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Death of Printed Books May Have Been Exaggerated 465

New submitter razor88x writes "Although just 16% of Americans have purchased an e-book to date, the growth rate in sales of digital books is already dropping sharply. At the same time, sales of dedicated e-readers actually shrank in 2012, as people bought tablets instead. Meanwhile, printed books continue to be preferred over e-books by a wide majority of U.S. book readers. In his blog post Will Gutenberg Laugh Last?, writer Nicholas Carr draws on these statistics and others to argue that, contrary to predictions, printed books may continue to be the book's dominant form. 'We may be discovering,' he writes, 'that e-books are well suited to some types of books (like genre fiction) but not well suited to other types (like nonfiction and literary fiction) and are well suited to certain reading situations (plane trips) but less well suited to others (lying on the couch at home). The e-book may turn out to be more a complement to the printed book, as audiobooks have long been, rather than an outright substitute.'"
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Death of Printed Books May Have Been Exaggerated

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  • Of course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ozduo ( 2043408 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:34AM (#42493509)
    there are still candle makers in existence.
  • Books (Score:4, Insightful)

    by toygeek ( 473120 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:36AM (#42493525) Homepage Journal

    They don't need batteries
    You can buy them used without DRM
    They smell interesting
    Old books have their own story aside from what is printed in them
    Each book feels different
    Do not require infrastructure to maintain
    I don't have to buy something to reads my book- I just buy the book, the "reader" is free.

    While an e-book is technically the same thing, content wise, the *experience* of reading a book is something that cannot be duplicated. A large, LARGE portion of the population apparently agrees.

  • by innocent_white_lamb ( 151825 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:41AM (#42493553)

    I read ebooks on my computer. When I'm sitting in front of my desktop computer, I use that. When I'm sitting in front of my netbook, I log into my desktop from there and read on that. That way the page that I left off at is always synchronized.

    The computer holds the book for me so all I have to do is sit back and read -- hit the space bar once in a while to turn the page.

    If I find a reference that I want to follow up on (what in the world is a medieval chatelaine?) I can immediately look it up and research that as much as I wish to.

    What's not to like?

    I can't remember the last time I read a book on paper. It's been at least a few years...

  • by geek ( 5680 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:41AM (#42493557)

    I prefer reading e-books. I haven't read a paper book in years. That said I've given serious thought to moving away from ebooks simply because of the prices and DRM. I can loan a book once to my wife via kindle or I can just buy the paper book and give it to her or anyone else when done.

    What I've been doing lately is stripping the DRM via Calibre and giving the books I buy away to my mom, wife and mother in-law. I have no moral issue with this since I could do it with a paper book too. But if DRM changes and prices keep going up like they have, then I'm going to say fuck it and go back to paper books.

  • I don't know (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Evtim ( 1022085 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:51AM (#42493603)

    Seems to me that the usefulness of an e-reader/book was spoiled by the industry - both hardware and content. Locking, removing content remotely, DRM books, price of e-books (!!?)....add to that that most readers suck at displaying technical info (most, not all).

    As as consumer I just know how I fell about all those recent "revolutions" - the smart phone, the tablet and the e-reader. They suck, big time, even though the idea is brilliant. I never expected that the phone and the tablet would not be just small computer, fully compatible with your PC. Never expected the price of an e-book to be the same as a paper one. Never expected .the Spanish inquisition..... Our socioeconomic model sucks, people! Even when we have fantastic technologies we make crappy, annoying products that do not expand our horizon but rather lock us in a box and hinder us. No second hand selling, no lending of e-books, cameras from the TV watching if you are not "breaking" the license....just read any random page of news on /. and you will come with at least one example of industry idiocy labeled "for your convenience and enhanced consumer experience" ....

    So, give me back my paper book that I can buy without telling what I had for breakfast and how did my mother's milk taste like. It cost the same as e-book, I can browse through it faster, it is more robust (do you think your files will survive 50-100 years and if they did that there will be compatible device to read them on?), I can give to anyone I like, does not have tracking device that calls home and says what and when I read....thank you!

  • by Scholasticus ( 567646 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @03:52AM (#42493609) Journal
    If I buy a copy of a paper book then I own that copy. On an e-reader or a tablet I buy a license that lets me have a copy on a device. Unless I back up my copy, the seller can take it away from me without even asking. Also, there's something about a nice solid bound book that you don't get from an electronic copy. Personally I prefer electronic formats for more ephemeral things (news, computer books that are out of date before they're published, etc.) and bound paper copies for longer lasting things, e.g. Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I suppose we'll see how things turn out.
  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:04AM (#42493657)
    Perhaps its some sort of act of defiance but if an ebook is not offered for a lower price than the paper version I tend go with paper.

    Currently my digital books tend to be technical references that I want to carry around with me in case I need to look up something at work or old classics that are available at no charge.

    Stuff I read for fun still tends to be on paper. Perhaps that will change if pricing changes, or maybe I'll just move on to another excuse ... I want to read in the bathtub might work until the Kindle Paperwhite becomes water resistant.
  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:10AM (#42493673)

    As an avid reader, I am entirely fine with not having a house full of books and DVDs. It's fantastic to have so much space reclaimed that other homes have stuffed with shelf upon shelf of books, video games, movies, and albums. It kind of sucks on a tablet, because of the back-light, but that's what I use due to the fact that I don't want to carry a tablet *and* an e-reader (e-ink, that is -- which would be preferable, all other things being equal). But a physical book? Nope. I saw enough homes when I was growing up that were just consumed with walls full of books that just sat there forever. I'll take the option without clutter, thanks.

    Also, you don't have the worries of fingerprints, bent spines, dogeared pages, and everything else that drives a book-lover like me nuts with a physical copy.

  • by Eskarel ( 565631 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:10AM (#42493677)

    I can't get into an e-book on a back lit screen, but on e-ink, I can and have read till the wee hours of the morning just as I did when I was a child and as a bonus my library fits in my pocket.

  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:16AM (#42493709)

    Yep. The only downfall I see (other than a back-lit screen kind of sucks for reading) is DRM and the inability to maintain ebooks if the world came to an end. One of those can eventually be dealt with; the other not so much. Either way, I'm a big fan of keeping things on the digital side, where I don't have to have my life and home cluttered with crap, like generations before us.

    But, man, that DRM thing . . . is really a major killjoy. The only real stab against fully embracing digital.

    It's hard not to love the idea of having more content on a device that you can carry in your hand than you could store in your home, even if you turned every wall into a stack of filled shelves. Unfortunately, publishing is like every other content industry. They have to be kicked dragging and screaming into the modern world and undermine their own interests every step of the way, by doing things to drive customers *away* and foster ill-will with them.

  • Re:Books (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:21AM (#42493735)

    They don't need batteries

    I'm sorry this is one of the lamest arguments I have heard. Your typical e-book reader will last MONTHS in the hands of a heavy reader without recharge. The most common problem around our house is that by the time these things need charging we need to try and actually find the charger.

  • by Lisias ( 447563 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:24AM (#42493743) Homepage Journal

    Sounds like one of these people who never had listened to a good vinyl. :-)

    Ahhh, the pleasure to read a graphic novel without caring about screen size, color depth or resolution. Or perhaps, just to open a book you already had read on any random page in the bathroom to kill some time.

    The convenience to simply spend 2 buck buying the newspaper to read it in some park, without caring about battery life, sun light or wifi to download the darn thing. The freedom to wander where I may want without caring about energy sockets or battery chargers.

    Or the confort to be able to find some classic comic of my childhood on a used books store, buy it and be confident that no motherfscker of a copyright holder will be able to "delete" the thing from my hands.

    My 2 cents? eBooks are fantastic tools to consume discardable content (as technical books, since it's almost sure that I'll have to buy another one about the same thing in the next few months) or, for the ethically versatile consumers, pirated ones.

    But for pleasure reading (did you ever read Dante's Inferno on a eBook? it's appalling! The printed version is so richly illustrated...), the old and faithful dead tree medium is, still, the best choice for me.

  • by ( 245670 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:30AM (#42493763)

    Point by point.

    1) This example is absurd. A cromulent contrast would be "pure text" vs. "mixed text and images". Novels work fine with flowing layouts that adjust to the size and pixel density of the display. Doesn't matter if they're fiction, non-fiction, or historical fiction. However, if you have material with a lot of pictures and diagrams (textbook, magazine, etc.) then printed books have a distinct advantage. Most e-readers are not good at handling images and re-flowing the content can separate images from their associated text. However, that is starting to change. The iPad and a few Android tablets are sporting 2048x1536 displays which have enough pixels to adequately reproduce something pretty close to the quality of a printed page. And now there's the Nexus 10 at 2560x1600 that does an even better job.

    Also, pretty significant advances have been made in the design of electronic "printed" media. I used to work for a large magazine when they were first starting to produce content for phones and tablets, the result was pretty crude. I took a look at what they're producing today on Google Magazine using my Nexus 10 and it's amazing. Razor sharp text, sliding columns, Pullup/pullout sidebars, print quality images, etc. So even the "mixed text and images" presentations are improving significantly on portable devices. It's just a matter of time before color e-ink is available in densities of 300ppi or higher, bringing a similar experience outdoors.

    2) While I may be an early adopter, I'm not much of an early consumer on the content side. I didn't use my first e-reader much until I had a way to remove DRM from the content. Amazon's Kindle hardware and content sales were booming long before I started making content purchases. That was regular folks who were dazzled by the tech and didn't care about the high prices and content controls. Ebooks outsold paper books at Amazon over 1.5 years ago.

    The author says 59% have no interest in ebooks. So that means as many as 41% do have an interest in a new form of literature consumption that's only been around for a few years. That's one hell of an adoption rate. Amazon's done for print distribution what Apple did for music distribution.

    3) Oh, my gosh! People who are being paid to market a new thing might be exaggerating. That's unpossible!

    4) LP to cassette to CD to MP3. VHS to Laserdisc to DVD to Blu-Ray. Same thing. So people re-purchase their favorite titles in a big chunk when they get the device then slow down to their regular rate of buying 5-10 books per year. That seems like the expected pattern for existing content being re-released on new media.

    5) This statement makes no sense at all. The fact that I can read my content on my phone and tablet has increased my adoption of ebooks. When I had to carry a dedicated reader, ebooks were far less convenient. There was little advantage over a regular book because it was still a single-purpose object that had to be carried around. Now I can read anywhere on my phone because I always have my phone with me. And it syncs with my tablet so I can pick up where I left off on either device. So if I know I'm going to have some downtime, I can bring the tablet. If I have unexpected downtime, I've got my phone. And, since I've stripped the DRM from all of my purchased content, it doesn't matter which device I used to buy the titles. I can see how there would be adoption problems for people who get stymied by DRM. That is the kind of thing that will turn people off.

    6) I actually agree that ebook pricing is bullshit. I can understand premium prices for new releases but, once a title gets to "paperback" phase, the price should be significantly cheaper than paperbacks because so much of the production and distribution cost has been eliminated. As I said, I worked for a large magazine. I know what it costs to print and ship all those dead trees. Not to mention the coordination required to make sure everything happens at just the right moment.

  • Price driven... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Raxxon ( 6291 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:31AM (#42493767)

    You want eBook adoption to work? QUIT BEING PROFITEERING BASTARDS.

    They already have the book in an electronic format before printing begins. It's what they send to the damn printer that actually puts ink on paper. Why then is the "cost" of an eBook more than the paperback counterpart? I could see justification for a higher price when the book is Hardback only (usually the first 9 to 18 months the book is available) but once the paperback hits shelves, why is the ebook still so much more expensive?

    I've actually seen some eBooks at a higher price point than the hardback.... dafuq?

  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:37AM (#42493785) Journal

    I have had three e-readers, the first way decent but it had cheap plastic keys like on a really cheap small calculator, it did have a high rez display (iRiver device) and had a wide format support. But it was slow. So it was well suited to reading a page BUT flipping a page took a long time, PDF's were especially a nightmare, it was best for manga with high text content since it displayed those very well and then the relative slow page turning with lots to read isn't that distracting.

    I have bought a very big e-reader for manga reading, it is beautiful but the device is so big (9 inches) it is not all that suitable for on the go reading. For books it is to large.

    recently I bought a Odyssee HD from Bookeen. It has a build in light and is small. It is a very nice device for reading books BUT its manga support is dismal (no archive support) and its directory structure is arcana. Calibre helps but it needs to convert zip archives to epud files. It DOES have nice PDF support with a reflow option.

    ALL the devices have margins in margins, it is traditional to print a page and leave a wide border BUT on a computer screen IT IS NOT because I PAYED for those bloody pixels so fucking USE THEM, I want a SMALL margin. Only the last device has tiny bit of support for it but you STILL have well over a centimeter of wasted space on either side. The device already has a wide physical border, I don't need one on the screen.

    What does this rant mean?

    E-Readers just ain't mature yet, they are in the state of MP3 players before the iPod when the likes of Sony found it perfectly acceptable to only support their own format which nobody else used while iRiver had support for formats you could even find on google, but used a directory format that only a unix wizard could grasp.

    That a player like bookeen still doesn't support archives shows an attitude that "we do what we want and standards, fuck em, we are the standard" (the device also can't fit epub images to the screen (no zoom)). I knew this in advance, it is my book reader, not suitable for manga.

    Page turns are getting really fast, almost capable of playing animation. In device lighting has made a HUGE difference (it also removes a bit of glare in bright light) but they still as said, MP3's before the iPod. Or mobile phones before standarized OS'es.

    iOS en later Android STANDARIZED software behavior on a wide array of devices, especially with android you didn't need to check that it would support your media files, it would, because it was android and even Sony now supports a long list of formats.

    What e-readers need is a base OS on which perhaps companies can build their own actual reader software UI but in which the basics are simply present and standard supported. Perhaps EVEN allow third party apps to be installed so the community can come up with a manga reader that is actually suited to the subtleties of manga and not comics.

    Right now, (small) e-readers of the latest lighted generation offer:

    • Light weight (if you take them out of their cover)
    • Cheap content (piracy, lets be honest here, I have a LOT of bought paper books, only 1 payed for ebook, I do have more then one file on my e-readers)
    • Entire library on the go (see above)
    • In confined areas, like public transport, they are easier to hold then a larger book, mine easily slips into my pocket, a thick paperback, not so easily.

    But they have downsides

    • Arcana usage, that a confusing program as Calibre is praised for making it so much easier to manage your device says enough. If your car became easier to drive by operating it standing it on your head, you would want a word with its designer.
    • Uncertain format support
    • Loosing the pixel race with tablets.
    • UI operating is slow.
    • SLOOOOOW searching, flipping of multiple pages, indexing.
    • Inconsistent operation, ctrl-c for copy on the PC is such a nice standard but handling bookmarks etc on a e-reader changes b
  • by beachdog ( 690633 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @04:44AM (#42493807) Journal

    I went to Stanford University bookstore to see if I could purchase a few graduate level textbooks in human motor development, neurology and (a separate interest) particle physics (easy stuff like alpha particles).

    Wikipedia beat Stanford University Bookstore on each of these topics. I walked in with $200 plus a credit card and spent only $.75 on parking.

    Eventually, my daughter who is in college got me an old edition of the motor development book I needed.

    The paper book is shrinking due to the economics of printing: The weight and cost of paper, the taxes on unsold book inventory, the system change where fine printing is typeset in USA and printed in China. In contrast, electronic books are 2% for the webserver, 49% to the publisher and 49% to the author.The markup or profit on an electronic book is basically set by the marketing skill and chutzpah of the publisher. You can weigh a book and look up the wholesale price of paper and see that relatively little is left for the publisher and author.

  • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @05:13AM (#42493899)
    I don't think that even Ray Bradbury could have imagined that people would have entirely given up their books, and put control of all formerly printed media in the hands of a few giant corporations, due to "clutter".
  • Re:Books (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Knuckles ( 8964 ) <> on Sunday January 06, 2013 @05:23AM (#42493933)

    Amazon claims the Kindle will run for 8 weeks w/o using wifi and a reading time of 30 minutes per day. That's not "months".

  • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @05:29AM (#42493947)
    There are plenty of other downsides. When you have 1 device to view N books, you can only do so serially. With paper books, each book has its own built in "screen" and you can open several of them on a table. With paper books, you can look up references easily without typing, whereas ebook readers are really designed to be easy for linear traversal only - just like an audio "book" - but quite unwieldy for random access. With paper books, there are several sizes to suit the content, whereas ebook readers force you to zoom around and tap the screen or some buttons unnecessarily when the size isn't right. Finally, with paper books you get two pages open at the same time, saving you a lot of fiddling with pages that you have to do with ebooks. There's nothing worse to break your concentration than having to press a "next" button after every second paragraph.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2013 @05:30AM (#42493951)

    It's fantastic to have so much space reclaimed that other homes have stuffed with shelf upon shelf of books, video games, movies, and albums.

    shelf upon shelf of books piled on top of more books.. sounds like home sweet home to me.

    i'll keep my books and videos and albums and compact discs, thank you very much.. for the rights and freedoms that come with the physical formats as well as i just very much prefer a real book to staring at a display. there's only one powered device i want to curl up with by the fire on a cold rainy night, and i can assure you, i certainly won't be doing any reading while it's turned on. ;p

    and have fun (legally) lending a book (or movie, or game, or whatever drm-ed media you have foolishly bought into) to a friend, relative or neighbor. not gonna happen. the producers and publishers will make sure of that. same goes for reselling your old stuff you don't want anymore. and please, also enjoy repurchasing (i mean, re-licensing) your media files over and over when you want to shift formats to whatever the next great thing is.

    until digital media is SOLD, not licensed... physical formats are the best formats.

  • Re:Books (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zumbs ( 1241138 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @05:30AM (#42493953) Homepage

    That LARGE portion of the population is aging

    And as they age, their eyesight will deteriorate, leaving many of them with a choice between audio books, books with large print or ebooks where the font size can be adjusted. Wonder what they will pick?

  • by MackShepherd ( 2809331 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @05:33AM (#42493965)

    But you do have the worry of DRM. It might be better but it's not perfect.

    This is my problem and it hit home recently when I upgraded my smartphone and discovered there's no Kindle ap for my new model phone and I couldn't read the rest of the book I'd bought on Amazon with any of the available aps. I enjoy the ability to stop reading on the Kindle, PC, Laptop, or smartphone and being able to pick up where I left off on the other devices. And what happens if the vendor where you bought your DRM'ed e-book goes under or is bought out? I think of buying e-books as being more like renting movies.

  • by VocationalZero ( 1306233 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @06:13AM (#42494109) Journal

    It's fantastic to have so much space reclaimed that other homes have stuffed with shelf upon shelf of books, video games, movies, and albums

    I still find it strange that people would not like to have shelf upon shelf of books, games, movies and albums.

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @06:49AM (#42494221)

    I have gifted my mom a kindle, the paperwhite to be exact. It's not bad. But at the same time it's a total piece of shit.

    Here's the problem. It's a closed ecosystem. When you buy a dead tree book, who you bought it from falls out from the equation. It doesn't matter anymore. You can read it, you can loan it with abandon, you can photocopy parts you need to reference easily, you can tear out the pages and wipe your ass with it.

    People who ever used a computer in one form or another the last 25 years know all about closed ecosystem. It made itself first apparent in computer programs, where you take an Apple program and run it in DOS and vice-versa. Same with video games. But people tolerated that, there are certain technical reasons to do it that way, and besides, to people computers were new and they didn't know any better.

    But once accustomed to an open ecosystem, people tend to stay away from closed ones. iPods sold music for a time DRMed, but Apple was in the business of selling hardware and was tired of the headaches that came with it -- iTunes has been selling normal MP3s for a while now. If anyone could have made a closed ecosystem with music, it was Apple. But people were used to the relatively open CD format - plays in any brand CD player, no hassles.

    Now comes the Kindle. Books DRMed to the Wazoo. Amazon is the only store place to buy. It charges huge commissions, bigger than physical goods iirc - what the hell is that? No secondhand market unless the publisher greenlights it. Fuck, my mom can't even access German Amazon kindle store - she would need a German billing address. Something to do with publishers having area rights. She's an immigrant. The biggest potential plus out the window.

    The kindle is an excercise in unmitigated greed and a step backwards in many ways. Greed of Amazon's monopolistic ambitions and publisher trying to stay relevant. No, we're talking a lightbulb constrained to the brightness of a candle (to make you buy more), expensive as all get out, having to lay electric lines and sockets for it's use, and the only upside is that it's less likely to cause a fire. All it's other potential upsides vanquished to placate candlemakers or to line the pockets of the single bulb manufacturer. And we're here sitting around wondering why people still use candles.

  • by WaywardGeek ( 1480513 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @08:59AM (#42494697) Journal

    True, Amazon is not forcing DRM down our throats. It's actually the big publishers that provide Amazon most of it's popular titles that do that. Had you landed a publishing deal with a major publisher, you're ebook would be DRM-ed.

    If you and all the other self-published authors were to begin dominating sales, we'd see a major drop in ebook prices over time, leading to a snowball of more ebook self-publishers and more people with e-readers. Unfortunately, most people still buy paper books, meaning the popular authors are more concerned about being in Barnes and Noble than Amazon. If your ebook does well, you'll likely land a nice publishing contract that gets your book printed and distributed widely. At that point, you'll likely have to sign over ebook rights, and your ebook will become DRM-ed. Thus, this whole rape of authors and readers continues non-stop, as a money printing machine for the middle men who do little to add value.

    I really hope Apple, Amazon, and Google get taken to the cleaners by the government anti-trust people. Free competition is being trampled. I should be able to start my own app store for Apple devices which offers many of the same popular apps and ebooks, just 25% cheaper. Just because Dell and HP sell most laptops in the US is no reason they should get 30% of every on-line sale. We'd all freak out if they tried that. Why do we accept this from our tablet vendors?

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye