Everyone's worried about Books

4 articles in the last 24 hours – all worrying about the future of books.

Micah Mertes discusses the serious challenges the book industry is facing

In the Lincoln Journal Star Micah Mertes has an excellent article that first discusses the Devaluing of the Book  –

  • How it’s affecting Lincoln’s independent bookstores and used book stores.
  • How this will change the industry.

The article also brings up the ABA’s concerns that the price war between Amazon, WalMart and Target will destroy the book industry and their asking the Justice Department to investigate.

Independent bookstore owners aren’t sure if and how much they are threatened –

“It could have the potential to be devastating for the industry,” said Kate Janulewicz, Indigo manager. “It could affect the independents in that we may not be able to stay afloat. But it may not affect us directly because we offer titles that aren’t best-sellers.”

The article also has the quote of the week –

The titans are fighting in the clouds and we’re down with our lemonade stands just taking nickels.

The article then covers the digitization of the book and the imminent explosion in eReader sales –  

The devices are getting cheaper. They boast more content, and they’re getting better retail distribution.

With Microsoft and Apple slated to enter the eReader market in 2010, competition will grow more fierce, leading to higher quality, greater diversity in look and function, lower prices and more

It’s got some good thoughts on whether print is dead, dying or will be just fine.

John Sledge at Southern Bound thinks Books might be Fading

John Sledge talks about the physical size of books and the size of children’s backpacks –

Bibliophiles like to go on about how much they glory in the feel and the heft and the smell of books, and why digital reading can never replace any of that. But, truth be told, there are clearly times when the physical nature of books, especially their weight, is a decided disadvantage.

He also brings up this amusing factoid –

 According to a 2007 BBC report, the Vatican library (1.5 million books on 37 miles of shelving) was literally sinking under its printed burden.

The 16th-century building’s foundations were discovered to be buckling beneath the strain, and in order to arrest the problem, the library was forced to close for the first time in its 500-year history.

Yang Sung-Jin discusses the struggles of the Korean Book Industry

Yang Sung-Jin in The Star talks about the Korean book market and how it’s grappling with the shift to eBooks.

  • It starts off talking about Samsung’s new eReader and a new eReader from iRiver.
  • The Korean market is taking inspiration from progress due to the Kindle in the US.

There are good quotes from Professor Yi In-hwa from Ewha Women’s University –

the change in favour of a new digital format in the publishing market is irreversible and even destructive for paper-oriented publishers.

Yi acknowledged that e-books will not overtake the paper-based book market overnight, but the time-honoured platform of traditional paper and ink is becoming obsolete and ineffective …

Interestingly, the two thorniest issues they mention are eBook formats and DRM (copyright). Guess the Korean market is not that different from the US market.

Finally, Baek Won-keun of Korean Publishing Research Institute makes a great point about what is needed –

… a viable vision about the act of reading itself at a time when other options such as video gaming, Web surfing and mobile texting are widely available.

“At the heart of the problem is that people are spending less time reading books in general and we have to think about whether we can persuade them to read books again by offering a digital version.”

The Nation discusses eReader challenges in Thailand

It talks about how reading is not as established in Thailand (really?) –

Without a strong reading culture like among the Japanese or the Germans, a vast majority of Thais would have no real use by possessing an e-reader beyond just flaunting it emptily.

Now that television is giving way to the Internet, people are being redirected back to reading more texts, but this is still not the same as reading a book, which requires a longer attention span

Not much else – However, like Korea, Thailand are looking at the success of the Kindle in the US and expecting ebooks to spread worldwide.

Thoughts – Are all the concerns justified?

Yes, most of them are.

There are quite a few issues here –

  1. Books have to compete with movies, games, etc. and the Vook and Digital Books and eReaders and other technology are necessary.
  2. Books will gradually be replaced by a mix of books and eBooks and the Book Industry has to prepare for this new model.
  3. The value perception of books is under threat and the Industry has to avoid a race to zero.
  4. There’s a huge transition and lots of upheaval and authors and publishers have to ensure they don’t get marginalized.

The pace of articles worrying about books has accelerated. Last year it would be surprising to see 4 articles in a week or even in a month. Today, we have 4 articles in a 24 hour span.

Everyone can sense the winds of change. Everyone’s worried and they have reason to be.

2 thoughts on “Everyone's worried about Books”

  1. The cost of progress is change, and the book world, of course, is not immune from that. The fundamental problem at a day to day level is that people generally resist change, for the simple reason that it requires effort for an unknown outcome – much easier to chug along in a nice comfortable place that you’re familiar with.

    However, at a higher level we generlly welcome the change that promises to make our lives easier and enable us to achieve more output for less input.

    My experience is that new things find their own level and the process of change needs to be trusted.

    It’s like the decline of the agricultural industry in my homeland of Ireland. Some farmers diversified and are doing very well thank you (e,g. turkey breeding leading up to the Xmas market), others refused to change and are suffering accordingly. The literary market will change. Those involved from authors to retailers can either ride the roller coaster to the finish line as an integral part of process or jump off and land who knows where (but probably in a crumpled heap).

    Chris Warren
    Author and Freelance Writer
    Randolph’s Challenge Book One – The Pendulum Swings

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