Lack of Apocalypse

September 24, 2015 § 13 Comments

3f1eae6279768ca1cb1237af7851fa58Like many of our readers, I’ll give up my paper books when you pry them from my cold, dead hands. I love them like I love the Oxford comma. I fill my shelves with books I adore, books I might like to read someday, and books so multiply-read I can open them at random, enjoy a section over lunch, and reshelve them without feeling incomplete.

The projected digital apocalypse worried me as both reader and writer–would having my book on paper no longer be an option when the time came? Was I just silly, as a constant traveler, to resist loading up a Kindle with everything I could possibly read on the train? Was I contributing to the coming devastation by downloading Harry Potter 7 to my phone and reading it under the covers, squinting at my close-held phone through one un-contact-lensed eye?

Apparently not.

The New York Times reports that digital sales have slowed sharply, falling by 10% in the first five months of 2015. Readers–even young digital natives–go back and forth between devices and paper. The American Booksellers Association counts more independent bookstore members in 2015 than they had five years ago.

Digital’s still strong–the statistics don’t include cheap, plentiful self-published e-books, and Amazon’s unlimited-e-book service is somewhere in the mix–but it’s nice to know print isn’t going away any time soon.

Check out the New York Times’ article here.


Allison Williams is Brevity‘s Social Media Editor. Her latest essay, “Write About Indians” is part of Drunken Boat‘s Romani Folio this month.

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§ 13 Responses to Lack of Apocalypse

  • I have a few bookshelves filled with books myself. It’s good to be prepared book wise for a Fahrenheit 451 scenario. You know just in case the zombies don’t like to read.

  • Jan Priddy says:

    Thank you. You pretty much made my day.

    • Allison K Williams says:

      Thanks for being such a faithful reader! I always appreciate you stopping by.

      • Jan Priddy says:

        “I love them like I love the Oxford comma.” I was so on board when I got to this line. And that was even before I understood your news that the paper book world was not collapsing in a firestorm of electricity!

  • koehlerjoni says:

    After reading World War Z (on my e-reader) I understood for the first time that while the Zombie apocolypse may never happen, a failure of the electrical grid on a large scale is possible. It’s always good to keep paper books at hand. And in the given Apocalypse, the Twilight series might serve to kindle our fires.

  • John says:

    I have a love/hate relationship with ebooks. I love having all the books available on my iPad, and only having to pack the iPad. As a book lover, I’m sure you’re familiar with the suitcase full of books (and, with the extra baggage & weight fees), an iPad mini solves all the mobility issues. And, then: instant gratification. I hear/read about a book (I’m a night owl), and I can immediately buy it and have it in my possession at 2am.

    That being said, reading on a device is not quite as satisfying as holding a book. And I’ve noticed that a lot of ebooks are priced a little higher than their ebook counterpoint.

    • anntieem says:

      You definitely notice the price difference if you’re a used book shopper. Sometimes the price difference between physical and digital is minute, but many times the used edition is significantly cheaper. As of now, I’m still saving my e-reading for newspapers and quick-read magazine articles.

      • John says:

        Yes, I’ve picked up quite a few used books over the years. I’m one of those weird people who like finding passages that have been highlighted by a previous reader, or notes in the margin…

        But, recently, I’ve been noticing that the physical copy of new books (physical copies) are lower than their ebook counterparts — anywhere from a few cents to several dollars.

        Of course, there’s the increased prices too. I have bought physical copies of books for $15-20, since the ebook version is around the same price. If I’m paying more than $15, I want a physical copy for certain. Having worked in the book industry for a decade, I know how much books cost to produce – and producing an ebook is quite a bit less to produce. No way am I going to pay lots of money for an ebook which cost very little to produce (I’m referring to book production, not author advances/royalties).

        I don’t mind used books at all, though there are some that I prefer to buy new. I buy a *lot* of books, so I try to shop for the best price – just like I would any other item I wanted to buy.

        I take care of my 92-year old mother, and we spend a great deal of time in waiting rooms for this or that doctor or test; I especially like my e-reader for that, as it slips easily into the small pouch on the back of her wheelchair, and I’ve always got access to read whatever I might be in the mood for. But, if I’m doing the proverbial curling up with a good book, the satisfaction level is much higher if I have a physical copy of a book. It’s the whole experience, isn’t it? The book, the sound of the pages turning, the smell of the paper and ink (and age, if it’s a used book). I’ve loved books since I was a little kid, and can’t imagine life without physical copies of books, even though there are many advantages to the ebooks — ebooks just never seem to offer quite the same level of pleasure.

      • anntieem says:

        Oh definitely. The experience of holding a book, smelling the ink, flipping the pages–it’s very rewarding. And I agree about not wanting to spend more than $15 on an ebook. While the book publishers are paying for editors and paying writers, why can’t they subtract the printing costs? I would have purchased an ereader by now if I knew I could get the same sorts of discounts on ebooks that I have on print editions.

  • C'est la vie says:

    Hi there 🙂

    Personally i reas a lot of ebooks, in fact those are all i read these days. But honestly, thats ONLY because theres no bookstore close by and being an at home mom, im pretty much confined. If given the choice I’d read prints anytime. They are so much better for the eyes compared to screens, you don’t have to worry about running out of battery and the feeling of holding a book, turning pages and forgetting to place a bookmark and then fumbling for the right page…. Nothing beats that!

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