I have read 4 complete books and portions of 4 others over the past month and a half. There’s nothing particularly interesting about that, but I also haven’t purchased an actual book made of paper in about 9 months. Digital books are not really new (I think Amazon first started carrying them 4 or 5 years ago?) and when the Kindle first came out I even thought about getting one. After a little research, I decided it was more of a cute gimmick than a practical device. I’ve since rediscovered and come to embrace digital books in a way I never thought I would.
I have the Kindle app on my Droid RAZR and my ASUS tablet and it has changed the way I read. When I’m at home, I read on my tablet; when I’m out and about, I read on my phone. The Kindle app knows how far I’ve read on any device and will automatically take me to the last thing I read. Do you ever come across words you don’t know the definition of while reading? I literally touch a word with my finger and the definition shows up instantly. Do you come across sentences, paragraphs, or ideas that are funny or mind-blowing? You can I can select them with your finger and “highlight” them which both literally highlights them and also saves what you highlighted in a list. When you are finished reading the book and want to go back and remember your favorite parts, you can do it right away or 20 years from now. You can also bookmark your favorite parts, a picture, or other pages just by touching a corner of the screen. I’m getting excited about the ACTIVITY of reading as I write about it. Not WHAT ideas or stories & adventures I will read, but HOW I will read them. That sounds crazy.
My library of digital books is a combination of my Amazon account and any other formats I already have on my device. I can add and remove books as I want, but they are permanently on a virtual “bookshelf” that I can access from anywhere. When I think about how much space is taken up by books in my house, I wish I could trade in all of my books for digital copies. Do you remember how heavy textbooks were?! My tablet weighs all of 2 pounds maybe and could easily store every single textbook I’ve ever owned in my entire life. I could have highlighted them, added notes, and searched them so much more easily if they were digital… God, I’m jealous of the next generation.
It’s not only a better reading experience, it’s a cheaper one! You don’t have to spend $500-$800 on a full-blown tablet – a basic Kindle is only $80… then you can get almost every piece of classic literature FOR FREE, 100’s of other free books, and 100’s of books that cost under $4. It’s absurd to think about all the money I’ve spent on paper books over the years. If you have an iAnything, a PC, or an Android device you can get the Kindle app for free.
So, based on my experience and all of the benefits I’ve enumerated above, I posed the following question to my social network friends:
“Anyone else notice that bound paper books are quickly becoming obsolete? To the next generation, libraries will be like museums.”
Since my post had nothing to do with drinking, eating, getting married, having a baby, sports, travels, or a celebrity death it only received one response. The response was well thought-out and brought up some interesting points to challenge my argument:
“I think ‘obsolete’ is a bold statement my man … even though media and content is all going the digital direction, doesn’t mean that bound paper books will completely go by the way side by any means of the imagination because there is and always will be a demand for something tangible — a tangible item … just like in music, sales of cd’s continue to decline each year and digital sales have increased but sales of (new and old) music on vinyl have seen a tremendous resurgence. In fact, I’d be willing to bet you a hundred bucks that not one book in the new york times top ten bestsellers sells more copies as an ebook than it does printed on paper – yet. Also Steve, keep in mind that digital music sales only surpassed sales of cd’s like 3/4 years ago … close to ten years after napster first came on the scene. My point: just because the technology and innovation is there doesn’t mean the market is”
The responder, Andrew (@ARCda55), made several valid points and I certainly could not make the claim that paper bound books are ALREADY obsolete, but a 10 year timeline (similar to that mentioned of music formats) isn’t unreasonable.
While vinyl sales may have increased, it’s only among a small segment of the population who are buying for a specific purpose (like a DJ) or as a “throwback” novelty. It’d bet it’s less than 0.5% of the market.
Paper books will likely have a similar fate to the tangible music formats. Sure you will still be able to buy them, but you’ll only buy authors you REALLY like for the “cover art” or to have something for them to autograph.
Sometimes when I travel, I will still see someone whip out a portable CD player and a fat CD wallet and they look, quite frankly, ridiculous. 10-15 years from now, someone who whips out a paper book will look equally ridiculous. I think the only thing that’s really debatable is how quick is “quickly”.
I think the market already does exist and will grow exponentially. Kindle sales are 1M a week and growing. The next time you’re in an airport or other place where people read in public, look around at how many people (of all ages) have and use tablets or eReaders vs. “old fashioned” books, it will probably surprise you. My mom doesn’t own an MP3 player, but do you know what she uses all the time? Her Kindle.
Do you agree with me about the future of books? Do you agree with Andrew?
Either way, if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you give digital books a try.