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More Doom & Gloom on the Future of Physical Books

The Guardian offers the article “Short Shelflife for Booksellers” which paints a not-too-rosy picture for the future of the book:

The book will still be with us in 50 years time, but the high street bookseller may not be. That, at least, is the verdict of the top book industry professionals surveyed at the start of this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, the key annual book trade event which opened today.

Almost a quarter of the 1,324 industry professionals who took part in the survey predicted that the high street bookseller would no longer exist in 2057, while only 11% thought that the printed book would be obsolete. However, nearly as many – 10.5% – also thought that the electronic reader would be superseded.

I don’t know that I see that happening. I still believe there’s value in holding a book, as opposed to reading from some device. Even though I can imagine that each new generation will come to rely more and more on eBooks, I still think physical books will be around.

[via Bibliophile Stalker]

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

5 Comments on More Doom & Gloom on the Future of Physical Books

  1. As for myself, if they ever make an inexpensive quality ebook reader the only paper editions of books I’ll buy anymore will be good hardcover copies of my very favorites.

    Being able to carry my entire library in my back pocket—yeah, I’ll go for that.

  2. eBooks will not kill printing because

    1. books are cheap

    2. books do not require software maintenance

    3. books are permanent and stable storage devices that will be readable indefinitely

    4. books have no power requirements

    5. books can be transferred without concerns for hardware platforms or DRMS

    6. books are simple and straightforward to use without any training beyond basic literacy

    7. books do not require another, more expensive, device to read them

  3. Books work in power failures! 😀

    We had extensive power problems most of the last weekend. Once the charge was gone on the chargeable electronics – reading was fundamental!

  4. FYI…S. Andrew Swann has a more detailed write-up on this topic at his blog.

  5. Electronic media may gain the upper hand over paper publishing eventually if economic conditions change to make logging and milling costs prohibitive (i.e.: forest land could become more valuable as carbon credits to be auctioned off on global environmental markets or held as tax breaks to offset pollution fines, or cleared land might have greater value when put towards agriculture for high ethanol-yield crops, or environmental protection legislation could interfere with timber harvesting) and if prices for consumer electronic goods continue to drop, making them more cost-effective than hording shelves of books. But I think the industry types are probably correct that books will likely stay around to some degree, likely as special collectibles/fetish properties (to borrow a term from “High Fidelity”)that will continue to be produced for a subculture that values them, much like vinyl records today. Personally, I’m in the same boat as John… there’s nothing like the feel and smell of a book and the crack and whisper of pages as you turn them.

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