By Patrick Appel
David Nygren on the future of book publishing:
For now, for most people, print is to read, and electronic is to search and browse and discover. But this will soon change. E-book reader technology is at the point where it would be acceptable to most people. All that is necessary is for the price of readers to come down (or perhaps they could be provided for free in return for an annual subscription to content) and for their use to permeate the culture (see my Amazon Kindle idea).
If the cost-savings and convenience are there, we might not have to wait for a generation or two to die off to get to this point. It could happen nearly as quickly as digital music came to dominate, though I suspect it won’t happen quite that fast since the benefits are not as great for end users.
But print will still have its place, as it should. Any person or organization that takes archiving seriously will see the value of print. Yes, it can burn, drown, etc., but on acid-free paper a book’s perpetuity is almost certainly more assured than if it is simply data on server, hard drive or disc. Apart from the conscious archivists, people may well continue to desire print copies of books that are meaningful to them. Since no additional equipment is necessary, as with musical recordings on vinyl, and since people like to collect physical things, there will still be a market for print books. We will have to pay more for them, however, and most books will printed on demand, so don’t expect to see stacks of every new title lying around in bookshops.