Are We Becoming Bookless?

booklessI can’t help but notice that the ratio of my book sales in the last twelve months has turned decidedly towards e-books. Looking back at my last year, sales have gone from 90% paperback last April to the exact opposite for April 2011. 90% e-book sales.

This is a very sudden change, which as an author, presents a whole new range of approaches necessary for marketing my books. In many respects it actually makes marketing easier, as e-books are in essence an extension of the Internet, so it makes sense to use the Internet and social media to promote the titles.

Where it gets a bit tricky is in preparing a book for publication. In the past my focus has been on getting a ‘book’ to market and as such, elements like typography, pagination, back cover and paper quality were the first items on the list of things to get right. Once the ‘book’ was published, an e-book version was some kind of afterthought. Just a quick re-format and bingo, an ebook.

However, now, with the rapid move in the book market towards e-books, getting the formatting of an e-book spot on is an entirely different skill set. In my own experience, I can tell you it takes me longer to get a book approved for publication and distribution on Smashwords than it does to get a paperback to market.

So, where is the book going? Will our libraries and bookshops simply become e-terminals? Perhaps paperless and peopleless?

If you are an author or a reader, what do you think the future holds for the book?

28 thoughts on “Are We Becoming Bookless?”

  1. I'm curious about this as well…it may end with my generation. Personally – I love cracking the spine on a new book and curling up on the couch. I especially like the silence breaking sound of turning the page…it just adds to the experience.

    I'm at a computer a lot for work, writing/editing etc. I still prefer the hard copy – but I have read a book or two online. So I wonder if the children of my generation will be the last to remember books not in virtual form.

    Great Post!!!

  2. Susan Wells Bennett

    The soothing click of the Kindle buttons has replaced the sound of pages turning in my house. I still love to curl up on the sofa with a good book — now that book is in an e-format. I understand the appeal of actual books; I like their feel and their smell. However, I prefer my Kindle because I can have a selection of literature at my fingertips without having to buy another bookshelf!

    I don't think books will ever disappear completely. I'm not throwing out my collection, and I've yet to see anyone else do that either. However, if you are a voracious reader, buying a Kindle or other e-reading device soon becomes a matter of economics when you consider how much money and space it can save you.

  3. I must admit I hadn't considered the bookshelf angle Susan. I'd save a huge amount of space in my living room !

  4. Akhen1khan2 aka Jack Eason

    I like both types, real and Ebook.

    The one thing an Ereader has over my book shelves is plenty of space, plus I can increase the font size for ease of reading. The other thing about Ebook's that I like is the simple one click buy and within a minute or to I'm reading.

    Whether we will see the demise of traditionally printed books I simply don't know. Personally I believe the market can stand both.

    There is something aesthetically pleasing in seeing your personal library sitting there on the shelves of your book case though. :)

  5. LindyLouMac in Italy

    My husband and I now both have ebook readers, but the reason is for the ease of travelling they will never replace real books for us. As an ex librarian I dread the thought of paperless and peopless bookshops or libraries. I have also found that many authors for obvious reasons prefer to send ebooks for review. the downside of this is for me not being able to set them travelling once read via sites such as Bookcrossing and Bookmooch.

  6. I'm banned from buying more books for the house… my bookshelves are piled two high and two deep, and I've taken over a blanket chest in the hallway, *plus* I have boxes of books in the attic. OH therefore gave me a Kindle for Christmas. I've over 170 books on it, so far, and wow is it a nifty gadget! My favourite feature is the sample chapter before you can buy – I think at the moment I have *cough* over 60 sample chapters stored ready for me to investigate their delights.

    From a tactile point of view, books win over Kindle. From actually holding one… Kindle wins, every time. No more awkwardly shaped enormous softbacks which hurt my hands to hold. It's a relief, in some senses.

    Having said that, as with Susan – I'm not getting rid of any of my physical books!

  7. After all you thought provoking comments, I've decided to stay with my real books, smells and spine cracking. I just received the first copy of my latest book today and it sure does feel and smell beautiful!

    BUT, I've just ordered a Kindle for my wife! Figured it was cheaper than a new book case as all of her books are now overflowing. I should post some pics on my blog to prove my point. So we'll see if I can convert my wife to Kindle reading. If not? Well, there maybe a cheap Kindle on eBay in the weeks to come!

    1. Jodie Christian

      I suspect that some people had decided to stay with hardcopy books the day they became authors – perhaps some time before then; and maybe the authors of tomorrow (2024, or maybe 2034) won’t know what the heck we’re talking about.

      So, as long as we keep opening the next book I don’t think we will ever give up hardcopy. That’s a good thing.

      I only look forward to recieving a first copy of my first novel; and by the way congratulation Derek.

      However, on the bookcase thing – my bookcases are full and and books line the floor along the wall close by. At the rate I buy used books I’ll need more of those tall things with the long slots in them, so I guess that point won’t have to be proven, I know the feeling.

      It’s just that, not only do I love hardcopy books I also love the bookcases they go in. LOL.

  8. god, I hope not. I really, really dislike reading anything on gadgets. And I would be miserable, in the mornings especially, without a newspaper, magazine, or book of poetry to look over with my coffee. The Kindle is a nice accessory for travel and such, but will never replace the smell and feel of a book in my hand.

  9. I am equally torn between the two.

    Book – I can flip back to find another page without losing my place, and see both sections simultaneously. I like to study the book cover from time to time and contemplate the image and how it relates to the content inside. I can easily advertise what I'm reading to people around me. All things I can't do with an ereader.

    Ereader – very portable, books at my fingertips in a nanosecond, backlighting makes it SO easy to read at night in bed with the lights out while hubby is asleep.

    I love real books and being able to actually hold them in my hands. They're little jewels, each with a treasure inside the cover. I'll never let them go if I can help it.

    1. Jodie M Christian

      No one understands all of you like I do.

      However, in light of the subject, I am almost forced to remember the movie The Time Machine (the original version), when the protagonist is led to the library to get information about the past. The Information Rings were fine; a novel idea, however, the hard cover books were allowed to turn to dust.

      The analogy is startling: Our books today versus the old books allowed to turn to dust in the movie. Our eBooks and iPads, etc. of today; thus The Rings!

      My conclusion is – let’s not get so spoiled to modern technology that we allow to go by the wayside, precious masterpieces in book form, or allow some of the greatest movies ever made to linger in their cannisters only to rot and rust, never to be enjoyed again. Ever. And repeat the mistake of the Eloi.

  10. I don't have an ereader yet, I do have computers though, I think it's great although I still want to have editors and proof readers.
    I also think that we can really approach a book as a piece of art with this new media since all of the graphics or other things we would like to do is available to us.

  11. Monica Marlowe

    Bring on the ebooks; they are greener than paper. Will miss copies signed by the author, though.

  12. Doris Herrmann

    I really enjoy EBooks. I am finding that I prefer to take my EReader with me where ever I go. It gives me so many options. I can read fiction, non-fiction, browse a magazine, read the paper or play a game. For the pure satisfaction of having choice when I pull the little thing out of my purse, I’m an EBook junkie.

    As a teacher. I also like that there my students can carry so many books in a backpack and not break their backs.

  13. my book – The Book of SEVEN’ on Smashwords is there for several reasons. I am a starving artist and love to write stories, but I hate my book.
    I put this there because of the FREE part, and I think it has a better chance to reach a larger audience in electronic eBook form, not to mention it being in several formats, ie’ PDF, HTML, Text, DOC, Apple, Kindle, etc…
    The other reason is price, at $3.00 you can dowload all versions! Some people do not have money to buy the $10 paper version and some people do not have room to store real books.
    I prefer the paper version of a big book, but small books are good on the electronic scale.
    Currently I hope the trend is Kindle and ePub and HTML – I like reading a book as a web page and having Bookmarks.
    thankts that my two cents. follow me on Twit – @ElijaJames….good day.

  14. C. Hope Clark

    Actually, I don’t care what format books are read. It’s reading. And it’s book sales. It’s change, and I’m good with it. @hopeclark

    C. Hope Clark

  15. I would miss the smell of the paper, the feel of the turning page between my fingers and the energy that resides in a physical book. Some books I’m fine with e-reading, but there are some that hold so much emotion and meaning for me that I want to see them in my bookcase or on my bedside table.

    There is, in the back of my mind, a “what-if.” What if the technology fails and all the e-books become inaccessible? What if by some apocolyptic event we no longer have a means to power the readers, transfer the data, and so forth? Without any physical books, all the e-only literature would be lost to the world forever.

    Or…maybe I’m just old-fashioned (or just plain old).

  16. I have mixed feelings at the moment. My first grandchild was born a month ago and one of the first things I did was to e-mail a local meteorologist who came to my classroom in 2008 upon my request for a presentation. I taught geography and asked for a ‘weather’ presentation. The meteorologist had just written a children’s book.

    He replied promptly as I asked to purchase his book and asked for him to sign it addressed to my grandson. I was thrilled to know he wrote two more since 08. When I received the books I was excited that someday I can read these wonderful books addressed to my grandson.

    So it makes me sad to think . . . maybe someday this will not even be possible!

    I love my Kindle per say, however, I don’t think the prices for new books via Kindle are fair. When I received the Kindle (as a gift) it was advertised as new books for $9.99. Today that is not the case. I realize after correspondence why this is, but it still stings.

    So, I still go to the library for the newer books and deal with a long wait list. I just don’t have the finances to purchase new books. I read lots of older books on my Kindle.

    So, I do want to see my grandson crack a spine or two, along with the ability to read on a Kindle, Nook, or the like.

    But I have to admit, I still get a thrill when an author signs his/her own book!

  17. I love books, the smell and feel of them, I am tempted by E-books though, just to make it easier on my creaking over loaded book cases! I do think if E-books get more kids reading then great I’m continually shocked by how few children in my school read anything.

  18. Yes, that too disappointed me as a teacher. I would promote any form of reading to kids today :)

  19. I, too, love the feel and smell of books (used book stores are heaven!). That said, I adore the Kindle app on my iPhone. I tend to buy most of my fiction on Kindle and all non-fiction (I buy a lot of crochet/knitting books) in print. I also get books from my favourite authors in print, but usually after I’ve read them on Kindle. I’m addicted to being able to buy books at 2am from bed :).

  20. I think that seemingly more cumbersome and less populating technologies get relegated to niche markets – cinema to television – LP to CD to MP3 – VHS to DVD – and books to digital – however technology requires operational functions that if encounter problems such as crashes, bugs, power failures, battery drainage, and elemental damage need ready alternatives. The book I will always savor, but if I’m less the digital native as say my eldest son who downloads his movies and songs from iTunes, and reads digital books and notes without even considering buying a hard copy of something unless it offers something extra.

    Also, however, as we enjoy sensory immersion in many things, electronic media will need to work into our physical tactile environment just as much as vice versa. I am writing this comment on my iPad because I don’t want to sit in my study chained to my desktop, I want to sit undercover outside and listen to the rain, smell the crisp rain air and gaze into my garden.

  21. We’ve already hit the tipping point. When a new eReader comes out, you pretty much have to line up to get one. They have reached a price point that makes them attractive gift options. I think we will see the price of readers continue to drop as companies like Amazon and Kobo decide to turn them into loss leaders that will help generate profit from book sales.

    People think this is a just a fad but ask yourself this: How many vinyl records have you bought this year? How many songs have you purchased on a hard copy format of any kind? Rent any good betamax movies lately?

    The media may change, but the message will always find a way.

  22. Victoria Rodriguez

    I still read books by paper back r hard cover. I am writing a speech about how people are reading less and less books every year. We don’t realize that soon we will leave nothing for our children to have knowledge from beside music and t.v. and the people we worship or strive to be like. I don’t want to leave my child with that type of future, so people please read books!!! Don’t be part of the three out of every four people who don’t read books!!! Leave your child some type of knowledge!!!! Thank you.

    p.s. I am only 15 and when I have a child I will leave them some great knowledge from books.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top