Print books are a dead medium.
I guess we see something along those lines a lot these days – declaiming that the era of the print book is at an end. But is it?
I love books – the feel of them, the weight in your hand, the smell that a brand new book has. As a kid I couldn’t get enough of libraries, charity shops and second hand book stalls on markets. I adored books, couldn’t wait to get my hands on a brand new, dog eared copy of something I’ve never previously read. My actual library (if you can call it that) has well over a thousand books in it – that’s honest to gosh, REAL books. And boy do they take up a lot of space!
Now, back to my early question – I think it’s less a case a print being dead and more a case of format shifting and accessibility. Electronic media has (have?) opened up the world of reading to people that would never normally pick up a book. Likewise it’s given avenues of exposure to the short format writing medium – flash fiction and short stories. There are more ways to find what you want as a reader and more avenues of exposure as an author than were ever possible when it was merely print media that was available.
There was a degree of elitism to being an author in previous decades – they earned their right to be printed, fought and bled for it. And it was the lucky few that got the privilege of seing their stories marketed and sold to the world. Now of course just about anyone can claim to be an author because there are so many more ways to get your written work out there. I guess in some ways that makes it easier and harder to be a writer.
Don’t get me wrong – I honestly think that people like King, Grisham and Pratchett deserve every inch of their success. They worked HARD for what they achieved and gained the recognition they deserved the hard way. I think they are amazing and knowing how hard they fought to bring their stories to the world only serves to make this topic a little bitter sweet.
Paper books will always be with us – I honestly believe that. Just because eReaders are the new kid on the block with the cool trainers and designer gear doesn’t mean that the old skool paper based medium is dead. In fact I think it actually makes it just that little bit more precious. In a day and age when anyone with a half baked idea and computer access can throw down a few thousand words and have them in front of an audience by the end of the day it makes the paper book author a precious commodity indeed.
Most eAuthors don’t have editors and they pretty much have full control of whatever content they put out there – I know, I’m that way myself. And sadly there is a glut on the eBook market – if you listen carefully you can probably hear it creaking and groaning under the strain. So yes, electronic media has opened up a new pathway to people that would previously have only ever dreamed of having their words read. But it’s also opened the floodgates and the casual reader and the discerning reader both have the same problem facing them – how to choose what to read.
My only real concern here is that the reader will become jaded with the new eBook medium. If so much middle of the road, sub-par content is out there will people still want to spend the time sorting the wheat from the chaff? Why bother wasting your time wading through thousands of unknown commodities when you can just dial up one of the big names? I do hope that doesn’t happen and that people will embrace the opportunity to discover great new authors that they previously would never have considered.
Print isn’t dead and it isn’t going away. There will always be a market for it and I’m rather grateful for that in a lot of ways. Sure the common or garden book store is slowly becoming a rare commodity and that’s a sad thing, but print books, REAL books are here to stay. There may be fewer produced in the future – but that could be a good thing because it can promote quality over quantity.
In the end I suppose in some ways I’m an oddity because I yearn for the day when I can walk into a charity shop and pick up a battered second hand copy of something I’ve written.
I should be that lucky…