now incorporating the Sudbury Hill and Wood End Times

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stick your ebooks

Letters

Re: Amazon and Waterstones report downloads eclipsing printed book sales (Guardian)

Apart from the low pricing - the bestselling "ebook" cited is 49p to download - one factor not mentioned is that because these are online booksellers, it is natural for electronic books to be their default product. You probably could not get "an eBook for your Kindle"* from a high street bookshop. So it's not surprising when they find that electronic downloads are overtaking their sales of real books.

For high street bookshops, presumably ebook sales are zero. So if the electronic sites go over more to ebook sales, it might indirectly help traditional bookshops. Unfortunately, Amazon has the power like supermarkets to buy the market and force small local competitors out of business. But real books are not going to go away, ever. The sort of things being offered now are like the early digital watches: a backward step for the sake of technology, masquerading as progress.

People may be downloading cheap or free ebooks (though free ones are not included in the statistics above) but I have yet to hear convincing reports of anyone enjoying the reading experience with them. Reading is not something like laundry that has to be done as a chore where mechanisation is a help and a relief. It's a specific respite from technobabble, gadgets and the flim-flam of workaday life.

You can bet your life that people will always want to take a glass of wine or a cup of coffee (not delivered via a throwaway injector direct into the veins), a book and a part of their own day to devote to the mindful pursuit of reading a book.

Empanada Solero, Chiswick

* I think it is unlikely that any medium with such ugly words associated ("ebook" and "kindle" - as a device) will last. [Ed]

4 comments:

Vanessa Gebbie said...

I felt the same. Then I thought o wot the hell I ought to find out for myself, so got one for Christmas. They are OK. Know what, they are just books. The same but different. It is not the same experience, but it is just as engrossing, when reading a page-turner. Thats what I think will happen - commercial/genre work will gather on e books, and lit will be less popular. But who knows, thats just one person musing.

Poetry is hopeless on ebook, by the way. I bought an expensive Heaney collection - should not have bothered. The poems dont sit right on the 'pages'

rainbow spike said...

i think it may have been Paul Morley who said something to the effect of 'when you have a Kindle and a book it is the book which seems to be of the future'.

Ossian said...

When you have a Kindle (I hate having to use its name, it's definitely about book burning - they burn the book into the memory, but I don't find it amusing) and you download a novel, you then have a Kindle and a novel. You still don't have a book.

Ossian said...

It's also worth bearing in mind that online booksellers have a vested interest in claiming that ebooks are taking over. In fact they have a vested interest in eradicating printed books because they can then control the market for reading at little or no cost for materials and delivery.