Why eBooks might well save the publishing industry

May 4, 2014 12:53 pm

For years, people have been worrying and yelling about how the publishing industry is going to pot, thanks to the evil rise of technology.

But maybe it’s time to drop the drama and calm down. The rise of eBooks in the 21st Century is not going to kill off the publishing industry, or completely decimate the print world. I’d argue it will do the opposite. Since the rise of eBooks, they have grown rapidly, making the Amazon Kindle one of the best selling pieces of technology online – and this is just one brand of eBook hardware.

e-books save

More and more people are buying into eBooks thanks to their travel conveniences, cheaper price, hassle-free storage, click-of-the-finger font adjustments, night time reading with built-in book lights and, of course, the ability to show off a flashy bit of tech. In fact, the New Yorker reported the iPad was nicknamed the “jesus tablet” in some circles, thanks to its investment into the eBook world of software back in 2010.

Interestingly, however, as much as we all seem to be loving the new books on screen approach to reading, the mainstream book industry is constantly in the news claiming it is more under threat from online retail of hard copy publishing than by the rise of digital publishing. Big market share holders such as Amazon sell huge numbers of print-copy books every minute. However, The Guardian reported Amazon’s sales of digital publishing overtook that of print in 2012. So, the question must be asked, are we still buying print from the neighbourhood book shop?

ebooksIn an article for Fast Company, author of Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger responded to the print and digital publishing rivalry by saying “It’s a false dichotomy to put e-book and paper book against each other”. Instead, she has invested money in Zola Books, a digital publishing company which fights to promote the wobbly print-book industry while also growing in the field of digital publishing. A route Niffenegger argues should be the future for the publishing world.

One author, Claude Bouchard, spoke to me for Pie Magazine a couple of years ago. He is the author of Vigilante, a crime novel he published in eBook form which has gone on to sell considerably, allowing him to go on to writing more successful books. He argued that the eBook industry provided opportunity for new writers to grow a following. This, he argues, is essential to the selling of print copy books.

Think about it, if you’re a fan of something you want to own it, right? Same goes with the music world. Last thing anyone wants to do is relisten to their favourite songs on YouTube, because hey, why bother when we can buy it and stick it on our MP3s? – Or more likely, torrent it. But the idea of possession still reigns. If eBooks allow us to follow someone and grow to like their stuff, we may want to buy it in hard copy.

Also, this combined with our sentimental holding on of pastures past (that is, our love affair with the physicality of having the book), surely shows eBooks are instead intriguing a whole new generation into the world of reading. Sure, print copy and our neighbourhood bookshops may have slumped, but growingly we are investing more in reading and the by-product of that should surely see a large growth in both print and digital worlds.

In such a diverse world of media then, shouldn’t we be looking to the future and combining both the rich fields of digital and print for a better media output altogether? In a perfect world, I rather think we would.

 

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  • Anthony French

    What worries me about ebooks and the rise of technology is we commit nothing to paper; how are future generations going to look back at out society and lives if everything we wrote has been lost in the electronic ether? At least with paper we could physically preserve documents, but with electronic files etc we save less and less.

    • Ben Franks

      I think a lot of the stuff that matters is stored correctly and respectfully. I see your point though, but moving on might be better than looking back.

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