[LMB] why we still need paper books

Paula Lieberman paal at gis.net
Tue Sep 20 22:45:11 BST 2011

a)   There are publishers which have libraries as a major component of their 
sales figures, this is particularly true for hardcover novels for other than 
writers whose books sell in high five or higher figures for hardcovers. 
Libraries tend to prefer hardcovers because they last a lot longer.

b)  The second oldest bookstore in the USA once had a printing press 
in-store and printed books with it.

-----Original Message----- 
From: Ed Burkhead
Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 8:52 AM
To: 'Discussion of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold.'
Subject: Re: [LMB] why we still need paper books


Here are some thoughts:

The market _will_ provide what people want.  Costs will vary and adjust to 
technologies available, market demand and product availability.

E-books area a great way to read and I do think they'll take over the 
majority of the market within the next decade.  E-book reader prices have 
dropped precipitously over the last few years, as have computers.  (Young 
people would laugh at what I sold for $1,800 28 years ago.)  I'd expect 
basic e-book *reader* prices to drop to near hardbound book prices well 
within five years.

It's the money of those who buy *new* books that drive the publishing 
market.  Those who buy used or get most of their books from the library have 
nearly zero influence on the publishing business as far as I know 
(corrections welcome).

A few years ago, an acquaintance who owns a used bookstore was approached by 
a company offering a print-on-demand machine.  They said he could offer an 
enormous number of *different* books. He declined as that's not his 
business.  He expects, though, that eventually, many (most?) books would be 
bought from vending machines at gas stations or outside grocery stores 
(Redbox, anyone?).  These paper books may continue to fuel the 
used/poor-people's low-cost needs.  [And, won't those vending machine boxes 
also have a connector for e-book download at an even lower price?]

Libraries have or will have e-book loan programs, in the library and online. 
Mine does.  I'd expect that within five years, ten maximum, anyone within 
reach of a cell phone tower or a Lightspeed Internet node will be able to 
download library books to their e-book reader.  (How many paper books will 
libraries continue to have?)

(I strongly support libraries because there ARE people who can't afford 
books and/or need affordable introductions to new authors.  However, I don't 
patronize our library significantly because I/we can currently afford to buy 
books.  By buying books, I support the authors whose work pleases me making 
more good stuff available.  I budget books ahead of food [and looking down 
at my waistline, you would agree that's appropriate for me.]  If a new 
depression and/or personal poverty ever really bites, I'd like libraries to 
be available for me, too.)

Many high schools and some lower level schools are moving toward requiring 
or providing laptop or tablet computers to ALL students.  Barring economic 
collapse and depression, this trend will continue as school-effective 
computers become cheaper and cheaper.  Will affluent nations someday 
consider a tablet computer as a minimum civil right and pass them out?  (An 
equivalent has been done as early as 1982 in France: Google "minitel" - 
Shades of Beta Colony!)

Thus, almost everyone will have access to e-books.  On the other hand, DRM 
stands in the way.

Yes, paper infant/toddler books have tactile learning merit.  What's 
important, though, is positive interaction between the parents/adults and 
the small child.  We read books to our daughter with enthusiasm, joy and 
interaction starting well before six months and kept the infection/addiction 
going - the resulting school grades have certainly been aided by this, I 

In summary, I'd expect that the desires of those with money will drive the 
market as it always has.  Yet, I'd expect fall-through to poor people to 
stay as good as it is, now, or improve with the changeover to e-books.

Your thoughts?


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