Thread: E-books versus Paperbacks
August 3rd, 2012, 11:34 AM #31
Decline doesn't mean death, though, that's kinda the point. CD sales declined, but they haven't stopped. Retail video game sales (largely for the PC; we're ignoring consoles for this) have declined, but they haven't stopped. A lot of the "older ways" are still around and are still viable methods of distribution.
It's entirely possible that, in the next few decades, ebooks replace print media as the main form of distribution. But, that said, the resulting decline in print will NOT kill the print industry. Books will still be printed and distributed in the traditional manner.
As for newspapers and stuff? Well, you need to factor in the radio and the television there, too. It's not just the shift to online news, the decline's been happening for a while.
August 3rd, 2012, 04:49 PM #32
Loerwyn is correct, and to explain a little, it's because there's a limiting factor on e-book (and other digital media) market growth.
I personally know people who have told me they'd love to buy my e-book, and yet they can't. Why? Because the area they live in has no access to any kind of internet connection other than dial-up (as shocking as that sounds), so their connection can't handle downloads like that.
This is far from an isolated problem. The internet companies aren't going to invest the money to lay the additional lines and infrastructure needed unless they see the profit in it. And in more rural areas, or areas with harsher terrain such as mountains, there is simply no profit to be had.
As long as high speed internet access is that far from universal, there will be a demand for traditional media like music CDs, paper books, and so on. While internet-based media will probably become dominant, it will never completely gain control in the current market.
August 3rd, 2012, 05:21 PM #33
When this thread first caught my eye, I didn't look at the date. It was only at the bottom of Page 1 that I realized this was a discussion revived from ten years ago!
The question of whether digital publishing will supplant print, and to what degree, is an interesting one. I personally suspect print will never die, not entirely, and I do not find it likely it will become a mere novelty on the order of hand-written books.
My reasoning is based largely on my own experience. I love ebooks. The Kindle and Nook apps on my tablet are wonderful, because I can find a book on nearly any subject, buy it, and dig in right away. The tablet is well-proportioned enough that I can read more or less where I please. It is very convenient.
Ebooks are my preferred medium for non-fiction. But when it comes to fiction, I prefer print. I have yet to buy a single fiction ebook. Reading fiction is a personal experience, and for me it is as much about aesthetics as it is reading a story. Ebooks do not allow you to feel the weight of the book, or smell the pulp of its pages, or feel the texture of the paper as you turn the page. Ebooks do grievous violence to the beauty of fiction book jackets: in digital form they are small, poorly cropped and shoehorned into white outlines. A novel is an art object in itself, and some of that is lost in digital form.
It may be that, for younger generations, these matters are not as important, and in the future only a few will buy print books. However, I suspect print books will continue to dominate at least a large fraction of the market.
The advantages of digital books require trade-offs that leave print books with salient advantages on their own. Print books don't run out of batteries. You can have more than one print book open at once without halving the visual space for each, or buying another $300+ device.
Print books are also wonderful for booksellers. To buy an ebook, you have to go to a website or digital bookstore. You have to be fairly intent to buy a book to go to a digital bookstore. But physical books can be placed anywhere, not just on cyberspace. Small cafes, airports, grocery stores -- a real, print book with a good title and a novel cover just beckons for you to pick it up and flip through the pages. And, as you don't have the same limits on previews as you do with online previews, you will probably enjoy that experience and are more likely to buy it. Print books will still have their niche, if nothing else, and that niche is browsing.
August 3rd, 2012, 08:43 PM #34
Also, you keep confusing techno-machine objects like printing presses and CD players with electrical systems. The Internet is not an object. We do not replace it with a new more stylish Internet every few years when the old one breaks because it's been designed that way. The Internet is a phone system. We have not gotten rid of phones or satellites or data transfers. We have souped up phone systems and how we transfer data, but we have not switched technologies. We haven't even gotten rid of cables. Despite Skype and other programs, we still text on cellphones. We want multiple means of contact, not just one and so we have not gotten rid of phones or email or fax machines.
Digital is more and more important because more and more insist that you use it if you want to access information in the developed parts of the world. But that digital access is becoming less widespread in the developed world, not more. In the beginning, buying a computer to be able to access the Internet, the software necessary and the access service and phone bills were all very expensive, which limited access. But if you could afford that, you could roam widely for free. More and more people were indeed able to afford computers or could access them through libraries, workplaces, universities and schools. Over time, though, access to places through the Internet has become less and less free. Access is more restricted and it costs more. The initial costs of the Web has not developed profits evenly and have been poor for a lot of content providers and businesses. Advertisers are becoming disenchanted with web advertising because it is not bringing in sales and are withdrawing Internet ad sponsorship. A lot of big sites are in trouble, though sometimes they can sell themselves to bigger companies. Individual wifi has become more protected to borrowing from others, though you can still do it so far. Paid downloads and streaming to expensive devices and phones with expensive service plans are becoming the major trend over the Web itself. My family pays way more for Internet access than we used to. We had to increase our bandwidth and pay more for it each month because our Internet & phone provider now caps you out cause it makes more for them.
Poorer families have to be digital in order to look for jobs, deal with schoolwork, etc. But their ability to afford it and get access has strongly dropped. (And the number of t.v. households dropped in the recession and when broadcast went digital and required purchase of boxes.) Restaurants and such have free wifi -- for now -- but you have to buy the computer. You can get a cheap laptop, but it's designed to break in three years, and these families can't afford to fix or replace it that often. The necessary cellphone is usually what gets the money, but cellphones are more limited for families. Libraries are being closed or having to charge for Internet access. Workplaces won't let workers use the Internet for non-work or often even pay for cellphones and computers they insist workers have. Universities charge for access. Schools are having their budgets cut and don't have enough equipment. For schools, it is not possible to abandon paper. Young people like yourself can pool resources and devices and get help from parents or work, but that's not necessarily possible for families and poorer older adults. And that has a severe impact on their lives since more and more things require you to deal with the Web -- which they aren't allowed on unless they can pay.
Not only are those using the Internet trying to come up with more ways to charge you for things to monetize the Net, but the reality is that electricity is not eternal. We have an energy problem and there are a lot of obstacles being put in the way of fixing it. It is costing us more and more. I believe we will fix it to some degree, but that doesn't mean that we're going to fix it for everyone. We are more likely to fix it in many countries only for the well off upper middle class. Our infrastructure is crumbling, the coral reef system is effectively dead which keeps effecting fishing, yadda, yadda. And the financial instability and austerity/trickle down disaster plans means that the upper middle class and middle class are rapidly shrinking. Additionally, we have problems with the satellites, the debris in orbit, etc. The situation in India recently highlighted a lot of the problems the whole global system is dealing with. So while technology streamlines in its use, its dissemination is more spotty and is not going to be cheap. So it's not like the CD player to the iPod -- which loads and loads of Americans can't afford and are instead still serviced by a shrinking radio market. Eventually, they will not be serviced at all. (Meanwhile, oddly, LP's and record players are increasing in sales.)
So we'll see. But paper books are an endrun around these problems and other issues such as ease of reading and permanence, so paper books will remain. Schools have to have them, so they'll remain. Workplaces and legal requirements need paper documents and printouts, so paper will remain. And the issue of access and how much access costs will remain. Will one form of paper books -- mass market -- get tossed? It may eventually occur, but it will be due to other factors than e-books. The big issue remains can e-books and paper books be sold in more places? Because right now, it's a problem.
For book publishing, it really isn't a matter of e-books versus paperbacks. Both methods sell books. It's a matter of selling books entirely and getting money from doing that, instead of most of the money going to say a company like Amazon who can make profits by bulk from tiny amounts of individual and unprofitable sales in both e-book and paperback. We are pricing people out of buying books at all, and while the e-books expansion is helping somewhat, it is not yet doing the job and the fad is already fading off in favor of video streaming and apps software. So that's the book issue. The bigger social issue is how many people get to come along in the world of digital toys and communication and how many will be left behind or have limited access, especially if economies collapse? How will we solve environmental and energy problems and if we do, what will the methods used do to populations' digital access? I've got a relative who works for Verizon -- it is not all sunshine and roses in the world of the people who bring you your Internet.
Last edited by KatG; August 3rd, 2012 at 08:52 PM.
August 3rd, 2012, 08:58 PM #35
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I'm an engineer who has been working at the forefront of tech change for all 40+ years of my professional life, creating that change. Along with a good many thousand other professionals who judge what changes need to be made, design products embodying those changes, get them manufactured, get them into people's hands, and create the means for people to use those products. Which might be better users manuals. (Apple is terrific at that.) But also making those products so intuitively easy to use that manuals are rarely needed.
I've also twice been part of very well-funded task forces to help predict where tech was going, once at NASA and once at Boeing.
Most journalists and SF fans predicting or speculating about the future are terribly na´ve. They think change comes instantly and easily. And that it will be simple when it does.
PRINTED BOOKS WILL DISPAPPEAR! EBOOKS WILL TAKE OVER! TOMORROW! (Or maybe just the day after.)
EVERY FAMILY WILL HAVE AN AIRCAR! GROUND CARS WILL DISAPPEAR! TOMORROW!
CITIES ON THE MOON & IN ASTEROIDS WILL SOLVE THE POPULATION PROBLEM!
Engineering professionals have no doubts that radical change will take place. For instance, credit card companies are investing in research to create cards which are tiny special-purpose tablets with an LCD display and communication electronics which activate when they are inserted in ATMs. The prices of ebooks and tablets will fall drastically in the future as the tech base for those cards fans out into larger tablets.
But the processes of tech change are complex, difficult, and part of enormous global forces including people who are at the very bottom of economic hierarchies. Radical changes rarely happen rapidly.
Those talking about how print will disappear don't realize that print tech is a lot more high-tech than electronic tech. It's just that its sophistication and complexity are mostly invisible. This is partly because of familiarity. But it's even more because literally centuries of work by many talented people have made it that way. To take one tiny area, fonts. Picking the right font for a brochure or business card or newspaper or book is an important task. But when done right readers of the printed whatever will take in the message at a glance - even when they don't want to!
Traditional publishers (which includes small-press "indie" publishers) are involved in innovating in dozens of ways. They are resisting some of those ways, as in the recent issue of the agency vs. wholesale models. In other ways they are forcing the innovation, as in using newer and new kinds of printing presses. Some presses can handle even huger print runs at cheaper prices. Other presses make it cheaper to turn out ever smaller print runs so that publishers can much more quickly deliver special printings if (for instance) a celebrity dies and they want to get biographies in stores within a week.
Another way is integrating all the stages of book production electronically. It's not just a matter of everyone using email and common office tools like word processors and spread sheets. Software suites are being marketed to publishers to integrate artwork, copyediting, market projections, marketing, book layout, distribution orders, and much more. The first such suites were too expensive for most publishers, because publishing is a low profit-margin business. Also the cost of getting rid of old ways and equipment would be prohibitive, which gives small presses just starting out a competitive edge as they have no old ways and equipment.
Other innovations are organizational. Some mid-range publishers partner with larger publishers to print and distribute their books.
OK. I've had dinner. Back to book #6 in the Shapechanger series. A big crisis looms for my heroine. Got to get her past it.
August 4th, 2012, 01:26 AM #36
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The primary reason for printing books in a central location, sending them to book stores and putting them on shelves is that it's the most profitable method of selling them. But print-on-demand is improving all the time, and I certainly wouldn't want to claim that in ten years you won't be able to print a book in Starbucks to read while you drink your coffee.
August 4th, 2012, 01:43 AM #37
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KatG, I need to let you know just a few things about me. I'm the average middle aged Internet user. I'm 43 years old. I was born in 1968. My dad at the time was 59 going on 60, and my mom was 30 years old. My grandmothers, all of them from both sides of my family, lived and survived in the Great Depression and World War 2.
My dad was 18 in 1929 at the start of the Great Depression. He was in his mid 30's when he fought in WW2.
So when you go off like you did and describe the 'Technology' as not even new to our grandmothers... sorry. You're wrong... for millions of Americans out there. Count the baby boomers among that number. Not single digit millions. Not double digit millions. Triple digit millions of Americans, who's grandparents didn't even live long enough to see the microwave oven come into common use. Those baby boomers are starting to retire right now, and if my grandmothers never seen this technology before they died, neither did theirs.
I will have grandchildren who will be teenagers in the future, and I will happily blow their minds when I tell them that I was born before the Internet ever existed.
Your post, and statements of the such, causes me to weep for the younger generations. Because if you have it so wrong there, the rest of your short-story length response holds little weight. Well, at least with me.
Again, my apologies. I'll probably be shredded for this, but it's not my intention to stir up anger or animosity.
I just couldn't let that one slip by without sharing some truth about the matter.
Last edited by Gherick; August 4th, 2012 at 01:47 AM. Reason: Clarification
August 4th, 2012, 02:39 AM #38
What you said about the Internet not being new is just plain wrong. I've seen it first hand. My Grandma/Grandpa/Mother/Father still don't completely understand how to use it. I've been to Japan, the tech capital of the world and seen 'Grandma's' asking for their kids help just to dial a number on a touchscreen phone, let alone search a website on Google. I just can't point out how wrong you are about the Web being new. It's just so blatantly obvious, and frankly what you're saying is disrespectful to all the people who don't understand it - which is millions.
Last edited by Cononomous; August 4th, 2012 at 03:45 AM.
August 4th, 2012, 02:59 AM #39
Don't forget it'd likely require masses of renegotiations of contracts/rights/licenses/whatever, so it'll be a fair while before we see it truly work as we wish - the same thing is currently happening with ebooks, too.
August 4th, 2012, 03:24 PM #40
Gherick -- you did fine on posting. But you seem to have misunderstood my reference. I was talking directly to Cononomous in the post, who had referenced being young, not about everyone's grandparents. If Cononomous is a Millenial, as seemed to be indicated by that declaration, then Cononomous' grandparents are most likely Boomers, not Greatest Generation or earlier, and Boomers were not only involved in the development of the consumer Internet, but again have been using it for the past twenty years.
Cononomous -- If you are young as you indicated, then it was not meant to be disrespectful to point out that the twenty year old consumer Internet and its digital involvement in our lives was not something Boomers don't know or had not had to deal with. Something being known is not the same as it being understood, but older Boomers still have to deal with the Internet on a regular basis whether they know how to Skype, what a viral video is, or have trouble with a touchscreen. (I have trouble with a touchscreen -- I cannot use my husband's Smartphone, which he loves, because the thing keeps trying to do other things instead of what I'm touching it to do. The same problem occurs with oversensitive and poorly positioned laptop touchpads, so much so that people routinely disable them and get a wireless mouse instead. It's a design issue, not old people's disease.) My in-laws, Greatest Generation, use the Internet constantly and my mother-in-law does an electronic newsletter and loves her iPad. My mother, younger Greatest Generation, doesn't have a computer because she doesn't like them. But she used them and the Net all the time for work before retiring, she calls me up to do searches for her, and has a cellphone. To deal with service people, stores, government agencies, etc., all this involves people with the Internet and has for quite awhile, even if they aren't good with tech. The growing pains of the consumer Internet for dissemination were in the 1990's, for cellphones it was the early oughts. So maybe it's just that we have different understandings of what new constitutes.
As for walls of text, yes, I do that. And I had this whole thing about stores in the future and China buying up resources, but you don't find that interesting, so I won't do it. Suffice it to say that we disagree about whether energy issues have anything to do with electrical networks and whether economic issues have anything to do with technology. I believe that the world is more interconnected than you perhaps feel it to be. There are also book business issues that I thought were relevant, but I accept that you did not.
Originally Posted by Loerwyn
Okay, so it's another wall of text, but that's because I was answering several people at once. I will try to do less verbiage if I further participate. And welcome Gherick! I hope I addressed your concerns, but if you have questions, let us know.
August 4th, 2012, 03:51 PM #41
August 4th, 2012, 05:12 PM #42
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KatG, if you reduce your "walls of text" I will give you a good shake. (Virtually, of course!)
DO NOT censor yourself because a poster does not like your perfectly legitimate posts. I've learned and am learning a lot from your posts, and would lose if they are chopped short. I imagine many others here feel the same way.
_____________________________On the generation gaps. Some older people do have trouble with newer tech, and younger ones do find it easier to deal with. But some Really Old Geezers take to it like a duck to water. New tech is becoming easier and more intuitive all the time - good business practice: more customers. I know several grandparents who Facebook with their grandchildren. (WHAT I'D LIKE FOR CHRISTMAS is a favorite topic.)
August 4th, 2012, 06:34 PM #43
While they're a more indirect factor, the environmental bits you both mention could also have an impact. Anything that effects supply effects monetary cost, and that changes the market. So does politics, when it resonates with ethical or social activism, as green issues do in some circles.
August 4th, 2012, 06:48 PM #44
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August 4th, 2012, 07:02 PM #45
Edward, that would be nice if that were the case. What are your sources for your estimate?