Friday, September 9, 2011
My take on the future of print
People keep asking me when I am going to get an e-reader. I tell them I will probably break down and get one in the not-too-distant future because while I enjoy downloading books (we are 60 miles from a bookstore), I don't enjoy reading them on my computer monitor quite so much. If I'm reading for pleasure, I'd rather be in my comfy chair in the den.
But when people tell me that e-readers will make paper books obsolete in the near future, I beg to disagree.
According to IDC market research, 12 million e-readers were sold in 2010.That's a lot, right? But there are 312,175,400 people in the United States alone, leaving roughly 300 million people lacking this device. Further, the figures reflect world-wide sales, including China. The world's population is 6,960,965,142. Hmmm.
I bet these people aren't buying Kindles and Nooks and iPods for the same reason I'm not. They are expensive and fragile. I've heard people say textbooks will be downloaded into reading devices in all the schools in another generation. Please. I'd trust a first grader with my precious cloisonne vase before I'd give him a Kindle.
In this economy people are shelling out for mortgage payments and groceries, not electronic gadgets. They aren't giving up reading, though. I see people at the library checking out armloads of books. I see them rifling through the sale tables at discount stores and grocery stores. They visit used books stores and flea markets and estate sales and come away with precious books in their hands. If printed books disappear, what will these avid readers do?
Another argument is that printed books are a waste of natural resources My rebuttal is that trees are a renewable resource just like corn and wheat. Trees take a little longer to harvest, but they are a cash crop just the same. As for the price of paper going up, have you looked at the price of corn and wheat lately? Everything's going up.
We've had stories ever since the cavemen sang, danced and related their exploits in hunting or warfare. When printed books came along, did singing and dancing and storytelling fade away?
Drama has existed since the Greeks and was kept alive during the Middle Ages with the church's morality plays. Theater gave us Shakespeare. The traveling Chatauqua brought drama to the hinterlands of the United States and Broadway has entertained us for over two hundred years. Did live theater curl up and die when motion pictures came along? Did movies slink out of sight with the advent of TV?
I think printed books will be around until e-readers are cheap enough for anyone to buy and not worry about them breaking and having to be replaced. And I think that day will be a long time coming.