Sunday, 17 March 2013

The Death of Print?

A Mashable (http://mashable.com/2013/01/16/e-books-vs-print/) article by Josh Catone in January this year cited some stats on ebooks, relating for the first time, in 2011, that ebook sales outperformed print; with ebooks increasing the performance gap in 2012. A Texas library announced plans for the US's first solely electronic library. Scholastic did a study on children's' ebook habits, with almost half of all kids aged 9 to 17 having read an ebook, and the number who said they will continue to read print books rather than ebooks declined from 66% to 58% (http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/kfrr).

Bit of a trend happening then.

Now I love books. I am so enamoured with the written word that I suffer withdrawal symptoms if I can't get my word-fix. I have been known to read toilet roll packets and the contents of the pantry if a dearth of books unexpectedly occurs. A small stack of paperbacks has always accompanied me on trips overseas.

However, over the past five years, I have bought more ebooks and talking books than printed books. My textbooks I prefer to get as pdfs or Kindle versions, so that they become searchable. Talking books I prefer for light reading and non-fiction, because I listen to them on my nano. For the first time two years ago I went overseas without a printed book. I survived three weeks with only my nano and Kindle (actually, I had one relapse and borrowed a book from my husband's cousin - but only because it looked interesting and I hadn't read it!).

I have probably have a couple of thousand books, so we are not talking about someone who only has three tatty paperbacks on the spare room bookshelf. I am a collector of - my favourite - printed words. But more and more, the print books I buy are special books - almost art pieces - that I intend to keep, or books to continue building my favourite author collections, usually in hardback.

There is some talk already about print books eventually becoming an expensive niche product like vinyl records: crafted artisan collectors pieces... and I can see the day coming where whether a book is published in hardback or paperback will depend on audience pre-orders for that particular author.

Apparently Readers' Digest's parent company has filed for "Chapter 11" bankruptcy in the US. Even they can't make money, with all their ads plastered around inboxes and mailboxes around the planet. I think it is harder getting off their mailing list than anyone else's.

In an article by Daniel Gross in February this year (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/05/the-death-of-print-buildings.html), he noted that three US newspaper buildings - housing collectively the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, the NY Democrat and the NY Chronicle - are to be sold. Gross notes that newspaper advertising income has halved in the past ten years, and is now level-pegging with 1983 $, with circulation falling to 1996 levels. Papers are selling off assets at an alarming rate. Journos are being cut. Newspaper content is being increasingly mashed, is advertorial or is press release content. Increasing use of free online news services is also taking revenue from the papers: fewer people are buying a paper.

Some papers have decided they will become purely online, such as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The NY Times has tried to reverse the revenue drain by putting their content behind a paywall, but only time will tell whether people will continue to pay for news that can be picked up freely elsewhere. The last time the NY Times tried this, their revenues took such a dive they had to do a U-turn, so it will be interesting to see if the time has come.

I now get my news from Pulse. It is a news accumulating ap (http://www.pulse.me/about/) that picks up loads of different news-feeds based on what I am interested in, and gives me a range of shorts that are very easy to pick up the key ideas from. I can then mine more deeply for things that catch my eye. No more print newspapers for me: I like things to be searchable, and loathe having to get rid of all that paper afterwards. I keep pestering the magazines I get for ezines. Takes so much less room, and the articles are accessible forever on my PC.

A shake-up in the entire printing industry seems pretty certain. How great it will be, and how much material will just segue into new formats will remain to be seen.

The one thing I am absolutely sure of is that I will never be short of something to read :-)

More reading:

Sam 

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