Books:What does the future hold?

The news of Barnes and Noble being put on the block earlier this month rekindled (pun intended) the memories of a rather heated round of discussion in one of my Marketing classes on Amazon vs Barnes and Noble. We talked about how other bricks and mortar stores were taking away market share of physical books from B&N , and on the e-books front it was getting its ass kicked by Amazon.The consensus in the class was that in all probability B&N was fighting a losing battle and Amazon was going to get even stronger.This certainly seems to be bearing out now.

The fundamental issue here is probably reading an e-book vs reading the good old paper and ink physical book (also called dead tree books-probably a term coined by environmentalists or the Amazon marketing machine). The shift is certainly happening as far as the reading habits of people are concerned (this is especially true of the more technologically mature countries). Last holiday season Amazon sold 143 e-books for every 100 hardcover books it sold in that quarter. At present this ratio stands even higher.

All this definitely shows a shift, but predicting an obsolescence of dead tree books from this shift is not possible. This is because e-book readers have a long way to go as far as replicating the look and feel of dead tree books is concerned.From what I have observed, people read books off computer screens only when they have absolutely no other option. In the Marketing class that I talked about earlier, I remember people predicting the death of dead tree books and the new golden era of e-books in the class. But these were the same people who would take print-outs of their e-books for the next test because they didn’t like reading e-books 🙂 .The next level to reading from computer screens is the e-book readers of today, but they at present do no have the wow factor that would probably be needed to wean away a lifelong reader of dead tree books.

The tipping point for e-books over dead tree books would come when the e-book readers are able to convincingly mimic the look and feel of a physical book.

All e-book readers are single screen which I think is a big mistake. If you are trying to replicate the classic reading experience,you need to make it dual screen where the two screens fold like two halves of a physical book.The e-paper technology has brought down the glare level.The business model is excellent.Most publishers are on board.Product design is the only factor Amazon lacks in and I suppose it is because the technology today is not advanced enough. If this falls into place in the coming years, my bet is that we would see the death of dead paper books because the substitute would look like it,feel like it and if they can pull it off somehow, smell like it.

Amazon (and other e-book reader manufacturers) also needs to focus for now a lot more on school and college students,especially school kids. You get them reading from your device at a young age – and you will have them for all of their lives,because never having had read too many dead tree books,they won’t  know what they are missing out on.

Dead tree books or e-books, reading is the king.
To reading.


3 thoughts on “Books:What does the future hold?

  1. I have been gifted a Kindle recently and I love its looks, usefulness, and of course, the geek value. But I love all the ‘dead tree books’ or the wonderful artefacts called books and will continue to acquire them. The typewriter did not manage to kill off the pen and/or writing (emails seem to be killing off letter-writing though I still write letters though in an electronic form).
    I have high hopes for the future of the ‘book’ … maybe soon a substitute ‘dead tree’ paper will be found …

  2. I’m a lifelong lover of books. I loved the feel of a book, have been known to buy books because they felt good in my hands. I am now a librarian–my true calling. And I now prefer my Kindle to a real book. Why? I am getting older. I can enlarge the fonts on my Kindle. I have picked up many books in the past year and had to put them down after a few pages–the type is too small and it’s too frustrating to carry on. Also, I have had carpal tunnel syndrome and have been injured several times. Pain is now my constant companion. Not having to hold down the pages of my fat books with unrelaxed spines while I read is liberating. If I had to hold heavy, fat books just to read, I would likely give it up soon because of the arthritic pain. And i also have a problem deciding which book I want to read at the moment. Now, whether I am upstairs or down, on the road, at work, etc., I can carry many books at once and suit my mood in a moment. I have needed a bookcase for three years but put off buying one and spend my money on my ebooks instead. If I had all ebooks, I would not need a bookcase, would not have to dust a bookcase, and more. My one bookcase is stuffed already. And if there is a flood or hurricane, I can pack my Kindle and my most precious non-ebooks more easily. Exceptions: books with pictures, charts, etc. are better in print. And professional books which I want to flip from page to page quickly in are better in print. I’m faster in print when I want to go hopping back to that passage I want to recall.

  3. I too love books, but my Kindle is the favorite. For travel, it’s wonderful to have a choice of what book to read without having to bring a ton with you. And for my ailing mother is was perfect. Her eyesight was getting bad and the larger fonts and light weight made it possible for her to enjoy what she loved the most. God bless E Readers. I still have the original Kindle with NO problems. My only worry is that they will up the price of the ebooks. I hope it stays low or i will have to stop purchasing them.

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