This is in response to a blog post in which Laura L. Cooper suggested that the popularity of ebooks will plateau within a few years and that ebooks will never replace physical books.
I’ve already seen a response or two to that post, one person comparing ebooks to automobiles; no one ever thought cars would catch on, either. I agree with that assessment.
One certain thing is change. Technology will change, culture with change, people will change.
I started writing on a Remington portable typewriter. When I was in high school, the school had a computer. A computer. It was kept in a room in the office. We were taken down in groups to look at it.
At that time, who could have predicted how computers would permeate our society?
Who could have predicted that automobiles would replace horses and carriages?
Who could have predicted that big-box stores would replace neighborhood groceries, dry goods, and hardware stores?
Ebooks are not a passing fad. They have many advantages over physical books:
- They require little storage space.
- They are relatively inexpensive. I need to give a shout-out here to indie authors, who usually price their books below $5, sometimes way below $5 – which is a fair price considering there is very little overhead in publishing a digital book.
- When you travel, you can take your entire library along in a space the size of a trade paperback book.
- Instant gratification – you can browse online and download immediately, no trip to the bookstore, no ordering online and waiting a week for your book to be delivered.
People today (and this will be even more true in the future) are pressed for time, they are mobile, they like to do all their shopping in one place, and they are impatient – they want something, and they want it now. This is why the big-box stores like Wal-Mart and ShopKo have become such fixtures in our society. This is why computer technology is an integral part of our lives. This is why we drive cars instead hitching horses to buggies.
For now, many people prefer physical books; printed books still account for 80% or more of book sales. At one time you could make a similar statement about the horse and buggy in relation to that upstart, the automobile.
Today, physical books are the choice of the majority of readers. But let’s revisit this question in 100 years.
Ebooks are not a passing fad. The popularity of ebooks will not plateau.
Ebooks represent the next stage in the evolution of publishing.