The E-Book Explosion
Depending on your perspective, you’re probably either excited or disturbed by the continuing explosive growth of e-books. I guess you could say that it’s a bi-polar subject for me. I’m both excited and disturbed. I’m excited because e-book technology is making it easier to acquire and read books, and disturbed because I love the comfortable sounds and smells and ambience of real bookstores, and I love printed books that can be handed down through generations of readers. When I was a boy, I read books that my grandfather had read when he was a boy. The pages were yellowed and some of the bindings had cracked, but they were still the very same books. You can’t get that experience from a Kindle or a Nook or an iPad.
But the most important part of a book is its content, of course, and in that sense e-book technology is making books more accessible than ever. It’s also wreaking havoc among traditional publishers and booksellers.
According to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales in January 2011 increased nearly 116% over the last year while paperback sales fell nearly 31%.
With so many readers shifting to e-books, bricks and mortar bookstores are struggling. You may have heard that Borders filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on February 16 and announced that it would be closing 200 of its 642 stores. The closing of an additional 25 stores was announced on March 19.
Did you know that you could download many of the classics for free? Me, either. E-book readers such as the Kindle and the Nook have some other advantages over printed books. Here’s another article that sheds some light on the debate over paper vs. plastic.
One of the great things about books is that they can be read over and over. Libraries have thousands of books for anyone who wants to borrow them, and I can’t tell you how many books I’ve loaned to friends and relatives over the years. (I’ve even gotten a few of them back.) Of course, lending an e-book is even easier than lending a printed book. This is one more factor that’s making publishers nervous. Online clubs with names like BookLending.com and Lendle.me have proliferated. The sites, some of which have gathered thousands of users, allow strangers to borrow and lend e-books for the Kindle and Nook. You can find more information here:
E-Book Lending Takes Off
Publishers Wary of E-Book Lending ‘Twerps’
One major publisher, HarperCollins, has decided to limit the number of times an e-book can be read. Libraries, which are also learning how to deal with the e-book phenomenon, don’t like such limitations.
And the digital book revolution rolls on.