Discussion: Will eReaders effect reading trends?

I read about half of my books on my iPad and the other half in the hard, real world format all of us know and love. I absolutely love the convenience of my iPad. I can take hundreds of books with me everywhere I go and not be weighed down by any of them. I also feel like print books have a place as well. There are books I don’t enjoy reading in my iPad. Usually they are the ones that are too detailed or far too long to be enjoyable on an electric format. Examples would be most Peter F. Hamilton books, A Song of Ice and Fire and the Malazan series. Those will be books I will always need to hold, and flip the pages of. 
eReaders are becoming more and more commonplace. It seems as though everyone I know has a device that could be used to read books. Most stores that sell books are getting a larger and larger stock of ebooks. Sales trends for major outlets like Amazon are showing that ebooks are a rising trend for readers. Amazon has released a statement saying that since April it has sold more books for the Kindle than print books. 
Whether you are a fan of eReaders or not, there is an obvious growing trend here that deserves to be looked at. If these trends continue to increase, do you think reading trends will change? What I mean by that is, do you think that print books will “die out” in favor of eReaders? Do you think some books will stay most popular in print format while others will easily transition onto eReaders (children’s books, etc)? Or do you think that, while eReaders are becoming more popular, the markets are already cut – some people will always demand print, while others will use a healthy dose of both, and yet others will prefer ebooks? 

5 Responses

  • Scott

    I think the idea of physical books "dying out" is likely further out on the horizon than every thinks. My father swears that this is going to happen soon, but I disagree.

    I, like you Sarah, read about half my books on my Kindle and the other half in physical book format (my dividing line usually comes down on books I want to grace my library shelves for aesthetic reasons), and while I KNOW that eBooks are becoming very popular…especially this year, I don't feel like they are the sign of the end of the printed book.

    My reason is this: Look at MP3's & MP4's. Digital music started to really get big about ten years ago, around when Apple iTunes was in the early states of selling songs for 1$/track, or albums at $9. People LOVED that and the majority of the planet embraced the digital format, but even those people still went out and bought CD's sometimes. In fact, CD stores are still around today over ten years later. Now, they don't do as brisk a business as they used to, but enough to stay alive. I'm sure we will spend another 5-10 years seeing those stores die out completely as everyone goes completely digital in music. So about 20 years-ish for total saturation…not including the 5 or 6 years in the 90's when Napster was big and illegal MP3's were being traded. I expect the same amount of time from now till physical books REALLY start to wane enough that bookstores will become gone…or different…but I truly don't see it happening for a long while yet.

  • Gina

    I think there is a market for print books, and there always will be. Re: the music industry, mp3s didn't change the way we consumed music. You still needed speakers or headphones, and there was never anything fundamentally different about listening to a CD or listening to an iPod. All the iPod changed was making it easier to lug your collection around in your pocket.

    With e-readers, more is changed about the WAY you read books. Mainly, I'm thinking about being able to just flip through a book. Can you imagine trying to find a recipe in a cookbook on an e-reader? Or with textbooks, yes it would be nice to have a lightweight and tiny thing to carry around, but when you have to be flipping back and forth between section there's nothing easier than just sticking your arm in the book to hold your page. I know there are ways to do all these things on an e-reader, but they just aren't as simple.

    I should say, I'm a huge fan of paper books, and feeling them in my hand and seeing them on my shelves. But I also have a nook, and I can't deny how easy it is to buy a brand new hardcover for twenty dollars cheaper on the day it comes out, while sitting on the train during my morning commute. Even still, I will use my nook for only 1 out of 8 books I read.

    This post is getting long, but I also think I am steeped in e-readers, since I ride the train, in a way most people are not. Space is at a premium when you have to walk several blocks to work after riding a train, and I can see how e-readers are beneficial. But if I am going on vacation I would much rather have a paperback with me than my nook.

    I think there is a factor in how much you read. I devour books, so it makes sense that I would use an e-reader. For people like my mother, who will read a book in a day and then half the next one before bed, using her kindle is so much easier than going to the bookstore four times a week. I think many people, who read 1-3 books a month, will continue to use print books because they don't get as much benefit from investing in an e-reader.

    In the future, I could see fiction books sold primarily as e-books, or with their print sales held as print-on-demand or at extremely small print runs. But I think there will always be a market for printed books, though maybe not through the huge 300,00 sq ft. stores we have today. (Return of specialty book shops? We can only hope.)

    I'm a paper-book girl myself, but through all this e-reader upheaval, I have to remind myself that it is the WORDS that are important, and not the pages they are printed on.

  • Nathaniel Katz

    I don't have an E reader and am not interested in one. For me, the physical book – and my collection of those books – forms a small but significant part of my enjoyment of reading. That being said, I see no chance that books will remain as anything but a luxury item, even if it may take them a decade or two of decline before they finally disappear. Look at vinyl. Yes, it's still available for certain very specific things, but you're delusional if you think it's in widespread use at this point.

  • K.C. Shaw

    I don't think paper books will ever go away. Some formats may disappear (probably MMPB–more and more books seem to be releasing as trade PB these days) but there will always be books. Unlike CDs, LPs, even DVDs, books are used as decoration and display in addition to their actual purpose. Having a lot of books, or a lot of certain types of books, sends a social message (think of a lawyer's office without those law tomes or a classroom without a few shelves of books). I know those things sound unimportant compared to the convenience of ebooks, but social cues are extremely powerful. The biggest change will probably be the type of books published in paper; there will probably be fewer "popcorn" books or beach reads and more classics, coffee table type books, and gift books.

    And yes, I have an ereader and use it a lot. I also still like paper books.

  • hippogriff

    The CD vs. mp3 examples cited above are not the best analogy…a better one would be vinyl LPs vs. CDs. CDs are more portable, especially since you can rip them to mp3s. You can play CDs on your PC, in your car, and ripped CDs can be played on mp3 players. Vinyl, on the other hand, was limited to record players.

    Flexibility and portability, as well as cost, will be the deciding factors. It's cheaper to take a file created on a word processor and download it to a kindle, than it is to print, bind, ship, and stock a physical book. You can't rip a printed book to your e-reader, so that makes a printed book more like vinyl LPs.

    The change is coming, and it will be forced upon us like CDs were. I'm not happy about it, because I prefer printed books, but I'm not blind to the fact that printed books will become a niche market.

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