Friday, August 6, 2010

What if Print Books Die?

I still haven't read an e-book yet. I have no Kindle, Nook, or i-anything. I'm too poor. Which brings me to a concern, although it's probably far-fetched.
With e-books being the "wave of the future," what if print books die? Some people talk gleefully about it happening. But would that be such a good thing?

Let's picture this scenario for a moment. And please permit me to be extremely hypothetical. Let's say that there are no more new print books. You can still get them off e-bay and at antique stores.

Suppose that school textbooks are digital and an e-reader is on every kid's school supply list, which many people can't afford. Or, say the school provides the e-readers but taxes the hell out of the district to pay for them.

Prisoners won't be able to read anymore because I don't see the taxpayers paying for e-readers for them.

Retirees on a shoestring budget won't be able to afford them.

People in rural areas and third world countries (who already have a hard time getting print books) won't be able to download anything even if they could get an e-reader.

So, the bottom line, in my opinion would be that if print books go away, illiteracy would rise with poor people, prisoners, and people in undeveloped countries.

Your thoughts?


  1. Ann,

    I don't see the end of print books any time soon, but if that did happen the e-reader concept would also change. You'd be able to go to any library and "check out" digital books much like you do now (this is already available in some bigger city libraries), e-readers would be very affordable ($50 or less, some are already at about $100), e-readers would also be provided by classrooms and schools since this would cut back on a lot of the cost of print textbooks.

    So the market would have to change to accommodate the trends..if you catch my drift.

  2. $50 is still a lot of money to some people. And not everyone lives near a library. And to download books you'd still have to have internet access. Just saying :)

  3. You raise excellent concerns...I just don't see it happening for a good long while. I think it's far more likely that "print on demand" will become the norm, replacing bookstores, etc.

    I'm not sure how the textbook thing would work. It's been tried and discarded at several colleges, because the technology just isn't quite there yet, so I think it will be awhile. DRM plays into that too, until publishers are willing to let that go. With textbooks though, ebooks would be cheaper, so even a $50 ereader and far cheaper books would be a plus for students paying for college. This from the girl who bought textbooks on Friday, took them home to skim and outline, then returned on Monday to avoid the crazy costs. ;-)

    I adore ebooks, but I read a good number of print books as well, and I'd hate to lose that experience, so I certainly hope print sticks around for awhile yet, in some form or other.

    Oh, and you have read an ebook. You critted a whole digital draft for me - technically, that's an ebook. ;-) Unless you printed it out...

  4. LOL,good point, Jamie. As for textbooks I was more concerned with public school than college because the money for books often is available with the loans and grants.
    Whereas in K-12 schools, poorer kids often get lost through the cracks.
    I had a lot of trouble when assignments had to be typed 'cuz I couldn't afford a computer and my typewriter sucked.

  5. I think print books will be around a while. A long while. School kids will always have a way to read their textbooks, no one would let that happen, you're right, they may tax the crap out of us. Prisoners, same thing, they will have books.

    It would be cruel if we made something like reading a privilege. But, I think we're safe for a long, long time. At least I hope so!

    Great post. Brings up some interesting questions ;o)

  6. Great post.

    I think print books will be around for quite some time still, but I see e-books really taking off the next few years. I finally broke down and got a Nook.

    I absolutely love it. Sure, I still love the feel and smell of a real print book, and I'll still buy them--but only in my favorite series.

    Things are changing, that's for sure!! Thanks for this post!

  7. I hope print books live forever! I love the idea of actually owning a copy of a book, rather than have it on some device. What if the Kindle broke or something? All the precious books would be lost forever. There is just something fun and pleasurable about turning the pages of a book. And the smell of them is great too. So nostalgic. I love libraries! Oh hell, it would send me mad! Long live print books!