Really? Is the book dead? I don’t think so. If you define “the book” as a physical artefact of words printed on the page then, no the book isn’t dead it is just transforming. If you define “the book” as the knowledge/entertainment traditionally held within the artefact then again, no, as that is also transforming.
This then is a post that looks at where we are heading, and how that impacts on my twin and intertwined professions of librarianship and authorship. This is why this is posted on a couple of deferent venues. It all starts with this article: E-book Sales Explode in February as Other Segments Sink. The eBook market has exploded, and time will tell if it maintains its momentum. I want to prevaricate and say no one can tell the future, but I really believe the future is electronic even when I have no real concept of what it will look like.
The time of the big chain book store is over. I think we are at a fulcrum point, where the publishing, and by virtue of being so heavily linked, library worlds are going to go though radical paradigm shifts. What I think will happen is that your mass market publishing will be solely in electronic form, and the dead tree books will be collector’s items for bibliophiles and luddites like myself. This will be a challenge for the big publishers and the library world.
So in my not so crystal ball I see several problems. The first being for libraries. When eBooks are so cheap why will people want to use libraries? I can see libraries becoming less and less about fiction, and mass market publications and instead really transforming into the mythical information centre, where non-fiction is king, and access to aggregated electronic sources is their purpose. This will be coupled with a real focus on the social services (holiday programmes etc) that libraries offer.
With the demise of the powerhouses in publishing, how am I going to get my books into libraries, and will there be a need for it? I am going to sell my novels through a small publishing house, so how and should we get those works into a library platform is troubling me.
As an author I also see several other issues arising from this brave new world. One is the seeming disregard for copyright and desire for free content in the coming generation. Will the new media bring about a new concept of delivering content? Will there be a place for the traditional author?
Maybe a new model will be the author gives there story away for free, and instead asks for donations? This model of mass patronage is already being mooted around the Internet. And if we are dealing in eformat only, will there be a need for expanded products? Will simply having text on the screen be enough or will there be a need for multimedia products?
I have more questions than answers at the moment, and I thing that may be the shape of living in interesting times!