Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The death of the book - it's been greatly exaggerated

One of my Saxon warrior friends asked me my thoughts on the Death Of The Book. My first instinct was to say: Never! Then I added a few more thoughts ...
Is the book dead, or dying?

Well, reports of its death have been drastically exaggerated.

It’s true that book sales are generally down – for instance, even with the surge of interest for Game of Thrones, Australian fantasy sales are down roughly 10%.

But there are other reasons for that, including the loss of many specialist bookshops and the general retail slowdown. People are saving their pennies for a rainy day, rather than spending them and that’s true across every retail category.

Secondly, are we talking about physical books or are we including eBooks? Because if we include eBooks then the numbers are certainly not down. People are downloading free eBooks in huge numbers – and buying eBooks in respectable numbers as well.

Certainly there will be a degree of migration across to eBooks from the traditional format. As well as being cheaper, the available range of eBooks is much greater. Stores cannot carry the massive number of titles released each year, let alone those previously published. With the collapse of Borders and Angus & Robertson, the day of the massive bookshop is over.

So, albeit in a different format, the book will never die.

But there is plenty of hope for the traditional book as well. Retail will recover – it is the cyclical nature of things. People will begin making more discretionary purchases again, rather than essentials.

Above all, there is a hunger for reading. Whether it is fantasy, autobiography, fiction or high literature, people enjoy losing themselves in a book. I go out to stores and find people excited to meet an author and eager to talk about books.

The emphasis on children reading is, if anything, even stronger than before. And there are more children’s books being released, encouraging boys and other reluctant readers to keep reading for pleasure.

As these children get older, they will see reading as less of a leisure activity and more of an essential.

Reading opens our eyes and expands our minds and the emphasis placed on it in schools will only help the industry.

For the next 10-20 years they will be doing that mainly with real books but, no matter what format they are reading, no matter what eReader or tablet or device not yet invented they choose, the book will go on.

The Gutenberg Press is widely credited with helping inspire the Renaissance and dragging Europe out of the dark ages.

If the book ever died, that is where we would return.

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