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Electronic v. Paper – Booking Through Thursday

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This week’s Booking Through Thursday question is:

Something a little different today–

First. Go read this great article from Time Magazine: Books Gone Wild: The Digital Age Reshapes Literature. (Well worth reading.)

Second. Stop and think about it for moment. Computers and digital media are changing everything we do these days, whether we realize it or not, and that includes our beloved books.

Third. DISCUSS!

To be different, today, I’d love to see a discussion here, in the comments, rather than scattered amongst all our separate blogs. Because this is an issue that affects ALL of us, and I’d really like to see us hash out the merits and demerits of this evolution.

Tell us what you think. Do you have an ebook reader? Do you read ebooks on your computer? Do you hate the very thought? How do you feel about the fact that book publishing is changing and facing much the same existential dilemma as the music industry upon the creation of MP3s?

The article referenced above mostly talks about self-publishing, but essentially there’s two issues that are thought to be changing the publishing world: self-publishing and electronic readers (whether that means an e-reader like the Kindle or reading books on your cell phone).

I don’t think we have anything to worry about. Will publishing companies have to change their business model? Yes. Will the quantity of any one book published decrease? Probably. Are books going away? Definitely not.

All this hype reminds me of all the talk of the music industry however many years ago when it became common to download music. Many theorized that the music industry would collapse from fans stealing the music instead of buying it. But guess what? People still buy CDs!! *gasp* In an age where you can buy one song for $.99, as opposed to a whole album that’s mostly so-so for $15.99, many people still buy the CD. The music industry will continue to change and evolve due to technology, even if it comes kicking and screaming.

I’m not opposed to e-readers, but a friend pointed out that they’ve still got a long ways to go. While many titles are available, many titles aren’t available, and for those of us in book clubs where certain titles are *required* reading, that’s just not acceptable. I don’t think e-readers replace books, rather, they augment books.

As far as self-published novels go, the examples given of Still Alice and The Lace Reader as books that have shown an author can go the self-publishing route and still hit the jackpot, those are needles in the haystack. For the few books that end up with a publishing house after starting their life self-published, there are thousands of other books that won’t ever sell more than a handful of copies.

So while it’s interesting to talk about how technology is changing the publishing industry, I have no doubt that when I’m 110 years old, book publishing will still be going strong. Even if the publishing industry is pulled kicking and screaming into the 21st century, they’ll come. Oh, they’ll come.

Another interesting article to read is from the New York Times: Self-Publishers Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab.

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