I get sent many emails, and most are so stale and robot-like that I delete them before properly reading. I’m sure you understand my pain, and it’s often easy to separate the real from the fake. A few weeks ago I received an email from a guy named Greg, and although it was far from the most personal message I’ve ever read, it was REAL.
He wished to tell me about the infographic, ‘Books vs Ebooks’, which, of course, is a subject I’m very interested in. Here’s the piece of art in question:
I’m not going to spend the rest of this post analysing each section of the above graphic. You can see for yourself and draw your own conclusions. What I want to focus on are my own thoughts on Ebooks, Paperbacks, Hardcovers, and how these have an effect on Publishing and Storytelling.
Some worry that Ebooks and Kindles will take over, thus destroying the relationship between readers and the physical writing (the book sniffers of the world know what I’m talking about). It will also have a negative effect on Bookstores and Libraries, and it’s absolutely true, because such brick and mortar establishments face a difficult time, just like their music brethren have done for the last decade or so.
It isn’t all or nothing, though, and I think the above graphic demonstrates this. Simply put, life is never black and white.
The Role Our Choices Play
If we go back a few years, there wasn’t a great deal of choice for the reader. They HAD to buy bulky books no matter what, which is fine for reading at home and to our children, but it becomes an issue when travel is involved (be it holiday or commuter reading). The reader also had to leave their house and head to the bookstore, which is a wonderful experience indeed. However, it isn’t always helpful.
Take my hometown of Halifax, for instance, which has never been flush with Book Stores. Wider choice meant going to a larger town or city, and even then you’re at the mercy of the bookstore itself. They promote certain titles, and the rest gather dust in the background. Sometimes, we simply want to buy a book!
The reader now has a choice. And, as the above graphic shows, the role of the Ebook and Paperback varies.
- Reading to Your Child? Paperback
- Travelling or Commuting? Ebook
- Like to Buy Your Books Quickly and Efficiently? Ebook
- Prefer to Search and Discover Your Reads? Paperback
I don’t think we’ll ever live in a world where Online and Digital (like an Ebook or an MP3) obliterates the traditional ways. People now have greater choice, which means the life of bookstore owners and publishers and printers is harder. But they were given a pretty easy ride for generations, and in the end of the day it isn’t about the maker, it’s about the end user – which on this occasion, is the reader.
But just because the reader is given a choice, doesn’t mean they will disregard the old. After all, Television didn’t destroy Radio. Planes did not abolish the Car or Train. Text Messaging hasn’t made Email a thing of the past.
Books & Music: Not That Different After All
As a music lover, I often link what Book Publishing is going through now, to what Music went through at the turn of the millennium. The growth of MPs’s and Online Streaming has decreased the value of the CD. However, it’s made the value of Vinyl Records all the more worthy. I see similarities with books. As the popularity of Ebooks grow, Paperbacks will no doubt continue to suffer, not to the extent of CD’s in my opinion, but certainly to a degree.
Hardcovers, on the other hand, have huge potential. Ebooks, like MP3’s and Online Streaming, are the efficient commodity product. You can fill your Kindle with an array of choice, and have it on you at all times. It’s easy. It’s cheap. It’s a little soulless.
And so, Paperbacks and Hardcovers need to offer something more. This is why the popularity of Vinyl Records is growing, because they’re a tangible gift that provide limited press’, unique designs, and cool collaborations. They’re for the music fan who likes to collect and hold something, and the reader is no different. There will always be people who like to have a physical something. An object they can place on their bookshelf.
Hardcovers, in my opinion, will grow in popularity in the future, and between this and the ever-growing Ebook, Paperbacks will suffer (although not to the extent of CD’s, because people will always like to have a simple book they can hold – to read in bed, maybe). Publishers and Bookstores must adapt even more, but this is no bad thing, because the value offered to the reader will continue to grow and grow and grow.
The relationship between writer and reader will also continue to develop. I find this exciting to say the least. A guy leading the way at the moment is Hugh Howey, who provides his fans with extras to buy, even though he’s linked to a large publisher these days.
We Live In an Era Of Choice
It’s been a hot topic for a while, and will no doubt continue for some time yet. It’s sad to see publishers and bookstores go out of existence, and each time a quirky independent closes shop, a writer-fairy dies (one of the very few bookstores in Halifax recently closed down. A sad day indeed). But this is the nature of evolution, and just as the human race has done so for millennia, society evolves all around us and at all times.
We, as people, enjoy choice. Sometimes we like to have an experience, in which case a journey around a cool bookstore is what we seek. But sometimes we want a book there and then, therefore marketplaces like Amazon are brilliant. I love to read physical books, and I adore Hardcover and limited editions from authors and stories I treasure. However, I also travel a decent amount, and the ability to own hundreds of books within a tiny screen is amazing.
As a general rule, we don’t fit into simple categories. The average person reads and owns a variety of book formats. They treasure their Kindle just as they treasure their Bookshelf. They love Amazon as they do their local bookstore. They enjoy choice, and I’m guessing you do, too. Ebooks won’t abolish the need for Paperbacks and Hardcovers, but they will force them to adapt – or more importantly, the people in charge of creating them.
The above Infographic is there for you to devour, and please share it if you like what you see. As it shows, there’s a need for both physical and digital formats, and as these patterns change and develop over time, my guess is the need for both will remain. As a reader, I treasure my iPad and the set of Paperbacks and Hardcovers I own. As a writer, I love both, too. I’m excited to create limited editions and add extra features to my Paperbacks and Hardcovers. It makes the whole process more exciting, and in my opinion, brings me closer to my readers.
But these are just my thoughts. Time will unravel all in due course, as it always does. A huge thanks to Greg for sharing this Infographic with me. I get many stale emails, but every now and again a real one is sent my way. This one certainly made me think and wonder…
Turndog – @turndog_million