Why Print Media Will Never Go Away

Written by on August 27, 2012 in Technology - No comments | Print this page

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Following the success of e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle or Barnes and Noble’s Nook, it’s no surprise that many members of the publishing industry are heralding e-books as the death of the printed format. They claim that the major publishing houses are doomed to a slow decline, and that the future of literature will be an egalitarian paradise where anyone can become a bestselling author and every book will be stored with hundreds of others in pocket-sized devices. It’s a plausible and somewhat pleasing scenario, but unlikely to become reality within the next 100 years. No matter how widely-touted this emerging trend is, e-books will never be able to drive their paper counterparts out of business.

The Surge of E-books

There’s no denying, of course, that e-books have arrived and are here to stay. They are useful, versatile and often cheaper than printed books. A single e-reader is much easier to pack for vacation than two or three novels and eliminates the need for bookshelves within the home. E-books are also discrete; the romance industry is seeing booming digital sales from readers who value their privacy. Many people, particularly self-publishers, look at the rapid expansion of e-books and project 100% market-share within a few short decades. But these gloomy predictions fail to take into account the lasting appeal of holding a real, tangible copy of a book.

Numbers Don’t Lie

For all the buzz around e-books, they still made up only 20% of all books sold in 2011. Their lower prices also create thinner profits, meaning they made substantially less for their publishers than paper books. Digital publishers have several hurdles to overcome in the future, such as the diverse file formats that prevent cross-compatibility with different e-readers. It is likely that e-books will, however, continue to reshape the industry and become the majority of books sold. They are perfect for the light consumption most readers need and will become more mainstream as companies continue expanding their digital selection.

Printed Books Will Always Have a Market

And yet, resistance to e-books remains firmly entrenched among readers. E-readers are reliant on batteries and are still quite expensive. They are also more prone to damage from water, being dropped or overheating and have limited lifespans. All of these can deny access to books for an extended period of time. One of the major upsides is that you can have all of your books in one small device. There is also the issue of ownership. In its current state, the e-book industry does not sell a product to its customers. Instead, buyers purchase the right to store a file on their device. As several recent scandals have shown, companies like Amazon can unceremoniously reach into an e-reader and remove a book under even the flimsiest excuse.

By comparison, a printed book is easier to read and provides a sensory experience that people cherish. Everyone knows the smell of a book, the feeling of turning a page and the satisfaction of reaching the final chapter. The printing industry may shrink, but, for both sentimental and practical reasons, it will always have an audience.

This is a guest post.  Jason is the owner of the largest Digital Printing Company in Sydney, Australia. Although he is a self-confessed technology geek and loves using an e-book reader, he believes there will always be a need for print media. Away from work, Jason likes to play computer games and spend time with his family.

Image by Stuart Miles: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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