Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Paper Over Plastic

Maitri muses about the future of books in a technology-worshiping world. Will the rise of e-books end the need for libraries and paperbacks, or will the corporate rules and high prices attributed to technology sharing keep the market where it is?

Is my purchased eBook really mine? In other words, can I do whatever I want with it, including giving it to a friend after I’ve finished reading it without giving away my reader with it?

I'll readily admit that my Luddite self is still a paper & trade kind of guy. I'll shell out the cash for the paper and hard backs. Some books I read and re-read again and again. Those I don't get circulated to friends or donated to book drives. For me, there's just something about having a physical book.

Not to mention, what happens if the power goes out?


1 comment:

Dante said...

I'm pretty anti-gadgetry. My phone is just a phone. I don't even have a texting plan on it. I don't carry electronic organizers, laptops, iPods, etc. with me. I'm not even much into video games anymore. I program for a living so the last thing I want to do is stare at another monitor while I'm not working.

On top of that, I was raised in an environment full of books. My father owns more books than anyone I've ever known. His business and religion sections rival most libraries I've been to. We went at least once a week to a library or bookstore. I grew up loving everything about books.

That being said, I love my Kindle. It's not a complete book replacement, but it is what I have been using for most of my reading in the year I've had it. Why? Because I can get books and I can get them now. And quite frankly, I'm out of shelf space for new books.

And no, eBooks aren't paper books. They're not equivalent and will each have their own pros and cons. A big con of eBooks are the restrictions some providers are placing on content. But a huge pro of the eBook is that it isn't tied to paper anymore. It's now a full peer in information age and it can't be stopped.

Another big con of eBooks is their pricing model. New eBooks are competitive in price, but older eBooks are priced similarly to their new in-print counterparts. Why the hell would I pay $7 for an eBook when I can pick up the print copy at the used bookstore for $2? eBook retailers really need to rethink this pricing structure, especially when it's so easy to... acquire... the eBook through other means.

Egon is wrong. Print is not dead. But it will be less popular going forward. Our library is currently checking out eBooks. From what I understand, that is becoming a pretty common practice. But even if they didn't have eBook checkout the services a library provides the community go well beyond offering books to check out. They'll still be around even if their titles available in print shrink.

I think bookstores are in much more danger than libraries are. They're now part of a declining market. I doubt that market will ever go away, but established business don't typically do well in declining markets. On top of that, most bookstores supplement their income by hitching their wagon to another shrinking market: premium coffee sales.

And as far as general Ludditry goes, people learn what they want to learn. Back when I worked at UGA, I remember some of the people working at my office complained that they just couldn't get Office 2000 to work because a few menu options were in different places than they were in Office 97. I pointed out that they somehow managed to bypass our computer security so that they could install and use AOL Instant Messenger. Learning new menu locations is easy in comparison. If you find something about eReaders that interests you, you'll be able to figure it out. If not, I doubt you'll be any worse off for it. In my own personal case, I don't miss the feel of a paper book nearly as much as I thought I would.