Are Books Becoming Obsolete?

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Meemossis

Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 5, 2020
Messages
162
Reaction score
17
Location
UK
Like all people, I love the smell of a real book. I adore the quiet serenity you get when you walk into a bookstore, pick up a book and meander through a few pages before deciding if you want to buy it or not. However, I have dyslexia and find reading paper books very difficult. The black type on white pages moves around and gives me a headache. Electronic books have made me fall in love with reading, I can change the settings, read on different coloured backgrounds, and away I go. I'm also incredibly impatient and not being able to get a certain book right away is torture. It is sad that bookshops aren't as full as they once were, but I would also say that reading has never been so popular.
 

Goshawk31

Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 12, 2020
Messages
68
Reaction score
7
Well, I think it's sad too although I have to admit that most of my reading these days is electronic. But I have purchased several actual books from little stores that lure me in with other items. Such as: bubble tea; games; local history displays etc etc. Somehow it's always been small, locally owned stores that I find doing such things and they always seem to offer any number of books that interest me. So it may not be the death of the book per se but the death of book as we knew it and the death of the bookstore that cannot or will not adapt.
 

mhdragon

cats, writing/reading, video games
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2018
Messages
33
Reaction score
2
I don't think book sales are doing bad. (Keep in mind people aren't spending as much right now do to the pandemic.) Like all shopping, most people prefer to do it online. I personally read on my kindle and havent visited a bookstore in years.
 

Primus

Del Lago
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 4, 2014
Messages
269
Reaction score
17
It's a product of the age we live in: the Digital Age. Everthing's moving online, literature included. I still prefer a physical copy, however, the convenience of being able to look for books on a single device (without having to go anywhere), buy it and then dig in to immediately, can't be beat. Not forgetting that ebooks are often cheaper than physical books, so that helps.
 
  • Like
Reactions: TheRyustyNail

ChaseJxyz

Writes birds and bird accessories
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2020
Messages
930
Reaction score
439
Location
California
Website
www.chasej.xyz
Book sales aren't going to go away. There have been some trends that have affected it, but to be honest it's partially the publishers' faults. Libraries have a tough job balancing budget, what people want to read, keeping stuff for reference, limited space etc. Academic libraries especially. But the publishers approached them with the option to have much of their collection be digital. No more re-shelving books, no stolen items, very easy for students and professors to find what they want! But the schools then have to pay a subscription for the books...and if they ever stop, those titles go away. Once a physical book is owned by someone, it can never go away. Most of the time you're paying for a license for a digital item (games and software, too) and the publisher has the right to change it or take it away from you. Personally I think that's really gross and predatory and takes advantages of libraries.

There's also a ton of books that aren't digital and probably never will be. Every time a celebrity or musician dies there's a run on their works or biographies, and you can buy a used copy for a few bucks or buy it new digitally for $15-20. Not everyone can afford to pay that much (and not everyone wants to give Amazon their money). You can't buy used digitally, and if there's works you want to enjoy and not give the author your money (such as JKR or Orson Scott Card), then used is the best way to do that.

Source: day job is eCommerce for books
 

mccardey

wear a mask
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 10, 2010
Messages
14,208
Reaction score
5,251
Location
Australia.
Book sales aren't going to go away. There have been some trends that have affected it, but to be honest it's partially the publishers' faults. Libraries have a tough job balancing budget, what people want to read, keeping stuff for reference, limited space etc. Academic libraries especially. But the publishers approached them with the option to have much of their collection be digital. No more re-shelving books, no stolen items, very easy for students and professors to find what they want! But the schools then have to pay a subscription for the books...and if they ever stop, those titles go away. Once a physical book is owned by someone, it can never go away. Most of the time you're paying for a license for a digital item (games and software, too) and the publisher has the right to change it or take it away from you. Personally I think that's really gross and predatory and takes advantages of libraries.

There's also a ton of books that aren't digital and probably never will be. Every time a celebrity or musician dies there's a run on their works or biographies, and you can buy a used copy for a few bucks or buy it new digitally for $15-20. Not everyone can afford to pay that much (and not everyone wants to give Amazon their money). You can't buy used digitally, and if there's works you want to enjoy and not give the author your money (such as JKR or Orson Scott Card), then used is the best way to do that.

Source: day job is eCommerce for books
Publishers also have a tough time balancing the budget - and I'm not sure it's fair to blame them. [ETA: turns out it sort of is]

But look, this thread is seven years old, books have been being declared dead for decades, and reading was declared dead generations ago, back when TV first came in. If you're worried, and if you can, support your local independent bookshop. They're the best weapon in keeping the book alive - but they can't do it alone.
 
Last edited:

AW Admin

Herder of Hamsters
Staff member
Administrator
Super Moderator
Moderator
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 19, 2008
Messages
17,973
Reaction score
4,767
Location
On the Server
Website
www.digitalmedievalist.com
Publishers also have a tough time balancing the budget - and I'm not sure it's fair to blame them for new technologies.

It's not blaming for new technologies as much as it is pointing out that libraries pay a very very different price for ebooks and audio books than end-users (regular readers)pay for the same ebook.

Neither side of the issue is really open to compromise, though honestly, publishers are really in the wrong here.

I know for a fact that library loans help drive sales.
 

mccardey

wear a mask
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 10, 2010
Messages
14,208
Reaction score
5,251
Location
Australia.

spoonlamp

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 25, 2020
Messages
57
Reaction score
2
Location
England, U.K.
snip... Orson Scott Card...snip
Well, damn, that's a shame, how did I not come across his issues before?

But to the subject, in a thread that's been running since 2013 I'm sure someone has already quoted Egon Spengler when he said "Print is dead" in the 1984 classic film Ghostbusters.

The number of books I own in e-format now vastly outstrips those I have on my bookshelves, not least because I've bought many e-versions as well as paperback or hardback copies. They're invaluable to me when I go away from home for periods of time. I used to be in the "there's nothing like the feel and smell of a book in your hand" boat, but these days space is just more valuable than that luxury. The price of kindles and other e-readers has come way down, computer storage space has expanded to ridiculous proportions to that needed for e-books and even the e-books themselves can be so much cheaper. Right now you can get the complete works of Shakespeare for free, on kindle. Charles Dickens - The Complete Works, also free. And with these new formats and builds of kindle, they're searchable which can be a life-saver.

I don't think we'll see books disappear completely, but sadly it looks like they're becoming more and more expensive, pricing the poorer members of some societies out of the market.
 

lizmonster

Possibly A Mermaid Queen
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
8,259
Reaction score
2,960
Location
Massachusetts
Website
elizabethbonesteel.com
I don't think we'll see books disappear completely, but sadly it looks like they're becoming more and more expensive, pricing the poorer members of some societies out of the market.

1) Libraries. Books have always been expensive. When I was a kid, I was paying the equivalent of $5-$6 for new mass market paperbacks - not a whole lot different from what you see now. Libraries expand access to everyone, regardless of income.

2) Ereaders are not free. Many people are priced out of that market, too.
 
  • Like
Reactions: AW Admin

spoonlamp

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 25, 2020
Messages
57
Reaction score
2
Location
England, U.K.
Very true, both points. I was thinking of when I used to buy new paperbacks and they were £5.99, everything seems to be around the £8 mark now. But accounting for inflation and rise in average wages they're probably isn't much change at all.

But you can buy a kindle for £60 (probably cheaper if you shop around) and get all those free classics and you'll probably save money, even before the lower cost of e-books that you want to get in the future.
 

lizmonster

Possibly A Mermaid Queen
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
8,259
Reaction score
2,960
Location
Massachusetts
Website
elizabethbonesteel.com
Very true, both points. I was thinking of when I used to buy new paperbacks and they were £5.99, everything seems to be around the £8 mark now. But accounting for inflation and rise in average wages they're probably isn't much change at all.

When I first started buying paperbacks, they were 95 cents. :) And there was much less variety available.

I flog libraries because I used to work at one, and it was magic. I'd learn about books before they came out. We could order anything that was still in print - and a lot of stuff that was out of print. It was an embarrassment of riches.

But you can buy a kindle for £60 (probably cheaper if you shop around) and get all those free classics and you'll probably save money, even before the lower cost of e-books that you want to get in the future.

This is true. And cell phones are ubiquitous these days - my kid is willing to read on hers, which I'll never understand, but her eyes are much better than mine. :)

And tbf I prefer ebooks myself, precisely because my eyes are so bad. But print books are still the bigger financial driver in publishing (it does annoy me that the article talks about revenues rather than unit sales, but still). I don't anticipate an end to physical books any time soon.
 

mccardey

wear a mask
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 10, 2010
Messages
14,208
Reaction score
5,251
Location
Australia.
I flog libraries because I used to work at one, and it was magic.
This is for you ,Liz.
When Melbourne’s Yarra Plenty regional libraries first went into lockdown in March, shut the doors and left the remaining unborrowed books on their shelves, staff were sent home with a phone.“One of the hardest things about lockdown was people being separated from their community,” said Lisa Dempster, Yarra Plenty’s executive manager of public participation.
[FONT=&quot][/FONT]“The library is often a hub for the community, and we identified the most vulnerable cohort of our community would be the elderly.”
So the library staff pulled from their database the phone number of every library member over the age of 70 – a total of 8,000 records.
Then the librarians started calling those members. All of them.
 
  • Like
Reactions: AW Admin

TheRyustyNail

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 3, 2021
Messages
71
Reaction score
34
Location
Middletown, Ohio
It's a product of the age we live in: the Digital Age. Everthing's moving online, literature included. I still prefer a physical copy, however, the convenience of being able to look for books on a single device (without having to go anywhere), buy it and then dig in to immediately, can't be beat. Not forgetting that ebooks are often cheaper than physical books, so that helps.
I completely agree. I love physical books and the sensory stimulus that comes with them, but in a fast paced modern world, you can't beat the convenience of reading on a screen.
 

TheRyustyNail

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 3, 2021
Messages
71
Reaction score
34
Location
Middletown, Ohio
I don't think books are going anywhere for a long time, but the primary from of reading in the future will be electronic. Kindle and its peers are just to convenient.
 

lizmonster

Possibly A Mermaid Queen
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
8,259
Reaction score
2,960
Location
Massachusetts
Website
elizabethbonesteel.com
I don't think books are going anywhere for a long time, but the primary from of reading in the future will be electronic. Kindle and its peers are just to convenient.

People keep saying this, and I suppose eventually it'll be true.

But The Kid and her friends prefer physical books. The Kid, who will devour webtoons and fanfic on line, will let an ebook languish.

I think the death of the paperback is pretty far off.
 

Introversion

Pie aren't squared, pie are round!
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 17, 2013
Messages
5,447
Reaction score
1,258
Location
Massachusetts
As a reader, I was skeptical of e-books. As in, intensely disinterested. And then Spouse got an iPad when they were a new thing. And I played with it. And eventually bought one. And discovered the convenience of downloading books on a whim at midnight, even with the chewing-gum-and-zombie-pigeons-based Internet we had at the time…

What e-books killed for me was a desire for paperbacks, but not paperbooks. If I really, really like a book, and it’s available, I’ll buy a hardcover too. But new paperbacks are dead to me.

Which is good, because I compulsively can’t get rid of paper books I own, and they already fill too much of our house.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: lizmonster

Albedo

Cultured vulture
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 17, 2007
Messages
6,732
Reaction score
1,542
Location
A dimension of pure BEES
They can pry my coffee table books from my cold dead hands. Unless they come up with a coffee table that IS an ebook reader. Actually, I think someone actually tried that. It was an absolute ergonomic crime against humanity.

No really, I can see paperbacks becoming scarcer and scarcer, but some types of books won't ever become e-only.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Introversion

Friendly Frog

Snarkenfaugister
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 23, 2011
Messages
2,135
Reaction score
598
Location
Belgium
I get incredibly grumpy about this sort of discussion because I can't help but feel that making this into a choice (or a Thunderdome fight) between one or the other is for lack of a better word... artificial? The 'CD's are dead' and 'no one does cash payments anymore' are IMO two other ugly siblings. I don't see why one should replace the other. They both have advantages and I am so much happier with both technologies than just one of the two. To me technological progress is the having of more options.

I read both paper and ebooks. Often but not always for different things. If I'm likely to be a long time off-line or on a limited energy-supply, paper books rule. Like Albedo said, hands off my coffee table books. And if I need to find a passage (without a convenient key word) real quick, I find rifling through paper pages is so much more efficient. But for space (I have limited and already full bookshelves and they all resemble a doomed Tetris game) or air travel, ebooks are IMO The Best. The equivalent of a library on a tiny computer, so awesome!

So why do I need to choose? I don't want to. I refuse to.
 

Introversion

Pie aren't squared, pie are round!
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 17, 2013
Messages
5,447
Reaction score
1,258
Location
Massachusetts
So why do I need to choose? I don't want to. I refuse to.
The only fly in that very understandable ointment is that publishers can take away that choice, if paperbacks become unprofitable / too niche for them. I don’t think that’ll happen soon, but my crystal ball‘s track-record is sketchy.

CDs are already harder to find than a few years ago. And there’s no guarantee that movies and TV shows get released to disc now. I want the choice to buy those things on physical media, especially movies/shows, but The House Teen thinks that’s quaint.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Albedo

lizmonster

Possibly A Mermaid Queen
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
8,259
Reaction score
2,960
Location
Massachusetts
Website
elizabethbonesteel.com
Mass market paperbacks are, at least in some genres, becoming more unusual. I was told this was because they're made of cheaper materials than trade pbs, and thus don't stand up to shelf wear as well (resulting in more returns from bookstores).

I don't know if it's standard, but in my contract I get a slightly better royalty rate for ebooks - but it's based on the actual sale price. So if my ebook is .99 on Amazon, I get a percentage of that. With print books it's a lower rate, but it's always on the $17.99 list price, even if the reader pays far less than that.

AFAIK authors have been agitating about ebook royalties for a while, but I don't expect the situation to change for the better.
 

Featured Book