Are Books Becoming Obsolete?

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Mass market paperbacks are becoming less of a thing because they're tied to sales in chain bookstores, and chain stores that have a section for books—like drugstores. The size of mass market paperbacks was standareized because they fit "spinner racks."

Selling mass market via Amazon eats what little profit margin a publisher has, because Amazon demands a bigger discount, and rarely does returns, so hard cover and trade paperbacks have become a little more common.

With ebooks—most publishers are OK with escalator/elevator clauses where you get a bigger percentage tied to sales. The catch is that you want to make sure that it's sales over the lifetime of the book, not for a particular period of time.
 

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I want the choice to buy those things on physical media, especially movies/shows, but The House Teen thinks that’s quaint.
Wait'll the teen realizes that downloads with DRM are not permanent; they can go away and do.

If it's something I really love, I want physical media, CDs, video/film, or printed codex books on low-acid paper.
 

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Wait'll the teen realizes that downloads with DRM are not permanent; they can go away and do.

We tell her this a lot. :) But I think her generation is growing up to think of things as impermanent anyway. She streams music, she rents digital copies of movies if she can't find them on Netflix, and she reads webtoons that are never finished and fanfic that's barely started.

Books, for some reason, seem to be a different thing to her. I don't know why, really, but I will admit to being imprudently indulgent when she picks up a book and says "Huh, looks interesting." :)

If it's something I really love, I want physical media, CDs, video/film, or printed codex books on low-acid paper.

I'm with you. But I am finding, as I get older, my definition of "really love" is changing. There are few movies, for example, that I want to watch repeatedly (those I buy). With physical books, these days it's art/art tutorial/coffee table books (they just don't work in ebook), gifts for others, or--occasionally--a hardcover of a book I've already read repeatedly and loved.
 

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Wait'll the teen realizes that downloads with DRM are not permanent; they can go away and do.
True, but don’t craft a business-model around “teens realize adults actually know stuff”. 😂

I find myself double-buying books, because I know there’s a copy somewhere in a basement box, but click & download is faster. Or because my somewhere-down-there paperback is old & ratty, and hey here’s a clean used hardcover copy for a few bucks, click.

I find myself triple-buying favorite movies: laserdiscs, DVDs, blu-rays. I expect when this TV croaks and is replaced, I’ll start replacing them with 4K, 8K, WhateverK discs.

So yeah, I’m with you on the permanent copies thing.
 
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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.
True, true. And I won't be able to do anything about that then. I know customers like choice, but companies rather don't.

Like Lizmonster said the younger generation is already used a lot more to impermanent media. I don't mind being a dinosaur in that aspect.

Impermanence may well become the standard and I can't do anything about that either. Except live with it, I suppose, and adapt to have my way as much as I can by buying now what I like on physical carriers I can control myself. I haven't forgotten how already one or another brand of e-reader libraries got purged without their owners' permission because the TOS we all have to agree to allowed it. That too is the future, I fear.

So I'm going to be a dinosaur right up until that meteor crashes down around my ears. Except I'm going to try to maybe be a dinosaur with a bomb shelter stocked with durable media...
 

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haven't forgotten how already one or another brand of e-reader libraries got purged without their owners' permission because the TOS we all have to agree to allowed it. That too is the future, I fear.
Indeed. The model that “publishers” — in quotes, because I’m talking about not just books, but music, film, etc — prefer is one in which we never own, but only rent access to media. Pay-per-view, really.

I’m all-too aware that Amazon’s e-books are not really mine. They can erase them, and as you say, have done so in the past. And if Amazon ever crashes as commercial enterprise — unlikely, but not impossible — my “e-library” evaporates.

Does that bother me more than films being unavailable to buy in their theatrical-release form? Dunno. I still have copies of Star Wars on laserdisc, even though the quality relatively sucks, because at least they aren’t the JarJarized versions George Lucas wants me to only be able to buy on physical media.

I suspect the House Teen thinks this is typical, eye-rolling Dad-think, but she’s too young to really understand nostalgia or the dismay of favorite things being gone forever. I just hope when she comes around to Dad-think too, that she can afford a big basement to store everything in.
 

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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.
The only thing that provides even a speck of hope is the idea that things can (and often do) come back. It was only 34 years ago that vinyl became obsolete, now you can find a selection of Vinyl and even record players in Wal-Mart. A lot of marketing has brought 90’s pop culture back from the grave for the sake of nostalgia-baiting. Whether the same can be said for physical books I cannot say, but I will be on that sinking ship for as long as I potentially can.
 

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The degree to which paper books will remain available will depend on for how long publishers can make money off them. They aren't going to keep that option available just to keep the option available. I wonder, though, if even the big publishers do "print on demand" for paper books eventually? I wonder what the price point would be for that?

Looking globally (I spent two years in Africa), I think paper versions of educational materials and non-fiction will long outlast paper-based fiction. It's such a huge market! The Ugandans I worked with read voraciously, but not fiction. They read newspapers daily, read financial and business books by the crateful, and inspirational/religious books are really popular too. For every one fiction outlet (serving mostly expats), there were easily a dozen or more smaller shops selling non-fic, school books, and religious books. As much as Africa has adopted electronic communications (they had versions of Venmo long before I saw it in the United States), they don't seem to be doing their reading digitally.
 

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Not to me. Maybe I'm getting old, but I'm very reluctant to go all-digital. I don't feel like something is mine unless I can physically hold it and put it on my shelf. I have about 2,000 dvds and blu rays. As for books, I guess I could go either way on paperbacks but for the books I really like I try to get the nicest edition available.
 

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I also rather the physical stuff versus digital. I was hesitant because of the fear that something would disappear after I payed for it, but went ahead and tried buying one movie. Yep, a year later it was gone because the streaming service I bought it through fell apart.

I do have a couple of digital books, but I much rather my physical copies. Not only do I not have to worry about them disappearing, but I can read my physical copies when the power goes out from the weather. :)
 

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My wife and I did as millions of others around the world did over the holidays; we went shopping at the local mall. On that particular day, nearly every square inch of the building was jammed-packed with shoppers. Every store filled to capacity, except for one, which I’ll get to in a moment. As we walked along a corridor, practically rubbing elbows with others, I turned my head and looked into Waldenbooks. Aside from the clerk at the register and a single individual near the back of the store reaching up to one of the shelves, the store was completely empty! I turned to my wife, who is well aware of my love of books, and I said, “Look at how empty that store is. That is sad. That is really sad.”

She remarked something about how, more and more, people are turning to the Internet or electronic devices for their reading. That picking up an actual hardcover or paperback book and turning its pages is becoming a thing of the past.

That is sad.

RA

I'm stuck in a bizarre, halfway limbo-world between the physical and the electronics. Being thoroughly Millennial, I feel trapped between resenting the logistics involved with more than two or three books, while at the same time somehow fundamentally uncomfortable with e-readers, or other electronic means of reading. Weirdly, the same thing often seems to be the case at work. I find it infinitely easier to absorb information from a hardcopy source, such as a reference textbook, than taking it in from a PDF on the screen.

It's an odd one. I crave the portability of the electronic, but I'm not comfortable with reading using it. Can't explain it.
 

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With digital media there's a certain, idk, ADHD quality to it. Like when you read a PDF on your computer or something on your phone, watch a video, things of that nature, there's always the possibility to change the tab really quick to browse something else for a second. Or maybe, if you're me, you want to switch the song that's playing. There's some distraction there even if you're not presently being distracted. Not to mention that reading text on a bright computer screen can REALLY strain your eyes. You also can't lie down in your bed with your computer to read a book or something. And with the kindle or other devices like that there's no page turning. No smell of a fresh novel and no feeling of the roughness of the pages in your fingers.

Really reading and enjoying media physically is a whole experience that just cannot be replicated. And when I do have a good book in my hands, I am absorbed in it completely. I always have been since I was a child. And as you read the book over and over, the pages get softer and the book ages with you. The spine gets a little less stiff and the book takes on a life of its own in a way. I know I'm romanticizing a bit here, maybe even being dramatic, but dammit I love books and I absolutely love reading. I can't help it. In no way would I ever favor digital media over a nice book.
 

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Stories are not becoming obsolete. The form they come in and how people obtain them definitely seems to be shifting.

Paper books, whether in soft covers or hard might be endangered. As for actual paper books going extinct, I think there will always be Kirk's who just can't imagine an electronic book being any where near as good as one that can be held in the hands.
 

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I'm still buying / using printed sources for anything I need to cite in an academic/scholarly context, because specificity is important, and page numbers in ebooks are dependent on local settings.
 

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My wife and I did as millions of others around the world did over the holidays; we went shopping at the local mall. On that particular day, nearly every square inch of the building was jammed-packed with shoppers. Every store filled to capacity, except for one, which I’ll get to in a moment. As we walked along a corridor, practically rubbing elbows with others, I turned my head and looked into Waldenbooks. Aside from the clerk at the register and a single individual near the back of the store reaching up to one of the shelves, the store was completely empty! I turned to my wife, who is well aware of my love of books, and I said, “Look at how empty that store is. That is sad. That is really sad.”

She remarked something about how, more and more, people are turning to the Internet or electronic devices for their reading. That picking up an actual hardcover or paperback book and turning its pages is becoming a thing of the past.

That is sad.

RA
I heard on a podcast just two days ago that books are going away, but reading is not. Readers are just finding new media. Tablets, smartphones, computers, audio. This universe still needs writers, who just need to find the new outlets.

(Also, I don't think books are going away altogether.)
 

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Well, every time I'm in Barnes and Noble, it's packed. I went after Christmas with my giftcards. Of course, people weren't just buying books.

I know this is years after this post, but I'm amazed to see how Barnes and Noble has changed over the past 8 years. Our local store is still open but it has become more a toy and collectible store than a book store. The entire center of the store, as well as half of one side, are now full of games, stuffed animals, toys and other detritus. The magazine selection is still fantastic, but the book selection has declined precipitously.
 

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True, but don’t craft a business-model around “teens realize adults actually know stuff”. 😂

I find myself double-buying books, because I know there’s a copy somewhere in a basement box, but click & download is faster. Or because my somewhere-down-there paperback is old & ratty, and hey here’s a clean used hardcover copy for a few bucks, click.

I find myself triple-buying favorite movies: laserdiscs, DVDs, blu-rays. I expect when this TV croaks and is replaced, I’ll start replacing them with 4K, 8K, WhateverK discs.

So yeah, I’m with you on the permanent copies thing.
The main reason I I double-buy a book is because the print book is cumbersome. I like having a permanent copy of a book, but I will admit it is much easier to read The Stand on a Kindle instead of a mass market paperback.

With movies I'm finding myself buying the DVD, ripping it to my Plex server and then storing the DVD in case my server ever crashes catastrophically and I need to rip it again.
 
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I have a large library of books, DVDs and CDs, especially those of concerts, as I can not afford and do not live where I can afford to go to see music being played. I will go down with the shipload of books, DVDs and CDs that I continue to collect, as I live too remotely to be even getting this stuff over the net. I am sure that I will have to afford an addition soon though for the collection.
 

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I admit that reading from my kindle is convenient especially since it is on my cell phone. However, it does not bring me near the joy that opening a book does. The feel of the paper and the smell of the paper. I don't see myself not buying books.
 

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