9 thoughts on “Books are no more threatened”

  1. That *used* to be true.
    Now… maybe not.

    First, because its’s not just Kindle but Samsung, Apple, Google, LG, even Microsoft. The latest phones are actually very good reading devices. And with foldable (or dual) screen tech, very good at most everything mobile.

    https://blog.the-ebook-reader.com/2020/09/09/new-microsoft-surface-duo-can-display-kindle-books-in-2-page-view-like-paper-books/

    (Duo is on its second generation, with the third coming.)

    https://www.pcmag.com/news/samsungs-z-flip-3-z-fold-3-are-both-single-sim-in-the-us

    The foldables are in the tbird generation and still on the pricey side but getting cheaper and on contract, almost affordable. Give it a couple more years.

    Second, because dead tree pulp isn’t getting any cheaper and Stagflation 2.0 isn’t going to be friendly to $35 pbooks.

    Third, trans-pacific shipping is getting too pricey for low-margin items like books. The tradpubs are going to have to move back to Canada or try to muscle in on Mexico. Neither will be as cheap as China. But then, neither will China.

    Fourth, the real crisis isn’t print vs ebooks, anyway. It’s tradpub vs entrepreneurial. Its a war of business models. And the real threat isn’t ebooks but the Legacy Authors retiring. The BPHs haven’t been all that good nurturing the next generation of top sellers.

    The days of print first and digital as an afterthought are numbered.
    Print won’t go away but it will be the minority player, marginalized by the economics of paper.
    Tick-Tock.

  2. Legacy authors may be retiring, but there is still an army of writers, some of them good, submitting their work to the traditional publishers who publish, what, 1% of them?

    Some of these will end up being pushed into being top sellers. And many are quite young, put out by MFA programs. And they’re even better for the publishers because they aren’t savvy about contracts and marketing.

    • Maybe.
      But in case I wasn’t clear: Pbooks are going to get much more expensive to make (regardless of how the content creators are treated) and *recognizable names* are going to leave tbe stage. Both things. At once.o

      Yes, tbere is no shortage of dreamers.
      But will pbook lovers show up in droves to pay $30-50 for a book by an unknown, regardless of the hype lavished upon it?
      Especially if the world outside gets as bad as it might get in the near term?

      I have my doubts.
      The world *is* changing around us. In ways nobody would’ve predicted in 2019 and in ways many still refuse to believe are happening. Yesterday’s “its never going to happen” is already happening.

      Without going too far, there’s tbe carnage in Ukraine (which is, oddly, being ignored by the handwringers. No “we are the world” for the millions of victims of this disaster). th

      How can it go?

      1- The pain of weaning off Russian oil and gas coupled with the losses in grain and fertilizer causes the (historically!) united Europeans to splinter and cave-in. Russia takes Ukraine. China breathes a sigh of relief (50 years of assumptions about the “western world”‘s willingness to take a stand is proven right) and they move on Taiwan and take over 80% of the world semiconductor supply. It’s not exactly wheat and oil but they’ll have the rest of the world by the neck. Iran moves on Iraq. The Saudis move on them, too. (By-bye Persian gulf oil, 22m barrel per day.) North Korea moves South. India and Pakistan go at it. Turkey goes after Greece. All at once. So where does the US counter? Will the gerontocracy even bother?

      2- Western unity holds, Russia runs out of munitions, and Putin joins the little painter in tbe history books. Unfortunately, the sanctions and boycotts broke the Russian oil industry. For a generation. They are right now within a couple of months of it. No wave of wars but instead China manufacturing collapses along with the whole idea of global supply chains. Everything gets way more expensive, starting with $200 oil.

      Game out anything in between. Nuclear exchange? Another pandemic atop COVID. (Monkeypox is about to be renamed because it’s no longer just in Africa.) The US becomes a single party state. Supreme Court judges get assasinated, tit for tat. The US gets another civil war.

      All kinds of weirdness are now possible. Some even probable.

      Which way will things go? TBD. Everything in now in play.

      What isn’t possible is a return to the status quo ante.
      Anything predicated on “life before COVID” is not going to happen.

      Hopefully the worst won’t come to pass.
      (Really, really hope it doesn’t.)
      But the fact that anything can now happen means none of the assumptions of the old days are valid. And yes, digital *can* kill print. Or print will die on its own.

      The “literati” in NYC and the publishing establishment are stuck navel gazing and enjoying their tbree martini lunches all the while the global system they depend on is under siege in every direction. Five years from now tbere might not even be a book market at all. Not print, not digital.

      In the hierarchy of needs, books are pretty far down the list of priorities.

      • The US becomes a single party state.

        Expanded version: “elections are cancelled, because they are crooked, and federal marshals are called out to stop them.” This has a VERY real chance of happening within a few years. What happens if a Congress of Republicans refuses to seat duly elected Democrats, claiming that their elections were fraudulent? How do you suppose that plays out nationwide?

        • Or somebody “unpacks” the Supreme court. Gun– or Molotov-style. Same result, either way:

          Lots of guns. Lots of bullets.

          The civil turmoil out there all hinges on one question: The Tenth Amendment. Some believe in it, many don’t, and prefer to federalize everything. Statism vs federalism. The tyranny of the plurality. Absolutism.

          Of course, that’s the least of the elements of the Crisis of the 20’s.

          The big ones are the shape the global system will take moving forward. Or if there will be a global system at all. Along the way more countries will go the way of Somalia and Venezuela. Sri Lanka and Pakistan are at the front of the queue but many are behind them.

          Closer to home: a tough row to hoe for anybody looking to write near future stories.

          • BTW, Mexico spent the entire 20th Century as a single party state. Ditto Japan, post WWII. Still is. And most of tbe Euro-parliaments have been effectively single party (or coalition) a generation at a time.

            Single party state doesn’t mean what most people think.
            (Think: California.)

            Federalism is the only thing preventing it in the US.

            So it has to go…
            …or not.

      • … In the hierarchy of needs, books are pretty far down the list of priorities.

        Agree on Books. But not on Stories. Always a need for stories, even—especially—about destruction and chaos.

        Just different ways of consuming them.

        • Agreed. 1000%.
          Now, tell that to the literati and see where it gets you. 😉

          It’s no longer just movies and TV, either.

          The single biggest change in video games this century is the rise of the story game.
          It used to be PacMan needed no reason to eat dots and avoid ghosts. These days even platformers and side scrollers come with at least a backstory and the biggest most complex games are all about the story. Lately, games have been spawning *successful* movies and series and the biggest money maker among movies, TV, and books.

          People will still get their stories but books are the least of ways they get them.

          You familiar with game franchises like MASS EFFECT, DRAGON AGE, ELDER SCROLLS, even HALO? All have spawned books and movies in addition to being excellent stories unto themselves.

          The next big one is looking to be STARFIELD:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6p_oO5Zwdk

          Its the latest evolution of the genre tbat started with “choose you own adventure” only now it plays in photorealistic 4K. It is set in an Asimovian 50-worlds era, early in humanity’s interstellar era. No aliens, 100 star systems. 100 planets. You can be an explorer, a pirate, a corporate enforcer. Scores of writers, each crafting an element of the narrative. Dialogue alone runs over 200,000 lines.

          Today’s myth makers. As likely to be sorking games as video.

  3. I know a few digital refuse-niks, and there is no logic to them, they just say no. In many cases these are people who could have their phones implanted in their palms (a feature I have seen in at least one sci-fi story) – and yet… no. go figure.

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