Like newspapers and music, books are becoming increasingly digitized. With websites like ebook.com that allow you to download books directly on to you computer, and devices like Amazon’s Kindle that let you to read and download books anywhere, the digital book revolution has begun.
The growing shift to digital makes people in the publishing and book selling industries wonder what’s in store for the future. Will books go the way of the newspaper or music? No one knows for sure, but most people at least agree that change is coming. As author Steven Johnson writes in The Wall Street Journal:
I knew then that the book’s migration to the digital realm would not be a simple matter of trading ink for pixels, but would likely change the way we read, write and sell books in profound ways. It will make it easier for us to buy books, but at the same time make it easier to stop reading them. It will expand the universe of books at our fingertips … but it may well end up undermining some of the core attributes that we have associated with book reading for more than 500 years.
Certainly, there are both pitfalls and positives with this potential change. On the upside, novels and textbooks could become more accessible and easier to carry. On the downside, a minor paradigm shift could be a catalyst for piracy and copyright issues, potentially upending the stability of the entire industry. Google has already found itself in hot water for scanning books and putting them online. What’s next?
Are you an author or publisher or book lover? Do you make a living working in the book industry? How do you like to read? In print? Online? On a Kindle? What do you hope for the future of books?
- Marty Ringle: Chief Technology Officer at Reed College
- Siva Vaidhyanathan: Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia and fellow at The Institute for the Future of the Book
- Michael Powell: Founder of Powell’s Books
- Neal Maillet: Publisher of Portland-based Timber Press