What’s With the Big eBook Fear?

February 17, 2012

There seems to be this big fear that eBooks are going to kill the printed book.  People act like the invention of eBook means death to books in general.  Let’s say the printed book no longer exists.  What does that mean? 

Will people stop reading?  No.
Will people stop writing?  No.
Will book stores no longer exist? No, they’ll decrease in numbers but not die off.
Will libraries no longer exist? No.  By then they will have figured out an eBook borrowing system.  Where you bring your eBook device in and virtually download your copy for two weeks.  Think of the brilliance in that!  No more waiting for someone to return the physical book.  Instant download, baby! They are probably doing that somewhere already.

During a #litchat on Twitter (a few weeks back) someone made this comment:

Won't e-books will be as disruptive to the print business as electricity was to the candle business? To (sort of) coin a phrase. 

I think the analogy is very “apples to apples.” Where once the candle was the standard for light, electricity slowly replaced it.  Are candles obsolete?  No, they are found at most stores and still have their purpose in our world.  Will they have a purpose 20 years from now?  100?  500?  Who knows but the need for light will always be there.  Just like the need for knowledge will always be there.  Books are here to stay, no matter what the form.

Does it mean authors receive less profit on eBooks?  I have no idea.  (But I'll Google it.) It probably makes editing and distribution faster. Though not everyone has an eReader, so your target audience is smaller.  I'm struggling to see the fear here.  

Personally, I love owning the physical book and displaying it on my book shelves like a trophy.  Because honestly, I’m proud of myself.  Proud to be a reader.  Because us readers, we are a rare thing.  When I tell people I read about 50 books a year, they usually reply “I haven’t read five books in my life, much less fifty.”  How sad. 

I was reading on Nathan Branford’s blog how some literary authors refuse to be on Amazon or offer their book in eBook form.  Why would you limit your sales because you particularly don’t like the technology? The notion comes off snobby and ignorant minded if you ask me.

Do I think eBooks will kill he printed book?  Not any time soon. In my opinion, not in my lifetime but maybe my children’s.  There are still people out there that who’ve never emailed! (i.e. My stepfather.)  Hell, there are tribes out there who’ve never seen a white man.  Are we seriously fretting over the death of the printed book? 

What do you think?  What are your eBook fears?

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  1. You make excellent points and I hope you're right!! The record and cassette tape and video tape died off with the advent of CDs and DVDs. You can still find them, sure, but they're not in usual stores anymore. And now CDs are dying off with the advent of digital music downloads. I don't think books will ever completely go away, and not in my lifetime for sure, but it's sad to think the children and grandchildren of my nieces and nephews might not have easy access to a real book except for what is passed down to them.

    Even now there are some authors who are self-publishing only eBook-style and doing quite well with that. What's to stop other writers and publishers from going that route eventually?

    Oh, and my library has that eBook borrowing system! So I'm sure there a lot of libraries doing that now.

    Have a great weekend, Dana!!

  2. This has been a very hot topic over the last couple of years. I'd have to agree with you though that people will always write and people will always read. How they do so, in my opinion, is irrelevant. E-books are just a new medium for us to get the material. I'm not sure why people are so afraid of new technology...

  3. Laura - Ooo, VHS and cassettes are great analogies. But your point too, is music is still obtainable and so are movies, just via different avenues. And though I agree it will be said that our grandchildren might not ever hold a physical book, they will still squeal at all the funny parts of Cat in the Hat.

    Void! - I don't want an eReader but that doesn't mean I won't change my mind in a few years. As long as I can read a book, I'm happy. :)

  4. I think authors actually make a royalty off ebooks, so the writers who shun them are totally shooting themselves in their proverbial feet. I love my kindle! I still read traditional books, but the kindle offers a great solution to the issue of book storage. And seriously? Anything that makes reading more convenient for the general public? How could that be a bad thing??? Expanded overall market = more work for writers. Great post! (Glad to see you're back online, too!)

  5. Oops! Meant to say writers make a higher royalty rate from ebooks.

  6. I love the convenience of e-books, but I still make my monthly tithe to Barnes and Noble.

  7. Ara - I would think authors would make more money too, a lot more on eBooks. Since you don't have to pay the for the paper, the presses, the packaging, shipping, time sitting on the bookshelves, etc. Why wouldn't you do it? I haven't converted yet because it is a total trophy on the shelf thing for me BUT once my shelves get full, I might convert. And it's nice to be back online (between sick kids, me sick and vacation, I all but vanished.)

    Leslie - You crack me up! You "tithe" to your B&N...I do now, but it used to be Borders. RIP Borders. I will admit that on vacation I REALLY wanted this book so I purchased it on my husbands iPad. The convenience was NICE but I have this weird thing now, that because I loved the book, I will need a hard copy for my trophy shelf. It's like my own personal book OCD or something.

  8. I am SURE that there will always be those people who do not want to purchase anything digital. I mean, heck -- I am still buying CDs today, and CDs are supposed to be Dead as a doorknob or something. Plenty of people stay behind the curve, and really, ebooks are still only 10% of the market maximum! That's barely a drop in the bucket of reading audiences right now, and I don't think it's going to grow THAT astronomically tomorrow that we are going to see print books disappear overnight. I think they will Always be available through PoD anyway -- it's cheap and there is no overhead, and it caters to the people who prefer physical copies!

    For myself, I do not like buying digital media. I have no problem subscribing to digital media and streaming it -- but if I am going to BUY something to OWN it, I want the physical object, because digital media is just too darn slippery and easy to lose, you know? Do I have a kindle? Yes. I won it in a drawing. The only books I purchase for it are books that are ONLY available as ebooks though.

    I guess what I'm saying is -- I'm with you. I don't see why we're so afraid of the ebook, and I absolutely want to tap into that market when/if I am fortunate enough to get a publishing contract.

  9. Amalia - Excellent points! And I agree digital media is slippery! Get your kindle damaged and bye bye to all those books.


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