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I love books. My house is full of bookshelves overflowing with them. I have countless cabinets stuffed with them and they pour off my wife's and my night stands. We have spent many a night in book stores just perusing the shelves, spying the new releases and I've discovered some of my favorite authors just wandering through the stacks at my local library pulling random titles off the shelf. When my daughter (now 18) was just a day or two old, I sat her on my lap and read her a little plastic book called Donny Dolphin.

I also love gadgets. I'm fascinated by the Kindle, the Nook and the Sony Reader. I'm enchanted by the iPad and the new electronic book shelf and book store. Yet part of me fears that I'm witnessing the beginning of the end of my beloved paper books as these devices become more pervasive. I worry that future generations will not experience the same joy I've had browsing, collecting, holding and reading the paper book.

Should I be worried? Are we witnessing the inevitable march toward electronic media or is it just another chapter in the long history from Gutenberg's press to the present day?

The Market will Shift

eBooks do not have to mean the death of the paper book, but it very likely could begin to take a back seat to the electronic variety. Over the next 10 years, I'm guessing as devices like the Kindle, iPad and other electronic book-reading gadgets become more pervasive, more people will buy digital versions of books. Schools could actually benefit by supplying electronic readers to replace costly text books that quickly become obsolete. In fact, electronic books would be a boom for any book that requires regular updating such as technology books, journals and reference materials.

But even as the electronic versions move to the forefront, I firmly believe there will continue to be a market for the paper ones, even if it's smaller. I look at the resurgence of vinyl records in recent years and it leads me to believe that just as digital music has become prominent, there continues to be a market that likes the idea of the older media. There will always be a group of people, a significant market, that wants to own their media and hold it in their hands, whether it's a DVD, CD or book.

Stores Require Physical Copies

In my future vision, books stores will still exist in our brave new media world, and they will still need physical copies of the books for display purposes, even for people who may prefer to load the electronic version on their readers. Publishers will need to make the paper copies extra special, perhaps using high quality paper and dazzling pictures and art work. Perhaps they will offer electronic and paper bundles to encourage sales of paper.

Of course, my personal nostalgia for books not withstanding, time will (as Steve Miller once wrote) keep on slipping into the future. We cannot stop the march of progress. The paper book may lose prominence in the coming years, but I don't think it's going away altogether. At least a few of us will continue to want both options (just as I do with my music today).

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Awesome topic. Awesomely written. Techwriter10 out of 10.
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Last Post by Techwriter10
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Well said, and a very nice sentiment. My view is that electronic media will eventually replace the paper variety completely, although the question for me is how long that will take. It's easy to imagine a future mere years from now when profit-driven publishers stop making them altogether and we are left in the lurch but I feel it's more logical to think in terms of generations. Those of us alive today are used to books. We started on those, and so we hold them dear. Conversely, our children's children will be brought up on primarily ebook media and it will be with that medium that their fondness will lie. Paper books will fade into the realm of novelty, then rareness, then absurd eccentricity. Ultimately they will be mere artifacts for museums. Lets enjoy them while they're here!

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Let's not forget the concept of Print on Demand moving forward, which could provide a means to print small runs of books based on the number ordered. A number of companies are creating relatively low-priced printing presses that could put this capability within reach of smaller boutique publishers who create specialty paper books for a small audience.

Thanks for your comment.

Ron

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I echo your sentiment and share your love of traditional, paper books.
I also share your concern for their future, but a couple of scenarios lead me to think you may be right in saying that paper books will survive the march of 'progress'...
You're on the beach, there's sand and suncream everywhere - will you grab hold of your iPad and, in glaring sunshine, try to read the latest bestseller?
You're on the late bus home and a gang of rowdy youths get on after you - will you whip out your shiny, expensive iPad/Kindle/Reader and try to block out their noise as you dive in to Tolstoy?
You've just read the best book of your life and want to share it with your friends and family, but your e-book's DRM means you can't simply pass it around from iPad to iPad - will you break the copyright?
Your shelves are over-flowing with books so you pop down to the local library, as I do periodically (no pun intended), and donate them for the greater good - what will you do with your old e-books?
See what I mean? I wouldn't worry too much just yet.
Thanks for the nice article!

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Hi Red Devil
Thanks for the comment and sharing your thoughts. I think it may be possible to share ebooks. The Nook has this capability if I'm not mistaken, but you're right that the dynamic wouldn't be the same, that's for sure.

Ron

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I'm an avid reader, too, but find myself losing a lot of time to the computer trying to stay up with markets and technology. I love the feel and experience of reading a book in my hand - the images painted by the written word are far better than tv or movies for me. I also love to put books on CD's on my MP3, but something interesting often happens. Some of the richest books like Wicked by Gregory Maguire and Umberto Eco's books, for example, do not "listen" well because of their complex descriptions and imaginative use of words. Kindle does not put me in the middle of the experience like a book. For me, there will always be a place for good old paper and ink.

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No, I don't think that e-Books can replace the physical books. physical books have awesome fragrance of the paper and ink too which is total unmatched and unmatched. May be i-pad become a threat for them but it is costly enough to bear it.

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I guess e-books have their upsides, I heard off a university professor who used an e-reader while traveling through the US, he said it saved him from carrying a heavy bag of books.
On the other hand, many people just like the physical feeling of books. And even though e-readers have come down in price (I have seen prices as low as 139 CAD) I do not know anybody who has one right now, as opposed to things like, for example digital cameras (I do not know anybody who does NOT have one)
I have heard people say e-readers are better for the environment, but that is definitely not true. Books are biodegradable and not made of an oil product. Once made they don't require energy and you can re-use them many times or give them to someone else.
E-readers will eventually break like all other electronics and end up on a land fill somewhere.
And if the couch has lost a leg you can use some cheap paperbacks to even it out. Try THAT with your Kindle!

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Marty:
I think they both have their place and will continue to co-exist for many years.

Thanks for commenting.
Ron

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