Thursday, July 12, 2012

Are Ebooks Really Sounding the Death Knell of the Printed Page?

A few days ago, I came across a meme on Facebook (For the life of me I can't remember where, so please forgive the lack of attribution) that read something like "Ebooks are no more a danger to print that elevators are to stairs".

In my opinion, that pretty much sums it up. Just becuse information is available in a new medium, doesn't mean that the old medium dries up and blows away. I mean, the first drums were created thousands of years ago, but the advent of the synthesizer didn't render drums obsolete.

Here's a post from my prior blog that went up 02/22/2012, in which I compare ebooks to digital photographs. Let me know what you think, either in the comments below, on FB or Twitter.

Ebooks are like digital photographs. No, really.

Now that Heir to the Sun has made its ebook debut, I've been fielding all
sorts of new & exciting questions. Most of them seem to be about the
process of converting a "regular" book to an ebook - no, I won't bore you
with the drudgery of formatting (and there are others far more qualified to
speak on the subject).

The other heavy subject is one that's hotly debated of late: are ebooks
going to replace printed books? The situation does seem dire, what with
small indies falling prey to those digital pages, and even giants like
Borders going out of business. Will ebooks eventually replace printed books
all together?

In a word, no. Not within my lifetime, and probably not ever.
Consider digital photography. In the old days (read: ten years ago) we had
to ration our 35mm film OMG - remember film???) while we were on vacation, lug around lead-lined camera bags so the airport scanning devices wouldn't wreck our negatives, and
spend a small fortune developing it. Now, we click with abandon,
chronicling life's moments down to the second.

As awesome as digital photographs are, they have not totally supplanted
real, printed pictures. The ones you hold in your hand, hang on your wall,
tuck inside your wallet. We still want real, tangible memories, not just a
few pixels flitting by on a screen. Are we selective about what we print?
Yes. But then again, now we have the power to only print selected images,
and we can reprint at will, whether in the privacy of our home office or
local drugstore's photo kiosk. Or, umm, at work on the really nice commercial-grade color copier.

Flexibility is good.

Yes, some companies went out of business as a result of widespread digital
photography, but they refused to change with the times. You can't
stubbornly adhere to an outdated practice, or product. The consumer always
wants something new and shiny.

And as for print books, they aren't going anywhere. I don't care if I can
get it faster/cheaper/with exclusive content on my ereader, there are some
books that I want - need - to have in a tangible format. I love to turn
the page, run my fingertips across the type, and reconnect with characters.

Ebooks are like digital photographs: new and shiny. Ereaders are fun, and
we as consumers love gadgets. Are ebooks here to stay? Yes. Will some
publishers suffer? Most likely, but I wonder if any suffering will be due
their stubborn adhereance to an outdated, geriatric business model that should have been
polished up decades ago.

Maybe they just need to shake the cobwebs out of their
corners, and maybe ebooks are just the excuse to do it.

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