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Are print books dying, or already dead?

January 7, 2012

This month, January, 2012, has been an eye-opener. I came to the electronic book reader business very late. I have an affinity for print books. For sixty years I’ve been in a very close relationship with them. As a youngster I lived at the local library, usually hauling the maximum limit home each week, and actually reading them.

Summer vacations were looked forward to as an opportunity to read even more books, I didn’t have school interfering with my reading time. I would argue that I learned far more on my own than I ever did in the organized school system, but that is another topic for another time.

Books were my education. We’ve had this long-term relationship that is so intertwined. My spouse accuses me of being a “pack rat,” and maybe, just maybe, to some degree I am. I don’t like to part with things. However, the writing is on the wall, and it certainly is in large print: PRINT BOOKS ARE DYING. They’re not just dying, they’re dying at an epidemic rate. I hate to see this happen, and I fear for all of my bookstore friends; it’s their livelihood.

This situation is similar to what happened to people that used to make wagon wheels at the start of the 20th century. Wooden wagon wheels were on practically every vehicle in existence, which was primarily the horse drawn carriage. Along came the automobile. Initially, the automobile used wooden wheels as well, but that business quickly faded as the steel wheel replaced it. Overnight the wooden wheel practically disappeared. If those making wooden wheels didn’t switch technology quickly and get into the steel wheel business, they were out of work.

I’m afraid that is the situation today. I believe that the electronic reader is here to stay and that the print book will no longer be with us in significant numbers. It will no doubt be around as a novelty, such as in brightly colored children’s books, coloring books and coffee-table books, but the mainstream book will be the e-book.

What inspired these thoughts? I just checked my sales for the first five days of this month and Kindle copies of my book, THREE HUNDRED ZEROES are selling at a rate of 38:1 over the print version. I was amazed a few months ago when it was selling at a rate of 6:1 and now that ratio has increased to over six times as many!!!

If you’re an author and you haven’t gotten your book into electronic medium, then I would warn that you don’t know what you’re missing, and your readers are missing your book.

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