Sunday, 11 March 2012

Not yet obsolete

So, the debate on the 'future of publishing and bookselling' continues on a daily basis. Predictions of doom aside, the argument changes daily as one side or the other take the view that only digital publishers will survive or that there is a significant market share for print. Never mind the 'reading differently' argument that flares between those who read regularly on an e-reader compared to those who are staying with the bound and printed book last explained by Edward Stourton in the FT and Lucy Mangan in Stylist (link to be added when I find it), though I'm with Joanna Trollope in thinking that books do furnish a room and it isn't a crisis to have tottering heaps of books on the floor. That's only a signal that you might want to sift through your collection and consider rehoming a bag or two to the nearest charity shop or selling a few on.

Step on to any commuter train, airport lounge or bus this spring and you do see rather more e-readers, that's true. It's rather like the sudden proliferation of ipods that you saw about ten years ago when more and more people found that they could use one of these shiny electronic toys and they were suddenly the accessory to be seen with. You'll also see large numbers of people leafing through a bound book or the newspaper, not to mention the scratchy top notes or thumping bass emitting from every set of headphones in the vicinity.

What I'd like to know and find some statistical analysis on, is how many people have an e-reader and don't use it. Or only use an e-reader while travelling as this is so much easier than carrying one paperback in a bag that has the 'in case I finish it' spare book tucked inside. I'd also like to know how many books people buy, borrow or download each week. Readers seem to use their library as much as they do their bookshop, depending on how close to payday it is.

Small publishers can and do survive. I might have a list that's developed slowly, but I do produce beautiful books of very high quality and that takes time. Some publishers, like me, promote the rare, the almost-forgotten and something hand-picked and interesting. I hope that isn't the fate of the printed book in years to come.


  1. It's an interesting debate. I'm not against e-readers, but I don't particularly want one. I think there is a place for both books and e-readers, but I do worry about the future of book shops.

    1. Hello - another nice reader!

      I'm more worried about the future of bookshops myself as the distribution model is changing so rapidly and moving towards author and publisher control.