“Any of us that love to read would agree that we love to hold a real book in our hands” ~ Scott Biddulph of Two Drops of Ink
Future of Real Books
The future of real books has for more than a few years been an open question. There have been predictions about the collapse of the book industry for quite some time. Almost every-time we think we have seen the death knell the printed book gets a fresh lease of life. I am currently seeking a publisher for my novel and every new publisher I look at is half way between the printed book and the e-book. Change in the publication industry is the hallmark of the future.
Many people only see printed books as real books. Yet surely knowledge transfer is key and that can take any medium.
It will always be clear to my mind an e-book does not have the same look and feel as holding real books does. The effort to turn the page is mighty, it signals to the writer (albeit they are not present) that we have taken the trouble to read every word on the page and have claimed victory over page 139, before moving on to page 140 and starting the challenge all over again.
Turning that page doesn’t mean we have understood everything the writer said. The writer brings to the table ideas, a story that is meaningful to them. As a reader, we may have had to battle with some concepts (especially when the book is discussing one fine point of a new theory we seek to understand). An individual reader may not see the world in the same way as the author does, but by reading they are open to possibilities. That is what books are all about.
I would prefer my novel (or any other book I produce) become a real book. Being a realist, I understand the future of real books is questionable. I know that e-publication (no matter how much I dislike it) is likely where I attain my first sale.
Then I ask the question how would an author sign an e-book? But is the e-author therefore so remote that they never do signings? Arguably another way the e-book degrades the reading experience.
Yet it is important to question — what is more important…to sell books or be read? To be read is the first priority for any writer.
Commuting on public transit, or when flying half way around the world there is a distinct advantage offered by the e-book, you can take your entire library without breaking the scales at the check-in desk. Over the past few years we have seen onslaught of eReader apps for the specialist readers, computer, Android or Apple tablet device, or smart phone and I have to say that I have spent more than a few hours in book and electronic stores looking at the capabilities of each tool on offer.
99% of my reading is non-fiction. One aspect of many non-fiction books is many are not read in a linear way. From a book on the origins of flight I may read the chapter titled “From de Vinci to the Wright Brothers” because I am interested in finding out more about the birth of flight. Using the knowledge for a writing project. I have read a great many business books this way. Read the chapter that relates to my research.
Search the Library
It may be years before I read the rest of the book, but the book remains on my shelf for future reference. This is particularly true for scientific or professional books. In many respects this reading style lends itself more to the e-book. Particularly true when the App allows you to search through your entire library for a particular concept, but hey, guess what? Most eReaders are not capable of performing such searches.
Another thing I have done when reading a factual book is highlight things the author says and sometimes I may use yellow or orange to indicate important things, a pink shade for any statement I disagree with and a green shade for statements I agree profusely with. I wanted to see if this were possible with eReader software and have to say most fall far short of my desires. Of course as soon as I publish this one reader will post a comment stating they have the ideal reader that does everything I desire. [Update November 2017] The eReaders are now slowly adapting the ability to highlight and markup work. They are better on the PC than tablets.
My point being, if I highlight something, I can come back to it years later and retrace my thoughts about the book. I should be able to do more with eReader software, for example search everything about technology that discusses robotics and combine that with a search of everything about law for the same subject, this would make a powerful research tool.
The truth is it may take time for the software to catch up with my desires. Especially true, as no eReader software company has ever asked what functionality I desire. These apps will improve with time [a note from 2017] and they certainly have done.
The challenge for the writer is one over which site and format will provide the widest reach. That question, however, is a moving target as the tools become more adaptable and widely used. I perceive the future ability to carry around a massive library of e-books on a tablet. The technologist in me loves that prospect. Although I am not sure I relish the prospect of purchasing everything in my collection again in an electronic format, it is a similar problem faced by the CD, cassette or 8-track tape, or Vinyl album.
Ultimately I do not see books as disappearing altogether. At some point there will be a resurgence in the industry. Many younger people understand why real book are important and it is through them that the future lies. Truth is few in my generation value books. I have a large collection — most people my age have five or six.
Ta a large extent the biggest challenge in the future is the question self-published versus professionally published works. Although there are some professionally written self-published books and e-books it is true to say that all too many are plagued with errors.
Buy Peter B. Giblett a coffee as a thank you for this article.
Other Related Material
- Web Explored: Half-Read Books and Other Stories
- Few People Care about Knowledge for its own Sake
- A Career Path for the On-Line Writer?
- Why Do I Write? Thoughts by Mike Senczyszak
- Smoke Signals, Scribbles, Papyrus and Scrolls