Friday, August 16, 2013

The Future of The Printed Word

Recently, I bought an iPad mini. We already had one iPad in the house, a full-sized third generation. It wasn’t a matter of me being my typical geek self, although I can’t tell you how much new shiny gadgets delight me. No, the real reason was because we use the iPad so much that there were times when one of us was out of luck if the other was using it.

Mostly, it’s because we’re reading books on it. Now, to be fair, reading isn’t the only thing we use the iPad for, but that’s another topic. The point is, we do 95% of our reading on the iPad. 95%!

I didn’t expect to love the iPad mini the way that I do. Which means I’ve pretty much confiscated it as my device. I bought a leather folio case for it from Oberon Design and it truly looks like an old-world Celtic journal. You know, book-like.

Yeah, you probably see where this is going. Why not just read real books? I’m a writer! Shouldn’t I relish in holding a book in my hand? Shouldn’t I prefer to go into a book store or peruse the library shelf?

I still buy my favorite author’s physical books. I still enjoy going to the library, although I confess to going a lot less now that I can check out books on the iPad using Overdrive. The selection isn’t quite as robust as our library, but it’s still very nice. I now reserve driving to the library to pick up books I can’t borrow from Overdrive. And buying ebooks from iTunes or Amazon is just so darn convenient! Within minutes, I’m reading the book instead of stalking the mailman or hopping in the car and battling traffic to the local B&N. I dislike traffic with a passion and the area I live in is getting more and more congested.

As I hold this bookish cover that contains my iPad mini, the little device that holds any number of books I can markup to my heart’s content, the device where phone numbers, contacts, calendars, task management systems, Evernote, calculator, and countless other apps, videos, and music is stored, and all in something that fits in my purse, I wonder what the future holds for printed press.

Please don’t get me wrong. I really do love printed books. One wall in my office is a wall-to-wall, ten foot tall, solid built-in black walnut bookshelf complete with an old-fashioned library ladder. Yeah. You could say that I love books.

I could spin this all about publishers and contracts and how so many authors are taking control and leaving the traditional publishing world behind to become indie instead. I could say this is the reason digital will easily overtake print.

Believe me, I’ve heard and read it far too often that indie publishing is mostly to blame for the woes of traditional publishing. 

But I don’t think that’s true. I think the real reason is that people are enjoying tablets and ebook devices and either consciously or not, are buying more digital content that physical content. We did it with music and movies. Why did we ever think it wouldn’t happen to the printed word?

I think the reason digital is growing and print is shrinking is because of the end consumer. Authors just benefit from it. Publishing houses could, too if they adapted, and I’d love for them to stick around. But again, that’s a whole separate topic.

What are your thoughts? Do you think ebooks will overshadow print the way downloadable music and streaming video has to CDs and DVDs? And if so, what do you think is the main reason? 

Michelle is the author of the best-selling New Adult horror novel, The Haunting Season, as well as The Book of Lost Souls and Don't Fear the Reaper

Find her on FB and on Twitter


  1. I think as the cost of producing physical books continues to rise that people will look more and more to electronic books. Not to mention storage issues. And the fact that they are just more environmentally friendly.

    The only reason I don't buy more ebooks is that publishers believe that is somehow okay to gouge customers by charging more for the convenience of the ebook than for the physical book. Now that the DoJ case is settled, we should start seeing prices on ebooks drop, though.

    Eventually, physical books will become a status symbol and be reserved for rich people.

  2. When I think of all the physical books I've bought over the year that I've donated because I didn't want to hold them for prosperity, I cringe now with my Kindle. It saves me from filling up landfills. I'm like you though, I actually have a library in my home for the physical treasures I find and want to keep.

    If an ebook is one I read and want to keep, I'll purchase a hard copy. I believe there will always be printed book lovers. The thing about technological readers is that they will constant become obsolete, think back to Window 1 (1985). The same will hold true withebooks, but a printed copy is yours forever.

    1. I've read articles about both sides - print disappearing or diminishing and that it won't diminish any more that it has. I confess, I never thought I'd enjoy reading ebooks, but I do. I def. read more digital than real print. It will be interesting to see what happens!