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The Future of Books Looks a Lot Like the Past

by Elizabeth Ryan 

Tags: Great Writing, future of books, Apple Tablet, publishing, e-books, books, Quill and Quire, Elizabeth Ryan,

ebookIf anything, all the chatter over the Apple Tablet (I refuse to speak its name) only amplifies the question that has been haunting the publishing industry for a decade or more: What does the future hold for e-books? Canada’s Quill & Quire reports on some of the trends coming out of the industry—mostly models that resemble the iTunes or the surge in the movie industry of DVDs loaded with special features. Publishers such as HarperCollins and Penguin are revamping their backlist titles with features like web links and imbedded video and audio, hoping to target consumers who already own print titles and lure them to add a digital edition to get the enhanced features. 

A spokesperson for Random House of Canada says the company has “observed parallels between e-book and music downloading habits,” and thinks that in the same way music lovers purchase entire album collections when they discover a favorite new artist, e-books will encourage users to nab an author’s entire works with a single click. 

Another industry insider predicts that once e-books hit their zenith we’ll see an entirely new trend: She envisions some consumers purchasing what she calls “disposable reading”—titles you might buy at the airport before boarding a long flight—in digital format, and serious works—titles you might want to reread some day or pass along to your kids—in print editions. “In some respects, the book will go back to being an objet,” she hypothesizes, “[a] beautiful, expensive edition that people want to pay for [and keep], almost the way [books were treated] in the 16th and 17th centuries.” 

Which, in the end, leaves us right back where we started. 

Source: Quill & Quire (article not available online)

Image by timonoko, licensed under Creative Commons.