This all makes heaps of sense and is articulated far better than any incoherent flailing I could have made personally. I'm secretly scared that nobody will know what a book is in fifty years. And I like books, cuz they never need their firmware upgraded or crash or die if you get them wet. And you can't make photocopies of an e-reader book, can you? I think not.
I sense that books that work best as books (children's books, illustrated books, art books, special edition books, etc.) will remain in their current form for some time, and that the vampire dross and Dan Brown style stuff and the endless drifts of business bestsellers, Nine Steps To Success, etc. will increasingly become text or speech poured into pocket sized devices made in Zhangjiakou that have to be replaced every year. Maybe this will be a good thing since it might encourage smaller bookstores to go on carrying niche titles that big corporations can't waste their time with anymore. Or maybe I am dreaming.
This is a great article. You made a lot of good points.
Strikethru: "I sense that ... the vampire dross and Dan Brown style stuff and the endless drifts of business bestsellers, Nine Steps To Success, etc. will increasingly become text or speech poured into pocket sized devices made in Zhangjiakou that have to be replaced every year."Perhaps those books will eventually be relegated to bits-n-bytes. But in the short term, publishers love them in print form. Print publishing is a money-losing business most of the time; it's the Dan Browns and "Twilight" Whatsernames that keep them profitable. After a year or so, though, the reading consumer has had their fill and moved on to the next fad, and the remainders begin to pile up. That would be a good time to shunt the former best-seller to a digital-only format.In an era of 2,000,000-copy "Harry Potter" first runs, the collectible book market might appreciate such an approach. Limiting subsequent print runs following a huge first printing would give an otherwise worthless edition more value.
Digital technology is generally inferior to its pre-digital counterpart. Not just "less desirable," but flat-out, hands-down inferior. Digital images are inferior to film. Digital audio is inferior to vinyl. These digital versions were developed to be cheap substitutes, not improvements, the way that a frozen dinner is a cheap substitute for a fresh meal. Reading digital text is inferior to the experience of physical ink on physical paper. But digital serves an important economic purpose for some consumers, even though it is inferior. As a result, it will likely remain inferior -- because it can. Books will not go away, for the same reason paper records and files remain -- digital appeals to the consumer who prefers the cheapest alternative, but that's not everyone.
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