Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Expanding Book Universe

The overall book universe is expanding, and I love it.  

According to the Guardian, tree-books are doing very well these days, thank you.  And now that e-book market penetration seems to have plateaued at something like thirty percent of the entire book market, the future of tree-books, for a change, appears to be a bright one.  
"...if you examine the underlying figures for, say, 2012 and 2013, stripping out the exceptional impact of Fifty Shades of Grey, then it is quite possible to conclude that the book-buying universe – digital and printed – is expanding, not contracting. It isn’t a question of either/or. It is a question of both..."
The plateau is real. And one sentence sums up an essential difference. “Targeting is not a solution for discovery, except in a technologist’s head. Discovery is motivated by an exemplary browsing environment, something that online is very poor at.” 
 One problem for the Kindle revolution is the tablet revolution that came just behind, providing a wide range of other diversions besides books available on a single screen – which, in turn, cuts into reading time itself. The tablet is enemy as well as friend: and no one can tell where technology will go to next. 

As the article says, "It isn't a question of either/or.  It is a question of both..."  That's exactly the way it works with me.

I still very much prefer reading physical books over reading their electronic versions.  The reading experience is more rewarding and comfortable to me when I hold a physical book in my hands and can feel its weight, the texture of its paper, and even experience its individual smell.  When possible, I always go for a tree-book over an e-book and I probably always will.

There are times, however, when a physical book is less practical than its electronic cousin.  E-books at bargain prices are so common that I sometimes can't justify spending more money to have a physical copy of the same books.  Sometimes I'm traveling and want to travel lightly.  Sometimes I really don't want the public to know what I'm reading.  Sometimes I'm stuck in a long line, and I'm happy that I remembered to stuff my e-book reader deep inside a coat pocket.

But the crazy thing?  I'm reading more books than ever - and, believe me, I have read a whole lot of books in my life.  Still, I never dreamed I would be so consistently reading at a 125-150 books-per-year pace like I've done since e-books came along.  And, precisely because my reading pace has picked up, I'm more willing than ever to try new-to-me and debut authors - that so many debut novels are available in readily affordable e-book version doesn't hurt either.

So, no, it's not "either/or" for people like me; it's more like "all of it," please...and thank you very much.  


  1. Plus it's hard to beat e-books for old, esoteric public-domain works available for free from Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive et al that are difficult or impossible to find in print.

    1. That's a great point, Pete. I've downloaded quite a few Civil War memoirs written by soldiers on both sides who experienced that awful war. I don't always trust their accuracy but they are always interesting and impossible to find otherwise.