What is The Future of The Paper Book?

12 March, 2012

Will Ebooks take over Pbooks (in case you don't know yet, the Pbook, or "Paper Book" is the name now given to the book; more commonly known as the normal book or the traditional book).

I have had the pleasure of attending a number of events as part of the Writers & Readers Week as part of the NZ International Arts Festival in Wellington. The talk I attended today included Fergus Barrowman, Tilly Lloyd and Denise Mina, and was hosted by the fabulous Kathryn Ryan of National Radio's Nine To Noon show.

The debate: Are We The Last Real Book Readers?

There was much talk including the statistics: 10% of all books now published in the USA are Ebooks. Children's books are 25% Ebook. The traditional or normal book has already been somewhat demoted as the "Paper Book". 85,000 New Zealanders use an iPad or an eReader, and 150,000 kiwis have some kind of eReader downloaded on their phones.

What does this increasing digital reading experience mean for the beloved (and already demoted) Pbook? What does this mean for writers, authors, virtual-authors and readers alike?

The talk concluded that we are not the last book readers, and nor will any generation be the last; as there will always be a place for the Pbook. You can't replace the physicality of the Pbook, your spatial relationship with it, your memories of reading it on holiday, the ink-smell of it, and you can't stick your thumb in an eReader, after all!

It made me lament on Letter vs Email. Email has, to a large extent, replaced the letter. We expect instant communication now - and how easy is it?! Can you remember a time without email? What did we do?! But the letter is not obsolete, because there is nothing else like getting a card or a letter in the post, is there? Every week I send my mother and my grandmother a card each to the UK (probably because they may be the only two people in the developed world without Email!). I love the act of sitting down and writing something in my own hand, making it look pretty, and then sticking a picturesque stamp and airmail sticker on it and sending it off across the world. An email would not give me nearly as great a sense of pleasure.

As Fergus commented: digital reading will never be as good or better than sitting down with a physical book. AND that it is in fact "good enough for most people, most of the time". It is, after all, liberating the format in which stories and experiences can be told, is accessible to significantly people more instantly, is driving prices down; it is faster, cheaper and reduces the impact on the environment.

My question is; but what of quality? Who, now, with it being so easy to self-publish and make your book accessible, will control the quality of the information? I am on several newsletter lists of various other coaches and self-help people, and I am easily sent about three free Ebooks a week! I save them on my computer if they look interesting; but who has time to sift through all this free information? And, without the author's brand and name, how do I know it's worth it? Is the plethora of self-published Ebooks undermining the quality of information in this way?

As I am in the middle of writing my first Ebook - I am interested in where you stand on this. Leave a comment (or two) and let's have a community chat. I would love to hear what you think!


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