Personal Thoughts on the Future of the Printed Word
I am working on long-standing idea for a book on the management of information technology and computer projects. I was thinking about the form it should take and to make the decision whether to publish it myself as an e-book or to find a traditional publisher for a print version.
Or, should I do a concise e-book with an extended print version?
In the summer of 2010 Amazon reported that they were selling more e-books than hardback books; approaching twice as many. That is despite the fact that many readers of fiction will not have e-readers, tablet pc or even smartphones. As much fiction is read away from a desk, computers, even laptops, do not provide a good reading experience so one can see a future, for now, for printed fiction. However, readers of business books increasingly have smartphones, iPad or other tablet PCs and are used to getting information delivered to their computer.
It raises the question as to whether there is any future for the business or professional book in traditional form on paper. They are bulky and heavy whereas the business user could carry their entire library with them if it is in electronic form. With more work being done away from the office this becomes a useful facility for those that need frequent access to reference material.
E-readers or reading software have the facility for bookmarks, search and annotation so the practical advantages of the traditional book are much reduced. The gaps will continue to close and readers will find new ways of using electronic books that are not possible with print on paper.
As a passionate reader of traditional books I have reservations as I enjoy the tactile pleasure of real books. I enjoy browsing physical reference books and letting serendipity guide my reading. But, I only need to look at my own habits to see the writing is on the wall for the traditional reference or business book. I use a traditional dictionary or encyclopaedia much less often than previously. As I write straight into my computer it is only a few key strokes to search online. It is the same for a lot of other fact checking although one has to be careful about finding online sources with real authority. I get frustrated when working away from my desk because I do not have access to my library. Due to lifestyle changes I spend more of my time working in non-traditional ways and places, this was written in a coffee shop, so the problem is growing.
Despite my preference for the physical book, I am working my way through the classic fiction that I have never read and I am doing it on Kindle using free electronic versions downloaded from Project Gutenberg and Amazon. I miss a paper copy but not so much that I would buy these titles; anyway I am running out of shelf space.
So, in the two and a half years since I wrote More to Reference Books than Just Online we have seen a rapid demise of the traditional book especially with regard to reference books, business and professional non-fiction. I have mixed feelings; I will enjoy the convenience but miss the more tactile experience of the printed book. Now I just need to find a way to get the content of my bookshelves on to my computer; perhaps publishers should offer a deal; an e-book version at nominal cost for owners of a printed copy.
Adieu to the memory of Gutenberg and Caxton.