Getting to Digital II

Thinking leads to more thinking
A rather great comment from Litlove got me thinking today. She wrote:

I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said – that the slice of the market that makes the money is where digital needs to take hold, and then inevitably from there it will take over.

And I’m still not sure that this isn’t just ideologically driven. When I worked in the bookstore, what made our money really was back list. Okay, every so often there’d be one book that did surprisingly well, but they were few and far between. It was the steady sale of backlist titles that kept us afloat.

Oh I don’t know. To be totally honest, I don’t want digital. I love reading and the thought of having to do it on yet another screen and not to have an actual book in my hands strikes me as hugely depressing.

I’m really not convinced at all why this move has to be made.

So I replied:

Litlove,

I’m with you, why does anything NEED to change?

Sadly where we are is a place where technology facilitates and enables change, a significant group of actors benefit or have a perceived benefit from the change and so those two factors being present, it would be almost impossible to prevent the change.

That said, I am firmly of the view that PRINT CULTURE is far from dead. In fact I’d wager BOOKS as a printed entity will thrive. Just not in the model we have right now. I’ve been meaning to write more on this but I suspect print runs will dip dramatically for all but the biggest books and they will individually become objects of greater value (Andrew Simone @ Lone Gunman has a post that touches on this today) or considerably less value depending on whether they are cheap paperbacks (probably Print on Demand or Massive Print Run) or expensive hardbacks, printed in low quantities.

The web is a reading culture though. Sure video, audio and art illuminate and decorate it, but the medium is a very textually based one. The network is better with a little friction as possible and this is best achieved through a single window (the browser) which is why I see ebooks as a temporary thing, driven by old “iron horse” notions. We will eventually learn to pay for deep deep piles of online content streamed to us or supplied to us via broswer windows just as now we get that largely for free.

Still, as I say, PRINT CULTURE will be around for some time I suspect!

And that basically is where I stand! It seemed like a good idea to put that up front and centre.
Eoin

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4 comments

  1. One of the reasons, I think, that the web is a reading culture is because of its structure. HTML was created to display a webpage. And hyperlinks are most powerful, useful, and vivid when it is hypertext.

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