The Future of Books Looks a Lot Like the Past

| 1/28/2010 5:10:01 PM

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.

1/29/2010 7:05:38 PM

There is an interview series of professional women in online journalism that you might enjoy. It was conducted by the University of Iowa Gender and Mass Media class this past fall and offers some interesting perspective into the future of journalism and roles of women in the field. As for ebooks, if the second industry insider's prediction about the future of ebooks is correct than there is hope. I am not attempting to be too old school in my view, but I can't see ebooks as lasting in the same way physical texts do. There is something magical and organic about a beloved book being passed on or one that you revisit time to time for yourself. These flat little screens can't connect with a reader in the same way, but hopefully they will encourage people to become one with the printed word again. They do make books more accessible and that is important.

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