20 September 2010

Parallel Technologies

I'm going to make a bold prediction: e-readers will never replace books, bookstores, or libraries.

There, I said it.

E-readers will continue to rise in popularity for some time to come, but that doesn't mean that the good old codex (bound book as we know it) is doomed to extinction. Not everyone will have the means to buy an e-reader. Of those who can, not all will want to. Many people will use both formats. E-readers can be very handy and helpful to many people, and that promotes reading, which is all to the good. But consider this: it's much more likely that an e-reader will be lost, stolen, or crash irreparably, losing your entire library in the process, than to loose a home library of bound volumes lining the walls to flood or fire.

Now, it is imperative to know some history in order to have a prayer of predicting what is likely to happen in the future. Radio did not replace live music performance. Movies did not eliminate theater. The VCR and later the DVD player did not replace the movie theater, in spite of dire predictions of the death of movies and/or movie theaters. So why should we think that e-readers will replace the bound book? There is a place and use for both.

Recent studies show that children who grow up in a house full of bookcases lining the walls and holding hundreds of books (or more) are 30% better at academics, college, and the advantages all that does for careers. It was the single most powerful predictor of success. The e-reader is very limited in that regard and cannot fully supply the same function.

So never fear. On with e-readers and on with bound books!

www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html (to see my book).


  1. I agree completely. E-readers will never replace the wonderful disorganization of my bookshelf, where I can never find what I'm looking for but always find something unexpected or forgotten.

  2. I love the statistic that children who grow up in a house full of bookcases lining the walls and holding hundreds of books (or more) are 30% better at academics. e-Readers are not in danger of replacing the print book in the next few years, however, if you write and publish books, not making your book available as an ebook will mean fewer sales.

  3. You're right on both counts. I plan to make my book available on e-reader as soon as I can talk my publihser into not charging me for it. Thank you both for commenting!

  4. Certainly there's a place for multiple media and media-delivery formats, each with their uses and drawbacks. The codex isn't going anywhere -- not for awhile, at least -- but it's definitely a good idea to embrace the new formats (like ebooks, including added enhancements to the ebook) as fully as possible as well.

    I like that 30% stat, but do you have the source?

    Thanks for the comment!

  5. Gosh. I can't put my finger on it because it appeared in the NY Times. Maybe we can search the back issues.

  6. hi, david. thanks so much for stopping by my blog. scholastic posted the 2011 kid & family reading report. you can learn more about it on my blog http://www.deegospelpr.com

  7. Thank you so much for passing that information along! I'll visit your blog straight away.

  8. "Not everyone will have the means to buy an e-reader."

    In a few years you'll be able to buy an old e-reader for less then a hardcover book.

    "it's much more likely that an e-reader will be lost, stolen, or crash irreparably, losing your entire library in the process"

    Even now most e-readers are connected to accounts, so even if your e-reader is stolen, you don't lose your library.

    What do studies show about children who grow up with an e-reader with instant and convenient assess to thousands of books?

  9. eReaders are too new to have studies to show their effectiveness, so we will have to wait for an answer to that question.

    I have thousands of books (hard and soft cover) in my house. The e-readers have no advantage in that regard.

    To the extent that Amazon offers books for free, writers will have to leave the profession because they aren't being paid. Put a significant number of writers out of business, and literature will become sadly empoverished.

    No matter how cheap e-readers become, they will still be out of reach for uncountable millions of people, both here in the US and around the world.

    One aspect I did not mention is that a major sunstorm could wipe out all the digital memory, not just of e-books, but also of bank accounts and emails, and everything stored electronically. Did you know that CDs fade and do not have anywhere near the life of any audio stored analogically in any form? So keep those paper payment stubs, payment records, and bank statements. They may be your only proof of the money you rightfully have.

    The point remains that most technologies (not every single one) continue to be used and print has the longest history of any of them. If you like e-readers, great! It promotes reading. People who use e-Readers will migrate to bound volumes from time to time. Neither replaces the other.

  10. I skipped over from your comment on Stray Thoughts...I thought your name sounded familiar! I'm reading your book right now. Weird coincidence, eh?

    Anyhew...I just wanted to say...I'm a total bookworm and thought I'd love the Kindle my husband bought me for my birthday, but no sooner was it in my hot little hands then I realized...nope, NOT for me. Because, aside from convenience, storage, yada yada...there is a whole sentimental side to reading books with pages (I should probably admit that I love the smell of old books, hehehe)...and bookmarks are one of my most favorite collectible items...It freaks me out that I can't tell my husband is reading in the other room...because I can't hear the pages flip! My children (3 and 5) are already sentimentally attached to books (with pages)...and I hope it NEVER changes!!

  11. Bobbi:

    First of all, thank you, thank you for reading my book!

    As for the rest of your comment, you said it very well. There are people who will like and use e-readers, but it's not for everyone and not for me, either.