy someone a print book, it'll be like buying a buggy whip in 1921.

11 comments:

Hensel said...

books are just like the authors that write them. They'll be appreciated a lot more when they're dead and gone.

Q said...

It depends on the book. There are some that I cherish in hardcopy, there are others that are better suited in e-media. Books that I give as gifts will of course also be in hardcopy. To your point, certainly paper print is in decline. Where the bottom is nobody knows.

Anonymous said...

I was in a bar recently and a codex said to me, "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

book:e-reader::typewriter::personal computer

christine said...

I love my kindle (especially because I can get so much free content), but the book is not going to die for certain uses. Books are still easier to navigate than e-readers and large color illustrations don't work too well with e-books. But fiction books that you may only read once will certainly die in print form.

JB in CA said...

Christine: I like the look of Kindles. They're much easier on my eyes than computer screens. But I've heard, as you said, that they don't handle pictures very well. Also, I vaguely remember hearing that they have problems displaying the footnotes/ endnotes in textbooks. Do you know anything about that?

christine said...

JB, since my primary reading on my Kindle is "pulp" fiction, I don't do much with footnotes. I have my ESV study bible on Kindle, but I still prefer the real book. It's easier to flip pages, but of course the kindle is more portable.

SWNID,

I thought of one argument against the death of the book. I do a lot of work with the largest book printing company in the country and they are currently very busy, so lots of books are still being printed. E-books are sure to keep growing, but I doubt books will go away.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Sorry for too many colons in our earlier analogy. So we correct and expand.

book:e-reader::typewriter:personal computor

book:e-reader::hand-copying manuscript::printing using moveable type

book:e-reader::passenger train:automobile

Present technical limitations will surely be overcome, yes? This is so with all emerging technologies.

Those who print books now are lucky to be doing so. We personally know more people in traditional publishing who've been displaced than the other way around.

Here's another way to look at it: if you had $10,000 to invest, would you consider a company committed long term to publishing books on dead trees?

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

More!

book:e-reader::LP:CD

Chicago Jake said...

Sure, but what about the smell? I am talking about that fantastic smell of the books in a library that bring a feeling of peace and a motivation toward scholarship. You cant get that great smell from a stack of Kindles.

Anonymous said...

As I have said in the context of many such death-of-the-book conversations, the primary obstacles currently facing the transition from print to electronic are not just technical but financial. Publishers will make the transition, but it will not be as smooth as some optimists would like it to be.
And the previous commentor Christine has stated an undeniable fact: more printed books are now rolling off the press than ever before. I don't look for that trend to continue, but it does point to the fact that currently we are still very much in the beginning "herky-jerky" stages of transition. Publishers, copyright owners, consumers--pretty much everyone involved--is still trying to navigate their way through a changing landscape.
Another question to ask toward the future: is information technology sustainable? Trees can be planted and grown to replace trees cut down. Do you know how much power it takes to currently run the Google server farms? Do you know how many parts go into computers that are manufactured from non-renewable resourcs?