From The Guardian:
The digital revolution is going into a decline, Tim Waterstone told the Oxford literary festival. Well, it’s an attention-grabbing statement, ideally suited to our culture of assertive headlines, but it’s probably not true. That’s not to say that the rapid growth of digital will necessarily continue, either, certainly not in markets that are already saturated with handheld devices.
Why? Because the future is – as William Gibson told us quite a long time ago now – not evenly distributed.
. . . .
There are fewer and fewer venues where digital technology has made no impact – and where there’s a digital device, there are ebooks, at least in potential. They need not be anyone’s primary method of consuming literature, but in some situations they will be the best one. Rather than circling the wagons as other media industries did (to no good outcome, it has to be acknowleged) publishers need to learn the more recent lessons from music and film and consider, for example, providing digital copies as standard with hardback editions.
Digital will continue to grow for a while at least, and continue to exist, because it is becoming part of the world we inhabit at a level below our notice, no more remarkable than roads or supermarkets. Ebooks are here to stay because digital is, and quite shortly we’ll stop having this debate about paper vs ebooks because it will no longer make a lot of sense.
Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Russell for the tip.
Different people adapt to new technologies in different ways. PG has no doubt that somewhere, people still stroll around listening to Walkmans and Diskmans. However, digital music isn’t tied to a particular device and people listen to music on their smart phones or tablets or their Sonos speakers (PG is currently in love with Sonos). Similarly, people watch digital video on a variety of different devices.
PG does think ebooks will replace paper books. For one thing, paper books require industrial-age scale to be sold at a reasonable price and still earn a profit for everyone in the supply chain. Publishers, distributors, bookstores and authors can earn money on a hardcover that costs $3 to print in China. A POD hardcover is going to require a higher price to generate the same profits or, more likely, cut organizations out of the supply chain in order to sell at a reasonable price that’s still higher than the same ebook would cost.
It’s dangerous to extend one’s own preferences and experiences to the rest of the world, but PG rarely buys paper books any more. He received a paper book in the mail yesterday because it was much cheaper as a used book than the ebook was. However, he immediately regretted the impulse purchase because he’s unlikely to read it. He much prefers a featherweight Kindle that doesn’t lose his place if he falls asleep and it slips from his fingers. PG’s stack of very good yet unread paper books is collecting dust.