Thursday, 6 January 2011
The writing on the (digital) wall
Recently, while travelling from JFK International Airport to Dubai I spotted something very interesting – a 40 plus mother and her teenaged son, both of whom seemed to be avid readers. Ever curious to know what they were reading, I glanced at them from time to time. The mother was holding a paperback edition of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. But try as much as I would I couldn’t guess what the son was immersed in, as he was reading a digital book, perhaps from a Sony reader. Later, when I boarded the plane I saw another young woman, a college student perhaps, reading from her iPad.
Looks like the digital revolution has well and truly caught up with the world of reading, I thought to myself.
All signs apparently point to the fact that 2010 will go down in history as the most significant year in publishing in modern times. Statistically, 95 per cent of all books sold no more than 5000 copies in the last year. In fact, several publishers were said to delay eBooks to help the hardcover titles sell. Others inflated prices online but gave deep discounts at real booskstores.
Small and independent publishers, on the other hand, were forced to embrace the digital technology as any profit was better than no profit at all. Social networking sites and blogs came in handy, as self-publishers could directly pitch to readers without any extra cost of advertising.
The reason why the iSlate—capable of accessing and containing audio, video, and both static and dynamic text—and Sony readers, along with iPhone have been embraced by the reading public is that these devices are sleek, easily portable and they allow people to carry hundreds of books with them. Even better, due to the use of eInk technology, they don’t cause eye strain or discomfort, a common problem one faces while reading online.
In a 2008 survey, some 40 per cent of 1,000 industry professionals surveyed said digital content would overtake traditional printed book sales by 2018. But it might be sooner than anticipated.
For me personally, it’s an unthinkable idea, at least for now. I’m attached to my books, for their smell, familiarity and the tactile experience they offer. It can’t compete with the cold, detached feel of an electronic reader, can it? But when you weigh the advantages, who knows?