Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Is the paper book dying?

I was in a conversation last Saturday in where as many other times, someone challenged the e-book readers vs the paper book. Do you think paper books will disappear ? (that was her question).

As usual the people in the table, having an after dinner conversation just shared their personal point of view, some of them said "No, I love reading a paper book; No, what will happen with book shelves; No!!!", and some others "Yes, I can read my books anywhere now, I can carry multiple books, etc"

Here is what I have to say, my personal perspective and what I do not usually share on these dinner conversations, because I could be killing the "entertaining conversation" which is there to be more fun than a real round table of experts looking forward getting to conclusions and defining a plan of action based on a mission... so I do not pretend to show off or being boring and then I just smile...

Books, in any format, are one of the most popular methods to transfer information (paper, electronic, audio books...) and from my perspective there are 2 groups of people:

a.- The ones who LOVE the format.
People who love the concept of reading, carrying, collecting, smelling and contemplating a book on its paper format. These are the ones who love to go to a book store and go aile by aile, book by book, reading the sides, watching the cover, getting in love of the page AND also they like the content; but the format means a lot to them. I can compare this group to a similar group but in music. People who love the Vinyl LP Record (long play record), the CD or any other not-digital format 100% electronically distributed, this group love the artwork, the booklet, having CDs on a shelf, the process of taking them out of their cases and putting them on a player. Some of them like the LP format, because they can play more with it if they are DJ's and some others like them because the quality of a LP is better than CDs (wich is true with CDs, but the new Digital Music above the 192kHz/24-bit DAC is better than LPs). So these people read books not only driven by its core content, but love books due the "book experience concept" in where the content of the book is just a piece of the total experience but not its 100%. They like to have a more holistic experience

b.- The ones focus on the content and convenience
It is not that this group do not care about the look and feel of a paper book, but this group is more focused on paragraphs, chapters, references. This group is more into the "information" and not its distribution method. This is the group who like the idea of having multiple books inside a small Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Nook, etc. This is the group who is happy to have access to the biggest book store anywhere at anytime and download a sample or the complete book that they browsed based on its core content. Just to continue with the comparison with the music experience, there are people who find amazing, having access to almost any record at any time from stores like iTunes and who find awesome carrying all their music inside a small piece of technology like an iPod, so they can play their music anywhere at anytime.

So who is right and who is wrong? Who will loose and who will win?
First of all, I think we all are or will be in both groups. I find very useful reading on my Kindle, iPad and iPhone but not all the books! I like graphic design; architecture and photography books and for those specific type of groups I like the holistic approach in where the book is ALL (cover, font, smell, page by page, etc) and I am assuming that maybe people who declare them selves "Paper book lovers" they will find out that for some specific topics (maybe technical, school, business, reference, etc) kind of books, in where they do not care a lot about the cover, putting them on a shelf or the way they smell, they will be ok with the utility of an electronic format to access them (this is just an assumption) .

But will the paper book will disappear?
I think paper wont be the most popular format, and we are experiencing day by day a market share growth for the e-books (E-book sales represented 8.32 percent of the trade book market in 2010 vs 3.20 percent the previous year for the reference click here) so it is clear that we will see every day less paper books.

So the Kindle and other e-readers are our future?
No, they won't either!!! They are a format that bring us convenience and based on that, new formats will appear. What we know as e-readers now, won't be with us in 25 -30 years (this is a personal prediction based on Ray Kurzweil's vision) With the evolution of nano-technology we will access information directly from our brains so we will be reading without using our eyes and hands, just our brain connected to any book at any time.

So answering the frist question: Do you think the paper book will disappear? Yes for specific topics, mostly reference books, but we will see some other topics, more related to emotions still in some shops, more expensive as they are now. Paper books wont die at least in our era, but they will be collectors material, backup, art, etc and the volume of new books printed will be very small compared with what we have now and this during the next 25 years, not next year...

We are in 2011, we are moving faster than ever and we will move even faster year after year and month after month, so what we need to understand is that change wont be an option, and if we are still considering methods something that we enjoy, then change will not be easy. We need to learn how to adapt faster and we also need to identify what we really enjoy and if it is a paper book, then, that is great, but do not say " I love ALL paper books " without really analyzing what you really like about them, which topics you enjoy and you will always enjoy with your holistic perspective, and do not say " books will disappear " do not be that naive, because they wont on their totality. The interesting thing is that nobody is talking about how will be reading in the future, how we will be consuming information and that is what I would like to talk about after dinner....

an extra reference to see how e-books sales are growing:

1 comment:

Cobi said...

I´m in the first group,definitely I love the complete reading experience. You just decribed the feeling!