Somebody asked me this question the other day--and someone else before that, and someone else. It's a hot topic with some people. And, I'm sorry to disagree with those who say the future of books is all digital, because they're wrong, and they've been proven wrong a lot. Numerous studies, polls, and industry statistics show that digital sales are flagging and have been for years, while the percentage of print sales is holding its own and even rising. The novelty of the digital book, it seems, is wearing off. And so is its perceived value.
I stopped to think about that just the other day. I mean, what's so bad about digital books? Buy a digital book, and you have access to it wherever and whenever you want. Buy a physical book, and you have access to it wherever and whenever … Oops. Never mind. Forget that one. How about this:
Buy a digital book, and gift it to a friend or leave your digital library to your heirs when you die. Buy a physical book … Oops. Never mind that one, too.
Buy a digital book, and it's yours as long as the software is kept in service. Buy a physical book and it's yours … Ouch. I missed on that one, as well.
Here's one I can't screw up. Take a physical book to the pool and drop it in the water, and you're out twenty or thirty bucks. Take a digital book to the pool and drop it ...
You know, now that I think about it, digital books really don't have that much going for them. Oh, they're handy to a degree. But they're not only less secure and less valuable than physical books by all accounts but also less comforting to read, hold, feel, thumb through, and look at on a shelf. And they need constant recharging.
But what about the value of interactive books in which the reader can actually interface real-time with the author? There, you have to admit, digital books shine. They do, at least, for one or two readers at a time. Multiply that by a thousand or even a couple dozen and see how much one-on-one time with the author you're likely to get.
Hmm. This is a tough room.
I guess, in the end, the jury has spoken. Digital books are great if you're doing research and need to search a publication in its entirety, as in when you're an author writing a book or an article on a related subject and looking for citations, quotes, and facts. I do that, myself, all the time. Outside of that, for pleasure reading, two thumbs down seems to be the concensus of the vast majority of readers.
So, I guess we need to get real here, boys and girls. Print books are, alas, here, to stay--for better or worse. At least until the next great "publishing revolution" comes along.
God help us.
D. J. Herda is author of the new eBook series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere.