Friday, July 26, 2013

The Re-Invention of the Book

In the most recent issue of The New Yorker, Barnes & Noble, the last remaining retail giant of the book biz, was profiled.  It seems that The Nook, which Barnes & Noble brought out to counter and compete with Amazon's Kindle, is actually a losing proposition.  In short, few people are buying The Nook, or even buying into The Nook as an option for reading books.  Rather, Barnes & Noble is losing money on The Nook but actually turning a tidy profit in paper book sales.

What does this mean for the future of actual (traditional) paper-bound books?

Well, according to the article, devices like the Kindle and The Nook have actually increased sales of digital books, but for the most part, these digital offerings are centered on what one would have classified ten years ago as "mass market paperbacks".  In other words, people use these devices to read quick, low-cost, or what some might consider genre (mystery, romance, etc.) titles. 

But when people venture into a Barnes & Noble store, they walk out with a bound book.  And most of what Barnes & Noble (and yes, even Amazon) is selling is still cloth-bound, or paper-bound books. 

The fact is, the publishing industry and books as a whole are being re-invented.  I've seen this myself from the vantage point of the writer.  Five years ago publishers were shutting down, turning off the spigot, but have since realized that the traditional book is, even yet, the most sought-after, most read product they have to offer. Naturally there is growing presence of the digital book, too--and rightfully so.  But books aren't going away, and as a product that people want to hold and to purchase, the traditional book still holds a deeper appeal and, in many respects, is far more user-friendly than the Kindle or Nook counterparts.

These days, most every book is published as both print and digital (or with digital following soon after the print version).  But it's a wonderful affirmation for most writers to see that there are still readers who want to hold a book, and who would, in fact, prefer print to digital. 

I use both.  I have both.  I appreciate the two presentations of reading material.  But I know as long as I'm alive I'll be reading, for the most part, a book that I can hold in my hand and turn page by page, underline, or otherwise destroy with my grubby paws. 

I appreciate the fact that traditional books aren't going away any time soon.  Makes me want to collect more first-editions . . . and you can't find those on any Kindle.

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