Friday, May 06, 2011
Who Can Believe It?
Many cling to the remnants of things whose lives are fast diminishing or have diminished - technologies made obsolete and things that technology has made obsolete. We look for stability in a world of change, and as physical beings, we like physical things - it gives us comfort. We are tactile, and for many a reader, the feel of paper and the benefits of print are still preferable.
One area in transition is that of books, newspapers, magazines and other printed matter. Perhaps it is a small act of defiance or display of iconoclasm, but the avid readers I know have all stated a preference of print over ebooks or other electronic versions of print media.
This year it appears that ebooks are having a serious impact on the print business. According to the Association of American Publishers, in February 2011, ebook sales in the United States for the beginning of 2011 were up over 200% over the same period in 2010 and were the top selling format in all categories for the first time in publishing history. This one-month surge is primarily attributed to a high level of strong post-holiday ebook buying, or “loading,” by consumers who received the devices as gifts. However, industry experts now feel that it is no longer a matter if ebooks will overtake print, but when. The shift may not occur as dramatically or as completely as did vinyl records to CDs. The tide will turn when critical mass is achieved, or the tipping point, as Malcolm Gladwell may have it.
Coming on the heels of this trend, my recent foray into ebook publishing (along with a purchase of a Kindle and Nook) and given the relative affluence of many New York City residents, it was ironic to see the row of book readers in today's photo with not an ereader in sight (or was there one being used by the man behind the tree?).
For the avid reader, a library can be a source of pride and show that a lover of books and reading is near, with the selection as a barometer of interests. Guests can peruse and discussions are inspired. Works of non-fiction and those that are photo heavy can be shared and circulated. A work like Ulysses on the shelf makes a strong statement as well as lively discourse.
I feel great comfort and security surrounded by books. A library is an arsenal, with books as firearms and words as ammunition, all serving well to protect and defend against ignorance. What are we to do now? If I tell you that I have an enormous library all on a tiny electronic device on a coffee table and that I have read most of the books loaded on that ereader, will that be adequate evidence? Will you trust me or will you see me much like the huckster selling strawberries, whose refrain now you will repeat - who can believe it? :)