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Book Related Banter > Do you worry about the future of books?

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message 1: by Eva (new)

Eva I just wondered whether others who love books feel that books are endangered and even worry about their future. I'm thinking of Kindle and electronic publishing. Does anyone in this group read on Kindle?

message 2: by Fiona (new)

Fiona (bookcoop) I'd like a Kindle for some books. Classics and the like as I don't see why I should have to pay over the odds for those things.

But I would not, I don't want to see the end of the physical book, I'd be very sad about that. Also, I'd be less likely to buy electronic format I think. I like to just browse a bookshop where as if I buy a book online it is more planned. So it'd be the end of just browsing for a new book and buying on whim.

I'd hate to see the end of the bookshop or the end of physical books.

But I like electronic readers for things like newspapers or text books.

message 3: by Jason (new)

Jason (Boltbook) | 18 comments The thing I hate about electronic readers is they strip books down to just their text. While the text is an important part of a book it's not the only part. I love books as objects of art aside from stories they tell. The cover, the type of paper, the binding, its weight, etc. Things that cannot be replicated with a reader. Losing books as physical objects would be a great loss to human culture. I hope this never happens, but who knows.

message 4: by Ralph (new)

Ralph (sunwriter) | 64 comments I love my Kindle - mostly because it saves me a ton of money (and trees). It's great for books I'll only read once in a while so that I'm not crowding my bookshelves. If I really like the book though I'll try and get a physical copy. It's also great for reading classics since those should be free anyway. Also for newspapers and such this way you don't have to kill 100 trees every day with someone you'll read once and then chuck.

I do wish books would follow in the steps of DVDs. Now, when you buy DVDs from certain companies (Disney being a big one) you get a digital copy as well. It'd be nice to buy a physical book and have it include an ebook copy as well...

message 5: by Diane (last edited Jul 13, 2009 04:51PM) (new)

Diane  (DianeDJ) I do worry about the future of books. And think it would be tragic if they do indeed disappear someday, but I think they will. Two Borders have closed in my area in the past year, not to mention the indies.

Like Jason, the words are only part of it for me. I love the feel of the book, flipping through the pages, tagging pages that have something that I want to look back on.

I love how they looked in my bookcases and on the floor. It's comforting to me to be surrounded by books. And I LOVE to browse in bookstores.

message 6: by Eva (new)

Eva Diane D wrote: "I do worry about the future of books. And think it would be tragic if they do indeed disappear someday, but I think they will. Two Borders have closed in my area in the past year, not to mention t..."

I'm so with you! I also think books will disappear for the most part. Like you, I find shelved books to be very soothing. I guess it's the sense of possibility they represent. So much potential there -- for pleasure, thought, growth. So much creativity. The materiality of the book is important to me, its object quality.

message 7: by Eva (new)

Eva Ralph wrote: "I love my Kindle - mostly because it saves me a ton of money (and trees). It's great for books I'll only read once in a while so that I'm not crowding my bookshelves. If I really like the book thou..."

But don't all those plastic electronic things (and their components) harm the environment? The Kindle reader, the ipods, DVDs, etc. (I have ipod, DVDs -- so I'm not judging. I jJust don't want books to take more than their fair share of the blame for environmental despoiling.) I mean a Kindle must be nonbiodegradable, while books can be handed on when you're finished and they do biodegrade.

message 8: by Eva (new)

Eva Jason wrote: "The thing I hate about electronic readers is they strip books down to just their text. While the text is an important part of a book it's not the only part. I love books as objects of art aside fro..."

Yes. I feel the same way. But I think books are dying... publishers are having a very hard time staying in business, for a number of reasons.

message 9: by Eden (new)

Eden (Tsalagi_Writer) | 210 comments I worry about the future of books. The kindle thing and all that is fine, but I like buying actual books. But everything seems to be going to downloading now, even music and that really upsets me. I hope that books won't go completely away, but sometimes I'm afraid it might happen.

Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews (SilversReviews) | 154 comments Yes....I do worry about the future of books and libraries....I don't like to read on that Kindle....I hope books aren't dying...not good in my opinion.

message 11: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne (Bellamy22) | 610 comments I have worried, but now that I belong to this club, I can see that there are so many of us that are like-minded...
and that means there are many more out there.

I feel that certain things have a 'holiness' about them, that they are part of who and what we are. I feel that books are part of this,
to someone who chooses to have a life of the mind.

message 12: by Eva (new)

Eva I feel much better reading your answers. I'm not attracted to Kindle, but the mother of a friend of mine has one. She's elderly and Kindle has large type, which allows her to read books more easily. So that's a very good application of the technology. But not for me.

message 13: by Ralph (new)

Ralph (sunwriter) | 64 comments Eva wrote: "Ralph wrote: "I love my Kindle - mostly because it saves me a ton of money (and trees). It's great for books I'll only read once in a while so that I'm not crowding my bookshelves. If I really like..."

Yeah, they have an effect but you only need 1 kindle versus 1000 books so it has less of and effect, IMO.

message 14: by Petra Eggs (new)

Petra Eggs (PetraX) With Kindle and the absolute joy people have in getting something for nothing, or cheap as possible, meaning libraries, second-hand bookshops and big discounts from Amazon and three-for-two from Borders, I do worry about the future of indie bookstores. Especially since I have one.

message 15: by April (new)

April (booksandwine) | 954 comments Honestly, I don't worry at all about that stuff. I absolutely love physical books to death, but I would get a kindle if that became the main medium for reading. As a college student, and future grad school student, I think a kindle is incredibly useful, and textbooks weigh a freakin' ton, and I'd rather not have that back pain, so I'll get used to the new technology.
Also, I would shop at an Indie bookstore except for the fact that I moved to what I deem as hell, New York. The nearest used bookstore is about 45 minutes. The nearest indie bookstore is an hour. So, I take what I can get.

message 16: by vicki_girl (new)

vicki_girl | 89 comments I don't worry for the time being about the future of physical books. Too many of us are like Jason and see the book itself as a piece of art, or a part of the experience, or like the visual representation, or something else entirely.

I do worry though that in the future that books and newspapers and other forms of written material may be entirely electronic. I don't think that this is necessarily a good thing. One of my favorite authors says he keeps a physical copy of everything he writes. His reasoning is that if society as we know it comepletly collapses, say following a global natural disater, and we lose modern technology, electricity, etc., someone somewhere will be able to read what's on the paper. Historians and liguistists today are able to read tablets from 3,000 years ago by deciphering cuneform.

I read a far future science fiction novel where someone had kept "ancient silver discs that supposedly contained whole books", but no one in that society was able to unlock them, or something like that.

I don't think it will happen in my lifetime, but it's something I think about when I see ads for the Kindle. What will happen to history if all the newspapers are delivered digitally, and then deleted when we're done with them? Do you know how many people use old, local papers to do geneology (sp?) research.

The idea of losing all that history and culture is scary if I think about it too much.

message 17: by GracieKat (new)

GracieKat (LovecraftLass) | 864 comments I'll always love a book. A real, in my hand book. I don't have a Kindle so I don't know how much books usually cost on those but the price of the kIndle alone is a deterrant for me. Anything that I spend that much on better be something that gets used on a regular basis and by more people than just me.

I don't think that books can be more harmful to the environment than anything else. Unless, of course, people do actually throw books in the garbage after one reading (perish the thought). It's always an option to donate to a library, Goodwill, thruift stores and such. There's also all the swapping and mooching websites now so that's always another way to go.

message 18: by Anna (new)

Anna Shumaker (Annashu) I recently bought I Kindle and I felt very guilty about turning my back on real books. After I have had it for a while though I use it mostly for whim purchases (when nothing else on my book shelf appeals to me) and large books that seem daunting and dangerous in paper form. I still mainly read real books though, and just bought 9 more, so I don't really see it replacing real books any time soon. I do still worry about a Fahrenheit 451 type situation.

message 19: by Marci (new)

Marci (iread49) | 215 comments I love my books!!!! I don't even know anything about the Kindle. I don't like reading on the computer screen, is it simliar???

message 20: by El (new)

El I worry about people wanting new books more than I do about electronic books. It's the new goods stores (Borders, Barnes and Nobles, etc.) that put the independent and used bookstores out of business. While the larger sellers are having difficulties of their own it still doesn't reach the magnitude the indies suffer who go under just because people would prefer a brand new and shiny copy of a book they can get for cheaper (and used) somewhere else.

I do like the fact there are more people who feel more comfortable having an actual book in their hands than they do an electronic device. Not only is looking at the screen hard on your eyes and your head, it just doesn't have the same smell as a real book, literally and figuratively.

message 21: by Heather (new)

Heather (hsditto) Jason wrote: "The thing I hate about electronic readers is they strip books down to just their text. While the text is an important part of a book it's not the only part. I love books as objects of art aside fro..."

Well said, Jason...I feel the same way.

For many readers, I think there is something magical in being able to hold and feel that book in your hands as you're reading it. It somehow adds to the whole experience. I have this habit, and I'm sure I'm not alone here, of gently closing my book when I'm done reading it, and giving it a nice stroke as I look at the cover, before setting it down. I can't see myself lovingly stroking a Kindle. LOL It's just not the same thing at all.

Don't get me wrong, I think there is certainly a place for electronic reading devices as well, but I can't imagine them completely taking the place of actual books. It would be a sad day, if that ever happened.

message 22: by Gina (new)

Gina (so_vintage87) | 5 comments I have a kindle and it is the best thing ever! I love it. I find I read much fast with it. My mother says the same thing about missing the 'feel' of the book but I do not miss it at all. I don't miss lugging around novel(s) with me where ever I go. I don't miss having to get to a computer to go on amazon.

There are a lot of free books on kindle too!

I think the kindle is great.

message 23: by Dan (new)

Dan Porter (ChaoticBuffalo) This question reminded me of an episode in the first season of the original Star Trek series. In the episode, Captain Kirk is on trial and in one scene in his lawyer's office, the lawyer tells Kirk that he prefers books to the computer. I saw this over thirty years ago, so I don't remember details but I remember that the lawyer had a lot of books in his office, that he spoke to Kirk passionately about books and his love for them, and that at the end of the episode he gave Kirk one of his books. I know this was just a tv show but I think some people will always have books.

message 24: by Diane (new)

Diane  (DianeDJ) Dan wrote: "This question reminded me of an episode in the first season of the original Star Trek series. In the episode, Captain Kirk is on trial and in one scene in his lawyer's office, the lawyer tells Kir..."

Hey Dan - Whenever I'm home and the computer crashes, or the TV satellite bleeps out for gosh knows what reason, I always say to my husband "Give me a book any day! It always works!" : )

message 25: by Diane (new)

Diane  (DianeDJ) El wrote: "I worry about people wanting new books more than I do about electronic books. It's the new goods stores (Borders, Barnes and Nobles, etc.) that put the independent and used bookstores out of busin..."

Hi El, I do agree with you about the Indie bookstores. I know I referred to Borders closing (and I am a Borders Rewards member) but I do support my favorite Indie bookstores alot. An indie closed here in LA, Duttons, and it was a landmark. It was very sad. I didn't want you to think I wanted the indies to be put out of business : ) but when I saw 2 Borders close, I was like 'uh oh'!

message 26: by Janny (last edited Jul 14, 2009 01:24PM) (new)

Janny (JannyWurts) | 142 comments You will have books, if you love them now, enough to be willing to pay for them to be made. I am not talking about used books, charity books, book mooches, any of that - for a book to be available for you to get it second hand - somebody, once, someday, had to buy it, new.

Who produces (mass printings) of books for "art" or "charity"?

I think the e book is great for the impulse buy.
I think well managed forests for paper help the environment, far better, by preserving space for wildlife to prosper - well managed being the key...look at how many acres (it is tragic) of forest owned by paper companies that is being SOLD to developers to understand the scope - paper is not as destructive to the environment as some believe, and it can be recycled into more paper.

Electronic devices require toxic components, mined from all over the world, need electricity (they are leveling mountaintops to grab coal for power plants) or, they need batteries, which are heavy metal toxic, and of a sort that cannot readily be recycled (at least, today).

I am not against the bargain bin buys, but if you love books, think very carefully. Not just independent bookshops are going - whole publishing houses are folding lines and shifting which authors they can keep in print.

Books are the ultimate lo-tech - they take nothing from the environment, once made, and totally would decompose with no harm done. Wood pulp is a natural substance, after all. No batteries or fancy tech required, which cuts across all class barriers.

I love books and would hate to see them gone. It pays to look at the impact of all choices. Book making, distribution and selling provide jobs. E downloads - well, think about it.

The margins for publishing are extemely narrow - there is not a lot of room for most titles printed. Something that people seldom stop to realize, mostly because they don't have to.

I would not like to see books become a luxury to the point they are only accessible to the privileged.

message 27: by Fiona (new)

Fiona (bookcoop) I miss indie bookshops. We don't have one anymore in the town I live. All we have is a good 2nd hand shop. We used to have two but now it's only 1 and a quarter.

We have two chain store shops in Portsmouth - but one is really only for students and the Waterstones is a load of crap. No variety of books - and the books aren't for people who READ. They only stock the latest fad usually and I think the majority of books people in Portsmouth read are Danielle Steel, Jackie Collins and other books along the same lines as those. Because that's what the vast majority of books they have there are.

The staff are nice enough but it's a very limited shop.

I went to a lovely indie in Marlborough the other week and it had BOOKS in it. You know, books you want to read, a bookshop you want to go in. I do like Waterstones and I'm not going to be fussy but they aren't really palces for readers.

Indie bookshops are magical. I'd sooner pay more to have one near by me again.

message 28: by Eva (new)

Eva I love what you write here. Thank you for writing it. I wonder whether there could be "challenge" in which everyone agreed to buy new books to read, no used books allowed? I've heard that publishing houses are closing or combining and I know indie bookstores are going out of business. If we love books, we should buy new books -- at least sometimes. I need to remind myself of this because used books can be tempting. Also, I'm finding it hard to get new hardcover editions of classic titles (or titles that should be classics...) In those cases, I sometimes have to buy used books.

message 29: by April (new)

April (booksandwine) | 954 comments I'm not the brightest in economics, but if all these places are closing, then shouldn't they change their buisness model? I mean a lot of buisness is conducted on the internet these days, so why don't indies get websites, and have it so people can order what they want on the web, to pick up in the store. I remember back in June before I moved, I went to every single book store I could find, to try and obtain a copy of Oh! The Places You'll Go and not a single store had it, maybe that could have been prevented had I been able to go online, see if it was in stock and then preorder it for pickup at a local book store.
Also, the price of some hardbacks can be outrageous. The list price of Finger Lickin Fifteen by Janet Evanovich for example is $27.95, so with tax, 28 dollars. That is ridiculous for a book of only 320 pages, they would most likely sell more books if there was a paperback option.
Or maybe, they could go the route of FYE which is selling both used and new items. I mean books aren't the only thing people buy used. People buy used dvds, used cds, used clothing, used cars, used video games, and the list goes on. All of those industries seem to be surviving.
Also, isn't the Kindle beneficial to publishing houses, as it cuts down on material costs. So, instead of having to buy paper and printing presses, and what not, all they would have to do is have a computer, and some software to make a Kindle file?
It is fascinating to read other viewpoints though on this interesting topic.

message 30: by Fiona (new)

Fiona (bookcoop) The trouble with indies creating their own websites etc and then picking them up in store - why would I do that if I could just go to Amazon?

Which is why I don't get really the Waterstones website - why would I buy from when I could get it cheaper elsewhere on the internet?

Yes if I did I'd be supporting that particular Indie shop - but still that isn't really the point and I imagine most people wouldn't be thinking 'oh I should support my local Indie book seller" if you're going to buy online you're probably going to look for a bargain.

I like to use which is an online collection of Indie bookshops. It's a bit like Amazon marketplace I guess.

message 31: by April (last edited Jul 14, 2009 05:21PM) (new)

April (booksandwine) | 954 comments I think it might work, as you have instant gratification. Say I needed a copy of a book last minute as a gift, I could go online, and then place a hold on the book so I could pick it up in the store. Whereas when I order off Amazon, I never know when the book is going to come in. Plus, you eliminate having to pay for shipping, as that next day shipping is a killer.

message 32: by Nature.artist (new)

Nature.artist | 4 comments I have a Kindle and love it for travel, classic (for free)researching newly released books. The majority of my reading comes from the public library. I have noticed that there is a change is the use of the library - I always see people leaving with DVD's.

Also have a friend that works in a library and she says they are getting riped off more often. With cuts in funding in lots of cities I wonder about the future of libraries.

message 33: by Fiona (new)

Fiona (bookcoop) Depending on if they have it in stock. I suppose that might work not sure really though if a lot of people would use it though. That would probably be the ONLY reason I'd use such a service for an indie store - not really a money maker especially when alternatively you could just phone in - though people are probs more likely to do that kinda thing over the internet.

message 34: by Jen (new)

Jen (NekoKitty) | 110 comments Ralph wrote: "I do wish books would follow in the steps of DVDs. Now, when you buy DVDs from certain companies (Disney being a big one) you get a digital copy as well. It'd be nice to buy a physical book and have it include an ebook copy as well..."


message 35: by Lori, Super Mod (last edited Jul 14, 2009 05:57PM) (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 9388 comments Mod
So many great opinions on such a tender topic.

I dont have a kindle yet. Tho I love the idea at having tons of books at my fingertips that I can buy online and download within seconds... I cant seem to give up the book-whore-dom... I love to buy books, read books, and shelve books. I like looking at books stacked on a shelf, I like the smell of books, the cover art of books, the turning of the pages....


I cannot see books going by the wayside. I really cant. I used to buy only new books from main chain stores, paying full price to support the publishing companies and the author, but lately, I am all about used book stores and book sales. I can't see spending $100 on books I could easily get for $20.

I know I am part of the problem and not the solution by doing that, however, I feel better knowing that I am rescuing an unloved, unwanted, sometimes abused book and giving it a real home. A home where it is always loved and welcomed, and displayed....

message 36: by GracieKat (new)

GracieKat (LovecraftLass) | 864 comments As I said earlier. I can't justify spending $300 on a small device solely to read books. As cheap as I can get some books from swapping and yard sales and library sales it just doesn't even out for me. Finances figure a big part in my decision (and with these tough times I don't think that I'm really alone in this).

message 37: by Janny (new)

Janny (JannyWurts) | 142 comments April wrote: "I'm not the brightest in economics, but if all these places are closing, then shouldn't they change their buisness model? I mean a lot of buisness is conducted on the internet these days, so why do..."

Most indie bookstores do have websites, and do mail order - have for years. That's not what's choked them. It's the deep discounts offered by the chains, who have "deals" muscled in with the publishers. It also has to do with the kickback system of shelving and marketing, also done by the chains.

The cd market is in trouble too, there are reasons for this. Not least, a refusal to shift business model - but also due to some oddities in the anti trust laws, where companies cannot act in concert without invoking lawsuits, also from the distributors.

It's all tangled up with old and new colliding, and the rapid pace of the information age, probably more than anyone here cares to know about.

But a great deal of why books one might actually want to READ are only found on indie shelves - mass marketing and middle men and archaic laws and practices strangle a lot of innovation (temporarily, I do believe logjams like this break open new venues, eventually).

But if you truly love books, the sweet suggestion is, for living authors and for hard working publishers, it's a smart idea to put your money where your mouth is, and back your own, individual taste because the turnover time between a new title's success and failure or an author's career is very very short, and getting shorter.

For myself, I use the library and borrow or snag used for authors I don't know, yet. I always buy the ones I truly value, and I recommend alot where a title I know seems to match a person's taste, and if they're asking.

message 38: by April (new)

April (booksandwine) | 954 comments Thanks for the explanation, Janny! Since there currently aren't any independent bookstores around me, I guess there is no website to check out. :-( Personally, I like when there is a website to check out before going to a store, so I know if they accept credit/debit card and what kind of prices to expect. I'm the type of person who never carries cash, so in situations where a debit card isn't accepted, I like to be prepared.

message 39: by Ralph (new)

Ralph (sunwriter) | 64 comments I'd love to shop at Indie stores but I can't afford it. Hardbacks at the one near me are all in the $30 range. I'd rather go on Amazon or to a chain store and pay about half that.

message 40: by Diane (new)

Diane  (DianeDJ) Grace wrote: " As I said earlier. I can't justify spending $300 on a small device solely to read books. As cheap as I can get some books from swapping and yard sales and library sales it just doesn't even out fo..."

No Grace, you are not alone. I've started using my library card much more since things have downturned. It's been fun- reminds me of when I was a kid going to the library.

message 41: by Andreea (last edited Jul 14, 2009 11:40PM) (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 117 comments Janny wrote: "But a great deal of why books one might actually want to READ are only found on indie shelves - mass marketing and middle men and archaic laws and practices strangle a lot of innovation (temporarily, I do believe logjams like this break open new venues, eventually)."

Woaw, that's harsh. Actually there is an "indie" book shop in my town, I never find all the books I need there so I'm always ordering things online, checking out bigger stores or looking through used books shops. "Indie" stores are just generally smaller and they don't hold the kind of books I need. -shrug-

I think it's ridiculous to be afraid of ebooks. Books didn't always look like they do today, and if Kindle & co. make books available to a wider audience I support them 100%.

message 42: by vicki_girl (new)

vicki_girl | 89 comments I don't buy too many new books. I tried to find a "like new" copy used. I don't worry too much about the publisher or author not getting the money, simply because they aren't getting that big a piece of the pie anyway. I can't remember exact numbers but some thing like 2/3 of the price you pay in the booktore goes to cover the stores overhead and profits. The remaining third gets split up among the distributor, publisher, and author (who usually gets the smallest slice).

I've started buying some new items direct from the publishers websites. It's usually the same price as Amazon, and I feel like my money is going to those that I actually want to suppport. And I have gotten beyond fed up with the condition of the books once they reach the store display. I have had even worse luck getting things shipped from Amazon lately. Publishers and independent sellers take much more care in packing items for shipping.

Some good places to go if you want to buy from independent sellers online: (as Fiona mentioned) (there are lots of 'buy it now' books) (I think they're considered indpendent, and they have new books with free shipping worldwide to most major countries)

Ok, I've totally hijacked this thread now, so I'll stop.

message 43: by Janny (last edited Jul 15, 2009 07:54AM) (new)

Janny (JannyWurts) | 142 comments Andreea wrote: "Janny wrote: "But a great deal of why books one might actually want to READ are only found on indie shelves - mass marketing and middle men and archaic laws and practices strangle a lot of innovati..."

Andreea, sorry, I did seem to come on a bit strong. I was not referring to the hole in the wall independent that tries to stock all catagories, but rather, the specialty store independents that often carry everything related to one genre or venue, and will keep backlist books up front on the shelves for long and long after their release, and who know their readerships' needs like old friends. It's been hard seeing this sort of store disappear, often with proprietors who gave their whole lives to their shop and the love of what they sold. This sort of treasure has been going out like lights, overrun by chains and mass-marketing.

I am not ever against books changing form or format to reach out to new readers and find other venues to express the written word - quite the contrary - if anything, I believe that current e-versions of books are priced too high, based upon their lack of overhead. Electronic and reader-formatted books could offer a fresh opportunity for people to sample lots of new books, cheaply, and take more chances on impulse buys, just as they could when mass market paperbacks were a new venue, and priced for the common pocketbook.

The topic at hand centered upon people being worried about not having printed books available - and I wished to point out, merely, if folks enjoy having printed books, it's helpful to support them, that their choices can keep them viable, and make it worthwhile for presses to produce them. Yes, the middle men are burdening the sales from publishers is a step being taken. A lot of the warehousing of the press run has been thrown back on the publishers, anyway, so why should they not have the benefit?

message 44: by Cindy (new)

Cindy (CindyReece) From the New York Times

July 15, 2009
A New World: Scheduling E-Books By MOTOKO RICH and BRAD STONE
Dan Brown’s fans have waited six long years for “The Lost Symbol,” his follow-up to the megablockbuster novel “The Da Vinci Code” that is being published in hardcover on Sept. 15.

Will those who want to read it in e-book form wait a little longer?

It is a question that Mr. Brown’s publisher, the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, is weighing as it plans the rollout of what it hopes will be a book-selling sensation. The publisher has announced a first hardcover run of five million copies, but Suzanne Herz, a spokeswoman for Knopf Doubleday, said the publisher had not decided when to release an electronic version.

Other publishers are mulling release dates for fall titles. Twelve, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing, said it had not set a date for the e-book edition of “True Compass,” the memoir by Senator Edward M. Kennedy that is being released in hardcover on Oct. 6. Twelve has announced a first print run of 1.5 million copies.

No topic is more hotly debated in book circles at the moment than the timing, pricing and ultimate impact of e-books on the financial health of publishers and retailers. Publishers are grappling with e-book release dates partly because they are trying to understand how digital editions affect demand for hardcover books. A hardcover typically sells for anywhere from $25 to $35, while the most common price for an e-book has quickly become $9.99., which sells electronic editions for its Kindle device, has effectively made $9.99 the de facto price for most best sellers, a price that publishers believe will reduce their profit margins over time. Barnes & Noble, through its Fictionwise arm, also sells best sellers in e-book form, for $9.95.

Ms. Herz said that Doubleday was primarily worried about the security of Mr. Brown’s book, which is being kept under a strict embargo until the Sept. 15 publication date. But she acknowledged that the e-book’s possible effect on hardcover sales was also an issue, among others.

Similarly, Stephen King, whose novel “Under the Dome” is being published in November by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, said in an e-mail message that “we’re all thinking and talking about electronic publishing and how to deal with these issues,” adding, “but I can’t say anything right now.”

Until now John Grisham has not allowed any of his books to be released in electronic book form. But according to his agent, David Gernert, Mr. Grisham has not resolved how his publisher, Doubleday, should release a digital version of “Ford County,” a short story collection set for hardcover release on Nov. 3.

Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for Random House, the world’s largest publisher of consumer books and the parent company of Knopf Doubleday, said that the company’s standard approach was to release e-books on the same day that a hardcover is published.

But, he said, “we do have discussions periodically about either delaying or accelerating the e-book edition” on a book-by-book basis. Imprints of Random House, in fact, have committed to releasing digital versions on the same day as the hardcovers for upcoming titles from John Irving, E. L. Doctorow and Jon Krakauer.

Many publishers did not want to talk publicly about internal discussions concerning whether to delay the release of e-books specifically on releases by best-selling authors who typically sell hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of copies in hardcover.

This fall is a particularly ripe testing ground for such discussions because many top-selling authors are publishing books. Mr. King, Michael Lewis, Michael Chabon, Barbara Kingsolver and Pat Conroy all have books scheduled.

At least one publisher has made a decision to withhold an e-book edition of a forthcoming book to preserve demand for a hardcover edition. Sourcebooks, an independent publisher, is releasing “Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse,” a novel aimed at children, in September in hardcover. It will hold back the e-book until six months later.

Dominique Raccah, chief executive of Sourcebooks, said she wanted to prevent the cannibalization of hardcover sales. “If you as a consumer can look at a book and say: ‘I have two products; one is $27.95, and the other is $9.95. Which should I buy?’ ” Ms. Raccah said, “that’s not a difficult decision.”

Ms. Raccah said that because retailers like Amazon have set the standard consumer price for e-books, the publisher could only control when a book would be released in other formats. Delaying the release of an e-book, she said, was like publishing a cheaper paperback edition months after a hardcover edition.

After The Wall Street Journal reported that Sourcebooks was delaying the e-book release of “Bran Hambric,” many bloggers criticized the publisher.

Mike Shatzkin, founder and chief executive of the Idea Logical Company, a consultant to publishers on digital issues, said he did not believe e-book buyers cannibalize hardcover sales. “People who read e-books don’t buy physical books, and people who buy physical books don’t buy e-books,” he said. E-books still represent only 1 percent to 2 percent of book sales.

For now, Amazon is taking a loss on each e-book it sells because it generally pays publishers half of the hardcover list price on new releases. So publishers who delay releasing e-books run the risk of losing sales, for which they are now getting higher margins than they are on print books.

An Amazon spokesman, Andrew Herdener, said that Kindle customers “expect new releases to be available on Kindle, and we’ll continue to work hard to meet those expectations.”

Evan Schnittman, the vice president of business development at Oxford University Press, said that the idea of concurrent editions with different prices was unsettling to publishers.

But, he said: “I don’t think you want to withhold content from the public. I’m pretty sure that when a customer decides to buy a Kindle, they are making a decision to start becoming an e-book consumer.”

message 45: by Cindy (new)

Cindy (CindyReece) I can't remember if I read it or heard it, but somewhere there was talk about publishers going straight to trade paperbacks bypassing hardbacks.

Personally I like a book in my hand...and I love finding a bargain, a hardcover for a dollar!

message 46: by Taejas (new)

Taejas Kudva (kudvat) | 77 comments I haven't been willing to put up the money for a Kindle, or rather, and more likely, a Sony eReader, but I honestly don't think they threaten physical books. And I think "threaten" is the wrong way to look at it anyway.

The bigger threat to physical paper books, in a certain sense, might be Amazon itself, because it has a tendency to WalMart its weight around with publishers, demanding lower prices on this and that. It's kind of like asking do iPods threaten the existence of CDs? Not so much, but iTunes may eventually see physical formats becoming pointless. Newer tech always displaces old. You can still by stuff on vinyl, but CDs have basically ousted records, and buying vinyl is a niche collectors market.

The cost of bringing to publication (meaning, leaving out the cost of the actual print run) a book is still very large, and there are publishers who say (which, take with a grain of salt, I have yet to see a corporation with true financial transparency) that trying to publish ebooks only for the prices Amazon asks publishers to make them available is bank breaking. At some point, they're going to put their foot down, go out of business at which the only option is self- and on demand- publishing, or alter their practices.

That said, I think ebook readers are a matter of convenience. I think one of the things that book publishers could do to mitigate the emergence of ebooks and ebook readers, if they really have any desire to do that as opposed to simply reformatting their business structures for the new paradigm (another silent g...), would be to provide ebooks with each physical book sale. I mean, right now the choice is pay cheap for one, more for the other, and the sum for both. Getting them both for the price of the physical makes that option more attractive.

If the logistics of including a hard copy of the ebook (putting a CD in the book or whatever) is too financially costly, they could easily do an authorized download model. Many dvd publishers that include "digital copies" of the movies are really just including the means to download it.

The worry, I suppose, is that you could buy the physical, download the ebook, then return the physical. Honestly, that kind of fraud already exists ptp with bittorrent, so it's a pointless worry. Most people would rather find a way to do things honestly....

message 47: by Petra Eggs (new)

Petra Eggs (PetraX) I think the ebook readers could impact in a very bad way on text books. They are absolutely ideal for text books which are expensive and heavy. The discounts given to bookshops to buy the textbooks in the first place are often pretty minimal so there is a huge used-book market for them.

If the text book market - particularly for PhD level books - is much affected, I don't see self-publishing being the option. What I do see is a lot of PhD theses not being published, the research not being in the public domain for browsing as in libraries or some bookshops. You'd have to know what you were looking for to access it. This, to me, is not at all a good thing.

message 48: by April (new)

April (booksandwine) | 954 comments From what I learned in my teaching literacy class, part of the reason why textbooks are so expensive is because the companies send out so many free copies to teachers and professors because they want the schools to order their textbooks. I'm not exactly sure how accurate that is.
500$ on textbooks to me is a waste of money. 500$ is the estimate my school gives in the semester tuition bill. If I was to spend 500$ on books (which I've probably exceeded this year), it would be on books I actually want to read and don't really mind buying new, whereas with a textbook I only buy it because I'm forced to and what is the point of keeping a textbook if the information is just going to be out of date in another year when the industry comes out with another edition.

message 49: by Cindy (new)

Cindy (CindyReece) I found the article I was looking for!

Trade paperbacks thrive in tough times

By Carol Memmott, USA TODAY
When Something Missing, Matthew Dicks' debut novel about a burglar with OCD, hits stores in July, he will join a growing number of authors whose first books are being published in trade paperback rather than hardcover.
And that's OK with Dicks.

"Ultimately, I realized that I really want as many people to read the book as possible," says Dicks, 38.

The cheaper format is a smarter business model during tough economic times, according to those who sell books or publish them.

Trade paperbacks (which are larger and more expensive than mass-market paperbacks) are typically about $14; hardcovers run about $25.

For years, booksellers and publishers have been fighting to retain their fraction of every entertainment dollar, especially those of younger consumers.

"If we want to appeal to a twentysomething audience, we have to do it at an affordable price," says Carrie Kania of HarperPerennial, which will publish a record 100 or so paperback originals this year. "And a trade paperback is the price of a new CD."

And the format is no longer considered second-best. Booksellers are happy to recommend books they like, in all formats, to their customers. Book critics are more open to reviewing them.

And the format has been a winning introduction to readers for best-selling authors such as Richard Russo, Sophie Kinsella and Jhumpa Lahiri, whose first books were paperback originals.

"There is an openness among authors and among publishers and agents that trade paperback is a viable original format for a book," says Beth de Guzman of Grand Central.

Something Missing (Broadway, $14), for example, is getting great early reviews. It's one of Borders' summer book-club picks. The film rights have been optioned.

And although purse strings may loosen once the economy turns around, trade paperbacks "make perfect sense for books that publishers are hoping will grab the attention of book clubs," says Elaine Petrocelli of Book Passage in Corte Madera, Calif.

This summer, Book Passage will be promoting numerous paperback originals to local book clubs including Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie (Picador, in stores); Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy (HarperPerennial, May 12), and Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti (Penguin, August).

Paperbacks are a way to get customers to take a chance on something new, says Bob Wietrak of Barnes & Noble.

"Consumers are willing to pay the hardcover price for an author they know and love," Wietrak says. "Trade paperbacks are an invitation to 'try me.' "

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Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (SusannaG) | 1736 comments I think I might be tempted by an ereader if I were still in school - just to cut down on the weight of the books in my bag!

If they can find a way to do color photographs, etc., in ereaders, they could make a mint off the college market, if they found the right pricepoint.

And the publishers do indeed inundate professors with free copies of books they want them to assign to students (or certainly used to) - my parents are both English professors. You would not have believed the stuff that flowed into the house!

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