Saturday 10 January 2009


I've been reading a lot of blogs on the future of reading recently. Will the printed book be here in twenty years time? Will E-Books dominate? Will we all read our books on small electronic gadgets?

The industry experts seem to think that POD or PRINT ON DEMAND is the future. A machine in bookshops would be linked to a massive database and within minutes be able to print out any book available anywhere in the world.

The humble book has pretty much stayed the same since its invention way back when the world was black and white. But all other form of media - films, music - have been altered beyond belief by the digital revolution.

The thought of all books only being available as E-Books terrifies me. Reading novels on a screen in not perfect - mind you a few years back I wouldn't read prose on a screen at all and take it in and yet these days I'm reading a lot of Webzines and enjoying them greatly. The other advantage is I can save any interesting bits I might want to archive - this is certainly better than an old box stuffed full of mags beneath the bed.

With the launch of gadgets like The Kindle E-Books are bound to become more and more popular but as for replacing the printed alternative....I don't think so.

These print of demand machines seem interesting - If this machine produces a book of comparable quality to a current published book, then that could be a true advancement.

With digital databases being able to store so much in such a small space there would be no need for any book to be out of print ever....mind you this technology has stirred up some arguments between publishers and authors because if a book is on the database, even if no one has bought a copy for years, then technically it's still in print. But the author doesn't benefit financially until someone buys the book and the all valuable copyright remains with the publisher.

In the current system if a book is out of print for a certain period the rights revert to the author.

I don't know what will happen but it's interesting to ponder of the future of the book - already it's portable, doesn't need any power source (other than a reading lamp after dark) and there's something comforting in flicking those paper pages. In short the book is perfect as it is.

It's not in a business sense though.

Books can be expensive to produce and store, heavy discounting by the big supermarkets often mean that publishers are barely breaking even or incredibly operating at a loss.

What do others think is the future of the book as a printed medium? Is it the E-Book, POD, or will we simply all give up reading and plug ourselves via a brain probe into a TotalImmersion Bubble?

(Note TotalImmersion Bubble's do not exist..I just made that bit up because I thought it sounded cool.)


Anonymous said...

Well, I think there will always be the need for printed books. First the Dick and Jane books when learning to read in school are good.
Second, Not everyone has a computer or access to one to go online for E books, or has a POD, whatever that is.
I like the total immersion bubble idea though. Will it feed me and take care of all other functions needed for life, while allowing me to read all the time and not need to be interrupted by falling asleep ?
Trelawney Gal... ;-D

David Cranmer said...

My two cents: Print will remain but in a more limited form... They have to make these E-Books easier on the eyes and more aesthetically pleasing before I plop the dinero down for one.

Jo Walpole said...

I'm with you. I don't know what the future of reading is. I think e-books are great because you can just dowload them and they're there instantly, easy to store and eco-friendly. However, reading on a screen isn't as user friendly as print on paper IMO and if I have the choice it's always paper for me. I like the idea of pod, nipping down to Asda and just printing the one you want sounds great.
Good article.

Charles Gramlich said...

the more an ebook looks like a regular book the more I'll like it. I do like the idea of being able to expand text size now that my eyes are getting older.

Michael Martin said...

I remember reading about POD on a storypaper-related yahoo group (before i got band, most likely because they all looked old farts, and they must have looked through the other groups i was a member of, saw gay and swinging ones and chucked me). The books seem to have rather plain-looking covers of thin card that are wrapped over and the pages stuck in with one of those 'hot glue guns'. Give me fancy bindings and gilt lettering any day.

The other day i saw on ebay a job lot of old Danish leather-bound books sold, not as reading material, but as "interior design accesories" to make your house look nicer! And no wonder if identikit-looking generic books that all look the same are coming along.

(Honesty and transparency: All these Danish books looked the same too. But at least they had the same brown leather and gold lettering and patterns, so it was a good 'the same')

Celia Hayes said...

Agree - that there will always be a demand for printed books, and that a beautifully designed, quality-bound book is a sensuous joy to actually handle. (I work part time for a tiny subsidy publisher that specializes in this sort of thing, and some of the high-end stuff is a delight!)
But POD - or publish on demand printing as a method of supplying books to the public is overtaking off-set printing of an enormous print run. Although the individual cost of a book produced the old-fashioned offset print way is low, the other associated costs - of warehousing, shipping, and ultimately returning and pulping the unsold portions - may be supportability high. Much more efficient, although per-book more expensive - is to order up only what needs to be printed through Lightening Source (the print service which does just about all POD printing), or as may be in the near future, an in-store printing and binding gadget such as the Espresso Book Machine.

As for e-book readers like the Kindle - I belong to an on-line group for writers who have published independently or through small regional presses (the Independent Authors Guild, at )
and we have often discussed their utility and appeal. Some of us have made our books available as e-books, with rather mixed results. Oddly enough, it appears that science-fiction readers have no problem with reading a book on an e-book reader; already attuned to futuristic gadgets, I guess. Those of us who do historical novels generally don't have much luck with selling our books as e-books. We could only conclude that perhaps readers of certain genres are sort of old-fashioned.

Celia Hayes

Feisty Crone said...

I'm not sure what the future of the printed word will be, but I'm praying that books will remain available.

For me, holding a book in my hands is an almost spiritual experience. Strange, I know, but there you have it.

I will probably invest in Kindle someday, and become more familiar with e-books, but just having a book in my hands is just as important to me as the words inside of the book.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I guess we'll have have to adapt in time - for instance I am an audio snob and I hated MP3's when they first arrived - they just don't sound as good. But these days I don't carry CD's in my car at all but I have a 80Gig Ipod that plugs into a dock on my stereo. I'm carrying a few hundred albums on this thing and I never go anywhere without it. I wonder if the Kindle will do the same thing.

Mona said...

You are so right. I have read a few E novels and written e -reviews and the same thoughts have crossed my mind often. Resplendence sells an E book for as little as $ 4 when a hard copy costs about $ 20. This factor is certainly going to make E books more popular.

But those who want a collection to display, are still going to buy the books.

I personally prefer reading from the pages instead of the screen!

Anonymous said...

Oops. When i said "or has a POD, whatever that is." I was thinking of those IPOD thing's. Guess I had a senior moment there !!
It is hard enough for me to read some stuff online as the print is sometimes so light and no way to darken it or make it bigger so I can see it better that I agree with those who say they like to read an actual book. I recently canceled my Dish t.v. as I would pick up a book to read quicker than turning on the t.v. set. With the money saved (almost $500.00 cost this past year) I could have purchased lots of new books instead of driving 35 or 40 miles to a couple of used books stores.I have lots of western videos and other movies that I can put on to watch sometimes, so the t.v. will get used for those and i can buy some new books this year.
Trelawney Gal

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