Will Printed Books Disappear? Stephen King On The Future Of The Traditional Paper Book

Stephen King - header

The book industry was rocked to its foundations last month when Tim Waterstone, founder of UK bookstore chain Waterstones, predicted the end of the eBook revolution in the UK.  According to ‘The Telegraph’ he insists that the eBook is a declining fad, and that traditional printed paper books are not only as strong as ever, but are here to stay.

Tim“The product is so strong, the interest in reading is so deeply rooted in the culture and human soul of this country that it is immovable. The traditional, physical book is hanging on. I’m absolutely sure we will be here in 40 years’ time.”  Tim Waterstone

What Does Stephen King Think?

When asked whether fiction books in the future would remain the same as they are now, the bestselling author replied unequivocally:  “Absolutely they will not.”

In this 2 minute video, Stephen King reveals his thoughts on writing, whether traditionally printed paper books will survive, and also what will happen to book store chains.
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Do I Agree With Tim Waterstone, Or Stephen King?

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

I was brought up with paper books, and I’m permanently addicted to their texture and feel.  I love them, obsessively.

To the right is the cover of a richly illustrated book ‘The Invention Of Hugo Cabret’ by Brian Selznick that I bought recently.  It’s a beautiful, tactile and desirable object I can pick up and riffle through.

Even more rewarding is that I can display one of my own works with pride on my coffee table, give one to a friend, or present a signed copy to a colleague – like a business card on steroids.

Furthermore, I see libraries full of whispering readers as great temples to the importance of the printed word.

But… I’m not immune to reality

On Amazon, eBooks are crushing traditionally printed paper books.  In fact, according to Sci-Fi writer Hugh Howey on his ‘Author Earnings’ site, 86% of the top 2,500 genre fiction best-sellers in the Amazon store are e-books.

Pink Kindle

And for the top bestsellers, the dominance of e-books is even more startling: 92% of the top-100 best-selling books are e-books.

The reason for this is the uber-low price of eBooks, instant accessibility and the convenience of carrying hundreds of books in one small reader device.

Given this evidence, I suspect Stephen King is correct, because as he points out, a story will transcend any current media.

The bottom line is that irrespective of whether traditional printed books survive, or eBooks rule the literary cosmos, you’ll still be required to promote them.

My intention is to help guide you through the coming steel cage death-match between eBooks and traditional books with blog posts, my Twitter and Blogging guides, and the other tutorials I’m creating.

Where do you feel the future of paper books lies?  I’d be interested to know your opinion.

Which path are you taking with your own books? Do you think eBooks will win? Or paper books?  Please do leave a comment.

Jonathan Gunson

Article written by Jonathan Gunson

Author / Book Marketing Coach 

 

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Comments

  • April 10, 2014 at 7:15am

    Both digital and print books have their places. We are in a state of confusion because the equilibrium point has not yet been reached. Once that happens, the whole debate will become pointless. Speaking personally, I cannot imagine life with either form of book missing.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 9:24am

      Venkatesh
      I heartily wish that what you say was true! But the greatest illusion of all is that both types of book will eventually settle down and co-esist in ‘equilibrium’ as you put it, presumably based on ‘reader preference’.

      Unfortunately the harsh reality is that the majority of readers will not continue to pay an expensive premium for paper books, because what they really buy is the story, not the delivery mechanism such as a printed book. This is the central point Stephen King makes in the video.

      Survival of paper also comes down to (a) whether there will be any book stores left to sell them and (b) whether there will be any publishers left to publish them.

      Sadly, the disintegration of both has already begun, because below a certain sales level (that in the majority of instances has already been reached) book stores begin to fail, and like dominoes, the publishers who rely on them to survive will also fail. Ergo, no paper books, other perhaps than limited specialty editions from dedicated boutiques.

      ~Jonathan

      • Madam Truefire says:
        April 10, 2014 at 2:39pm

        Since the time of the cave dwellers man AND woman have been scrawling on hard and soft surfaces, even messages in the sand. Point being: either uber whatever psyber and printed hard cover cool books will remain undaunted. The story is the story. I do both. My grandson and I burned through (no pun intended) all volumes of the Narnia Chronicles in less than 3 weeks. We were a force majeure and used both hard copy and Ebook format.
        The fauns and minotaurs didn’t care

        and as for Stephen King interview: You go, Stephen! Toilet dry outs RULE!
        Fabulous interview, loved every minute, or shall I say, microbit?

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          April 10, 2014 at 10:29pm

          Madam Truefire
          You have it all sussed :)
          ~ Jonathan

    • April 10, 2014 at 10:52am

      I absolutely agree with you. I’m in the process of updating my first book and have decided to do it on eBook only (despite the fact that it’s not fiction).

      • Jonathan Gunson says:
        April 10, 2014 at 10:59am

        Gwynne
        There’s nothing King Canute about you then. Right up with the play.
        ~ Jonathan

    • April 10, 2014 at 12:22pm

      I totally agree. When Amazon first introduced Kindle I was aghast. So in love with the tactile feel of traditional paper books.
      I succumbed, eventually and downloaded the app for my tablet. I have now fallen in love with the e-book as well, for all the usual reasons.
      That choice dominated my buying while the novelty wore off, and now I find that I love both types equally.
      I have noticed that I have dramatically increased the amount of books I buy on the whole. I have even fallen in love with audio-books too. I can now read all the time I’m not writing.

      • Jonathan Gunson says:
        April 10, 2014 at 12:25pm

        Michael
        What you’re really loving is a storyteller’s story yes?
        ~ Jonathan

        • April 10, 2014 at 12:58pm

          A Story tellers story is ultimately what we all want to read from whatever source, but my point is that the advent of e books has encouraged reading in general.
          I think reading has become more fashionable than ever which is great for authors on all formats.

          • Jonathan Gunson says:
            April 10, 2014 at 1:09pm

            Michael
            Amazon’s own stats show that total readership has increased dramatically especially in the young.
            ~ Jonathan

    • April 10, 2014 at 4:36pm

      I always enjoy reading this blog. I don’t think the state of books is gone. Maybe the way books are sold in bookstores. Although, I still enjoy getting lost in the stacks and finding something new and wonderful. I do think, however, that the hardbound book is gone. I wouldn’t buy a hardbound book unless it was an author I was collecting or wanted to read beyond the life of a paperback book. I have some of Steven King’s best. How many of you have read Misery more than once?

      • Jonathan Gunson says:
        April 10, 2014 at 10:31pm

        Thanks DJ
        Re “I wouldn’t buy a hardbound book unless… “ There lies the demise of paper books.

    • April 11, 2014 at 5:06pm

      Personally I think that printed books will survive the onslaught of technical forms, there are far too many people who love the feel and smell paperbacks. Also, the older generation appear to shy away from the kindle etc. Of course we have those that cannot perhaps afford to purchase these machines. I have self-published my Irish crime novels on Amazon as finding an agent/publisher is such a lengthy process.

      • Jonathan Gunson says:
        April 12, 2014 at 12:41am

        Great thoughts re the love of paper books Robert, you’ve mirrored my own feelings.
        Unfortunately, the reality is that because book stores are disappearing every day, thanks to the rise of Amazon and the Kindle, the traditional print publishers who rely on them to distribute are disappearing too. The eventual result will be plain to see – mass production of paper books will cease.
        Furthermore, there won’t be a slowly sliding scale of fewer and fewer paper books being produced for those who still ‘like’ them. Nope. Below a certain tipping point (which is here already in many cases) book stores suddenly become economic and close.
        Here instead is the most likely future scenario for paper books:
        Why Children Hold The Key To Your Future As An Author
        http://bestsellerlabs.com/why-children-hold-the-key-to-your-future-as-an-author/
        ~ Jonathan

    • April 12, 2014 at 6:33pm

      I full agree with Venkatesh following opinion. She wrote:

      Both digital and print books have their places. We are in a state of confusion because the equilibrium point has not yet been reached. Once that happens, the whole debate will become pointless. Speaking personally, I cannot imagine life with either form of book missing.

      Printed books have been around for ages. Printed books and e-books have their own irreplaceable unique characters.

      Hanafi Daud

      • April 12, 2014 at 6:36pm

        Sorry for the typo that I could not edit on my previous comment. “full agree” should be “fully agree”

        Thank you,

        Hanafi Daud

      • Jonathan Gunson says:
        April 13, 2014 at 5:14am

        Hanafi

        I don’t think you read my reply to Venkatesh. So let me repeat: No matter how irreplaceable or beautiful you think paper books are, no amount of wishful thinking can save them if not enough people buy them – no matter how much you say “I’ll never give them up.”

        Unfortunately the harsh reality is that the majority of readers will not continue to pay an expensive premium for paper books, because what they really buy is the story, not the delivery mechanism such as a printed book. This is the central point Stephen King makes in the video.

        Survival of paper also comes down to (a) whether there will be any book stores left to sell them and (b) whether there will be any publishers left to publish them.

        Sadly, the disintegration of both has already begun, because there is an irreversible tipping point, a certain sales level below which book stores begin to fail, (that in the majority of instances has already been reached) and like dominoes, the publishers who rely on them to survive will also fail. Ergo, no paper books, other perhaps than limited specialty editions from dedicated boutiques.

        ~Jonathan

        • April 14, 2014 at 12:17pm

          I keep waiting for one of the big five publishers to start their own bookstores in big cities to re-establish their brand, dodge Amazon and showcase their books sort of following the Apple model.

          • Jonathan Gunson says:
            April 14, 2014 at 9:43pm

            Tony
            Akin to starting a horse and cart company to compete with Henry Ford.
            ~ Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 10:25am

    Can anyone really predict the future for paperbacks? We all can only hope that the first love (paperback) will remain intact. However, eBooks have taken a chunk away from books stores and in light of technology, will continue to do so.
    All a writer can do is soar on with the story.

    Mary L. Ball
    Inspiration author

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 10:53am

      Mary
      Soar! That’s the spirit.
      ~ Jonathan
      P.S. Even Penguin the inventors of the paperback say it will eventually disappear.

  • April 10, 2014 at 10:27am

    I think Jonathan has a point. I don’t doubt that there will be a desire for the printed book for many years to come – particularly the coffe table kind that features lots of beautiful or interesting photos. And, as Stephen King points out, you can’t flip through the pages of a Kindle book to find what you’re looking for (although I expect that searching will become easier as the technology improves). But as people buy fewer printed books, their cost can only increase, making the market even smaller. I believe they will become a luxury item in the coming years. As a die-hard tree hugger, I don’t see that as a bad thing!

    I can’t say whether (or how) publishing houses will have survived a generation or two from now. As an author of self-help books, my focus is primarily on the ebook market. Rather than entertainment, my market is about helping people solve problems. When those problems are intense enough, they want that help NOW. With an ebook, they can start reading within a minute. Instant gratification, without ever leaving your computer screen. What more could I ask for?

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 11:02am

      Stephanie
      You’ve squarely hit the nail. Instant gratification is a powerful driver, especially these days, quite apart from the price consideration.
      ~ Jonathan

  • James Loftus says:
    April 10, 2014 at 10:29am

    Great to hear Stephen King’s thoughts, one of my all time favourite writers.

    I have a day job, hospital wardsman, and I see all around me the ascendancy of the Kindle. For me though nothing can replace a book, there are in my blood.

    I’ll be like one of those old guys driving around in a vintage car,

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 10:58am

      James
      Yes, new books are increasingly ‘e’. So paper books are likely to all be exclusively ‘vintage’. I don’t like it, but perhaps we can both resist the inevitable and become curiosities, chuntering around in our aging machines, dreaming of the glory days :).
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 10:34am

    Very insightful thoughts here that should be of concern to anyone in the business of writing and publishing. Well, my take is that I still see paperbacks around for sometime, whether they will eventually be ‘extinguished’ is another matter. In Nigeria for example, the population of e-users is still very low (though growing). To this extent, paperback authors still have some milking years ahead. But it will not be a bad idea to start getting in the main stream of e-publications so that when the bubble bursts (if it does, like it is expected to do), they will still be able to stay afloat. Jonathan I am going to need a lot of help in this regard. Not yet on any ebook marketing platform. Just started the registration process on Createspace.com.
    Cheers.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 10:54am

      Abiodun
      As well as Createspace you’ll be on Kindle too I assume? That’s where the huge market resides.
      ~ Jonathan

  • Donna Frano says:
    April 10, 2014 at 10:41am

    Just remember, as Amazon continues to point out to us all, you don’t really OWN those eBooks at all. http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/gadgets/you-dont-own-your-kindle-books-amazon-reminds-customer-f1C6626211

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 10:48am

      Donna
      Very good point indeed. I’m thinking of all the dangerous downstream ramifications, although it’s perfectly possible to keep your book in many formats other than Amazon’s – they don’t own those.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 10:45am

    It is hard for me to imagine that printed books will ever truly die when I have folks who insist on physically having signed copies and others who, if they like the book, order more copies to give away as gifts. I have had people order ten signed copies to give as Christmas prezzies and I cannot imagine what an author would do at a “book signing” without a physical book to sign. I know many people, myself included, who love nothing better than to give and receive books as gifts. Perhaps it will become a niche market, but I doubt it will entirely disappear until there are no more trees to print them. Perhaps a bit of whimsy but it is a belief I can’t entirely relinquish.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 11:05am

      Connie
      Wistful, whimsical thoughts yes. There is always the book as art form, so I expect that the printed book will be around 30 – 40 years from now, but only as you say in niche markets, not mainstream.
      ~ Jonathan

    • April 10, 2014 at 6:57pm

      As an author who sells entirely online, here’s how I handle signings.
      For print books, I have specially designed self-adhesive bookplates for each of my books, which I will sign and mail to anyone who asks, which they can stick into their book.

      For ebooks, there is http://www.authorgraph.com, which I’ll leave you to research and investigate on your own.

      With these two methods, I can actually reach more readers who want signed books, and for a smaller investment of my time – so I can use the leftover time writing my next book.

      • Jonathan Gunson says:
        April 10, 2014 at 10:24pm

        A M J
        A brilliant idea – a unique and effective way to build a mailing list of interested readers to whom you can launch your next book. Very clever indeed.
        ~ Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 10:48am

    Thanks Jonathan, great interview with Stephen King – I especially liked “when you drop a kindle in the toilet, you’re done!”

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 10:50am

      Diane
      Yes that’s my favorite part of the interview too. He actually makes a good point re the fragility of eBook readers.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 11:31am

    In the near future, I believe nonfiction books will still be read mostly as physical books. They can become reference books on your shelf. Fiction is more easily and quickly purchased and consumed as a one-time use as an e-book. I expect that in the long run, paper books will become like music on vinyl records — mostly replaced by an electronic form, but still loved, kept, and used by a minority who appreciate the sound fidelity in the music and the tactile pleasure and ability to easily flip pages in a real book.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 11:39am

      Wyn
      I suspect the future lies somewhere in between.

      Regarding reference books: People used to go to the library, or dig into their own shelves to do research, but they just jump onto Google now.

      That was why Encyclopedia Britannica collapsed. No-one wanted the paper editions any longer.

      And with fiction paper books, yes agree re the vinyl record analogy – perfect parallel. I have a large number of them, but my turntable died last week. I had not used it for a year because everything new is on CD or MP3. But out of curiosity, I tried it out. Kaput. I am tossing up whether to even bother having it repaired.
      ~Jonathan

      • Norm Huard says:
        April 10, 2014 at 12:38pm

        Before tossing the turntable, check the drive belt. Could be that it has dried out in the last position it stopped in. If so, replace it, if you can find a replacement. Google will help you.

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          April 10, 2014 at 12:43pm

          Thanks Norm
          The turntable spins just fine, but the sound is faint. The amp works fine for CD and the old cassettes still, so I’m thinking cables or connections possibly.
          ~ Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 11:37am

    I have a love/hate relationship with e-books. As a reader I have to say that nothing compares with a traditional paper book. From the cover (which sometimes is a beautiful thing to behold) to the ease with which one can flick through, to find a certain passage. However as a writer I have to say “Thank God” for the e-book without which countless Indie Authors would remain unpublished. Long live the book in whichever format.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 11:42am

      Maureen
      “Long live the book”.
      There’s no chance of story disappearing. Whatever the delivery mechanism, It will always be with us because of the insatiable human desire for STORY.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 11:46am

    I still have paper books, but I prefer them on Kindle now due to space constraints. I simply have no more room for “real” books. Also, consider moving your collection, which I’ve done three times in three years; HEAVY! The Kindle lets me move 2500 books with no effort at all.

    I like paper and virtual. I’m not fond of audio yet. I don’t listen as well as I thought I did!

    Oh, and King’s remark about dropping the Kindle in the toilet? All my books are safe at Amazon. I order another Kindle and voila! I have my entire collection again, intact. That book I dropped in the toilet has wrinkled, wavy pages and now looks weird. ;)

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 11:51am

      Theo
      Just picked myself up off the floor again Sir. Very amusing.
      ~ Jonathan

    • April 10, 2014 at 2:39pm

      But now the book has “character,” right? ;) I know what you mean about moving books–I ended up with 15-20 small boxes of my books, a lot of them textbooks, but I packed them light enough for little tiny me to pick up. It wasn’t a problem, and I’ve moved 2-3 times in the last 5 years. No, the real problem was the aquariums, one a 90 gallon all-glass, the other a 65 gallon all-glass with remnant sand and water. Two of us carried those down two flights of tight, windy stairs. I had a LOT of bruises. I’ll take moving the books any day.

      • Jonathan Gunson says:
        April 10, 2014 at 10:33pm

        Charlotte
        You were moving aquariums down the stairs? I would have had my eyes shut tight while that was happening.
        ~ Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 11:49am

    I think it was Seth Godin who said that a book is a container for ideas and the container has changed.

    With each new invention naysayers predict the death of the previous “new thing.” Since the story, idea, or information is what matters, it is to our advantage to embrace and adapt to the new container, and discover ways to incorporate the old. TV was not the death of radio, nor DVDs the death of movie theaters. Computers are not the death of paper, no matter how hard we’re being pushed to go paperless. And the internet is certainly not the end of communication, just the opposite in fact. As a reading instructor and parent I’m pleased that computer access has increased written communication, whether via email, social media or texting.

    Bookstores as we know them may be diminishing, but books will not disappear, nor will writers. The Gutenberg Press made the written word affordable and accessible to readers and increased the opportunity for writers to share their stories and messages. Digital publishing is having similar benefits for readers and writers.

    I welcome the blurring of the line between bookstores, libraries and access to books.

    A literary-themed coffee shop, The Ink and Bean Coffee Saloon and Wordshop, a haven for writers and a gathering place for readers recently opened in my town. The inviting decor sets the tone: antique typewriters displayed in cubby holes on one wall, writing accessories available for sale on another, and an Airstream converted to a library trailer in the parklet in front invites us to “take a book, leave a book.” Events such as book signings, storytelling, story contests and classic radio night, indicate that book lovers were involved in the planning. The fact that the baristas serve awesome coffee and treats with a smile ensures return visits.

    As writers we can’t afford to see print and ebooks as competitors.They are indeed just different delivery systems. My plan is to serve my readers by allowing them to choose how they want to consume my writing.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 12:10pm

      Flora

      What a great atmosphere you describe… verging on the bohemian!

      I agree that we want to give our readers the choice of paper or eBooks, yes, but that assumes they are equal delivery systems. They are not. One is FAR cheaper, far quicker to buy, far more portable.

      So while we want to give our readers the choice, if traditional books become uneconomic to produce, they will simply disappear.

      You also paint a lovely picture of life as it should be – ‘The Ink and Bean Coffee Saloon and Wordshop,’

      Delicious idea… I want to visit. But the reality may turn out otherwise I fear.

      There isn’t a sliding scale of fewer and fewer paper books being produced until just a handful are being produced for those who still like them. Instead there’s a tipping point below which it suddenly becomes uneconomic for book stores to stay open at all. We are well along that road now, hence the demise of Borders a while back. And without bookstores, the traditional publishers of paper books who rely on them will vanish like the mist.

      ~ Jonathan

      • April 10, 2014 at 2:54pm

        Yes, BUT… a losing market can still exist if it’s paired and supported by a market that’s almost pure profit, with little or no overhead. This can actually become an economical arrangement if the people buying into the losing market, are also exposed to and buying from the winning market. In addition to the winning market’s fanbase, some profit will also come in from a fanbase that might not have bothered if the losing market wasn’t also present to draw them in. This way both markets can coexist, although the provider might not make nearly as much as they could with only the winning market. But it does keep a wider fanbase happy, yes? I never liked the greedy schmucks who focused only on profit, anyways.

        I believe this was the case with Amazon Prime, which was losing a lot of money on shipping cost but was supported by Amazon’s other profitable ventures. Correct me if I’m wrong–I might be misremembering the exact circumstances. And I know quite a few happy Prime members who keep coming back to Amazon for not just Prime, but it’s profitable ventures as well.

        This is part of the reason why I have to disagree that print books will vanish entirely, and why I do believe it’s something of a sliding scale. But, if we all agreed on everything, it wouldn’t be an interesting discussion, right? And someone has to fight for the books. (‘m not part of the older, “attached,” generation either–let’s say I’m in my 20′s and grew up with a lot of this technology and still refuse to rely too much on it. Then again, you really couldn’t rely on technology in Alaska, where the simplest methods won. I’d definitely take a book on a boat trip over a Kindle, which doesn’t like ocean spray or fish slime).

        I know I’ve posted a lot, but this is a topic I feel strongly about. And I have eyedrops. Hooray!

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          April 10, 2014 at 11:36pm

          Charlotte
          Please post as often as you wish. Great contribution to this community.
          ~ Jonathan

      • Albert says:
        April 11, 2014 at 6:37pm

        I take issue with the idea that ‘ebooks are cheaper to buy’. In many cases, particularly outside the USA, the opposite is true. In the UK, for example, tax is charged on ebooks – but not on printed books. And it is almost always the case that a new book by an established author is priced the same on either delivery vehicle

        What IS true, however, is that ‘publishers’ are ceasing to control the market place and many independent writers put out their work on ebooks. Sadly, that frequently means that a) ebooks are short – 20-40 pages long and b) they are often badly edited, badly written and not worth the money paid, even when they are free.

        Until ebooks can maintain the formatting of a printed book they will present difficulties. Take the original printing of “Alice Through the Looking Glass”. There are illustrations there, especially the one of Alice passing through the mirror, which just don’t work unless they are in the correct position on the page. I understand that, in many ‘e-formats’ there are difficulties in the presentation of tables, columns, etc. Until such problems are overcome I expect (and hope) that books will be with us for a very long time.

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          April 12, 2014 at 12:23am

          Albert

          My perspective is that the price of eBooks will fall to way below that of paper books on average.

          The formatting issues you mention though unfortunate, don’t actually have much influence at all, because readers don’t give a fig about formatting – as long as it’s basically tidy. They’re infinitely more interested in the story which is the main point Stephen King is making.

          Lastly, I agree about the huge amount of rubbish that is being produced.

          Fortunately, writing quality is self regulating. Trashy, poorly written books are not exclusive to the 21st century. In fact they’ve represented the majority since before the time of Dickens who abhorred the dominant ‘penny dreadfuls’ of the day. Readers soon sort out the wheat from the chaff, and the better books rise to the top through word of mouth and win out. It’s the way most books are sold, and is how Hemingway, Dickens, Atwood, Rowling, and a host of others became known.

          The process continues to this day; The ocean of sludge soon empties out leaving a far smaller choice of basically written popular titles at one end e.g. ’50 shades’ by E.L James, and well written Booker prize winners at the other. e.g. ‘The Remains of the Day’ by Kazuo Ishiguro.

          ~ Jonathan

    • April 10, 2014 at 2:28pm

      Spot on. I agree with you 100%. Besides, if Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg goes away, bury me ’cause I’ll be dead. I’d post a link to its awesomeness, but it shows up on Google. Just search it.

      • Jonathan Gunson says:
        April 12, 2014 at 12:25am

        Charlotte
        Sound’s rather ‘King Canute’ to me. (Tried to rule that the tide shall not come in today.)
        ~ Jonathan

  • Sue Brown says:
    April 10, 2014 at 11:56am

    As a reader I love having the option of both printed books and ereaders, and I hope print books survive, because the feel of cracking open a new book is a feeling unlike no other.

    However as a writer I have a completely different feeling. My genre, still relatively in its infancy, has grown entirely because of ereaders and booksellers like Amazon. I can walk into a bookshop and know that I will never see a single book from my genre on the shelves, but the same store online will stock me.

    My publisher who started seven years ago was in the forefront of the digital ebook revolution and big names in the industry come to her for advice.

    At the moment you don’t have to choose print or ebook. You can have both. In the future print may fade, but print on demand can be an available option.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 12:15pm

      Sue
      Interesting how we think what we’re attached to and like will have a bearing on market reality yes? Instead it is down to the book buyers to create the market, and they are increasingly choosing ‘e’.
      ~ Jonathan

      • Sue Brown says:
        April 10, 2014 at 12:20pm

        As you say readers are picking ebooks and it is easy to see why. I thank them. They pay my bills.

  • April 10, 2014 at 12:10pm

    My fifteen-year-old daughter still prefers a physical book, despite having a kindle. My gut feeling says the Kindle and similar devices will continue to increase and that it isn’t a fad, but I hope that printed books still exist, as it would be a great loss not to have the option.

  • Christie Rich says:
    April 10, 2014 at 12:12pm

    Hi Jonathan. Thanks for the interesting article!

    I’ve become an ebook lover. They are easier to read, and don’t hurt my hands to keep open. On that note, the idea that your ebooks are lost if the reader dies is false. I have access to all my purchases online at Amazon or Smashwords and can send that file to another device as I wish, to a point. I’ve also learned a file can only be on a couple devices before I’ve been asked to purchase another copy or remove the file from one of the current devices I use. Which leads me to another point. I can read an ebook on my computer, ereader, tablet, or smart phone. I have many choices of convenience I didn’t have in the past. I still love the look of a printed book. I think a bookshelf full of colorful artwork is beautiful. There’s nothing like seeing stacks and stacks of the printed word. It would be a shame to lose all printed work, but the idea that I can carry around an entire library is thrilling to me. I suspect it is the same for others. I think reader preference will win out, and who knows when the ebook will be upstaged. Stephen King is right that the delivery system doesn’t matter. The story does, and people will always be drawn to stories, no matter how they are told.

  • Jonathan Gunson says:
    April 10, 2014 at 12:18pm

    Christie
    Quoting you; “Stephen King is right that the delivery system doesn’t matter. The story does, and people will always be drawn to stories, no matter how they are told.
    Yes, there lies the reality of publishing today.
    ~ Jonathan

  • Leslie says:
    April 10, 2014 at 12:25pm

    I was a hard convert to ebooks, but now I prefer them. I simply don’t have room for all my books in print form. Of course, it’s nice to have art books and classic books so you can just pick them up and thumb through them, but for most other types, ebooks are great.

    Plus, the current system of printing and remaindering paper books is wasteful and inefficient! I can see print books moving to print on demand, as they should.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 12:31pm

      Leslie
      Re ‘Print on demand’. I can’t see that disappearing, although cost will keep it on the back burner I expect when readers come to choosing which to buy.
      ~ Jonathan

  • Julius says:
    April 10, 2014 at 12:46pm

    When I was a child I read a lot of science-fiction stories (still do). I remember reading about futuristic video-telephones. Thirty years later it’s not a big deal to videochat on your smartphone. As the technology advances, more and more people will be comfortable with the new forms of reading, and the balance will shift towards e-books. Paper books will remain, we will have beautifully printed ones which we will show to our friends as we do with vinyl LP-os of old bands. It’s just matter of time.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 12:55pm

      Julius
      We share an experience in recalling futuristic video phones from science fiction stories. I even have the car licence plate Sci Fi! I made science fiction TV series a few years back. Working in it once again now. Here’s a little of the creative work I’ve produced: http://JonathanGunson.com
      ~ Jonathan

  • Jackie Rod says:
    April 10, 2014 at 1:10pm

    Jonathan,
    I have been a Kindle fan for four years, but when I’m at home I read paper books. The ebook industry has continued to grow while the number of printed books has decreased. Physical books take up a lot of space, so I plan to give away two or three hundred books this year. Of course, I can not give away those signed by my friends or leather bound classics. Such book are a part of my life.
    The choice between ebooks and paper books depends on many variables: price, convenience, space, age, cultural background, etc. Paper books will not disappear, but ebooks will continue to increase in popularity.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 1:25pm

      Jackie
      I like your positivity, and all those book being given away! I have mountains of them too I might even follow your example.
      Thing is, while we like to think it’s up to readers to decide whether paper books will survive, unfortunately paper books most certainly will disappear if their sales fall below a certain tipping point (caused by the rise of eBook sales.)
      It isn’t a long gentle decline either, but a sudden stop point at which bookstores become uneconomic. And without them, publishers of paper books cannot survive either sadly.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 1:17pm

    I think we’re that funny “transition generation” where we grew up with tangible books, so we love them, but we have technology now, so we appreciate it, too. My kids prefer the tech. My parents? The books.

    I used to agree with Mr. King that searching for a passage in a book was easier than in an ebook, but now I’m learning to use the search functions, and I’d estimate that my search times are about the same in both books and ebooks. And if I would drop one or the other in… the tub? The book is probably ruined. And I might not be able to buy another copy if it’s no longer in print. I can always buy another Kindle and re-download all my content.

    I do love my books and there is no substitute for putting one on a shelf or handing one out as a gift. But if my kids are any indication, the trend is that hardcopies are going away. Records did. 8-tracks did. Cassettes and even CDs did. Collectors still can buy them, but we’re basically digital now. Books will follow. But I have to believe Mr. King is right: the important thing is the story, not the medium.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 1:25pm

      Staci
      You’re right on the money with your comments – ‘the transition generation’ Absolutely true, and hadn’t occurred to me. In which case this will be of interest to you:
      Why Children Hold The Key To Your Future As An Author
      http://bestsellerlabs.com/why-children-hold-the-key-to-your-future-as-an-author/
      ~ Jonathan

      • April 10, 2014 at 11:00pm

        Great article. Thanks for posting the link.

    • April 10, 2014 at 1:46pm

      Reduction in production and distribution =/= “going away.” CDs are still around and in production, although in a reduced capacity. I think records have actually increased in production in recent years because there are people who enjoy the sound (I’d compare them to the people who enjoy the feel of paper, so if the record industry is any indicator, I think books will be fine, albeit more difficult to obtain). There’s no question that there has been a major shift to digital media, but that shift hasn’t put tangible media in its coffin and almost certainly won’t. Yes, CDs replaced cassettes, cassettes replaced 8-tracks, etc., etc., but that’s just a revision/improvement in tangible format. That’s not the same comparison as the one between digital and hard copy, which has nothing to do with improvement, and everything to do with preference.

      • Jonathan Gunson says:
        April 10, 2014 at 10:38pm

        Charlotte
        You are mirroring the exact point:
        Nobody buys cassettes any more. Gone. It’s very simple really – because as you say, it’s just a change in format. So the same is likely to happen to paper books. Stephen King – “the delivery system doesn’t matter. The story does, and people will always be drawn to stories, no matter how they are told.”
        ~ Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 1:26pm

    My printed book to e-book ratio is probably 200:1. I need printed books to survive, or I will stop reading altogether. I can’t read off a lighted screen for more than a couple minutes at a time without getting eye fatigue and pain. Lowering the light level or axing it altogether (as some e-readers do) doesn’t matter. My eyes just don’t rest comfortably on a screen. Even typing this, I have to look away frequently or squint. The cessation of all book printing would be a serious disservice not just to people like me, but to anyone who appreciates seeing books on their shelves, who enjoys the convenience of flipping through pages and writing notes in the margins, who wants to easily lend a book to a friend without having to worry about .mobi or .pdf or .whatever format (all of which are highly subject to change and incompatibility, mind you), or whatever DRM is in place. There are those of us who enjoy buying used books at steep discounts, and those of us who buy large textbooks that REQUIRE the large format of the page, something that a small screen absolutely cannot replicate except through holo projection. There’s no question in my mind that printed books will see a severe reduction in production, and might even get reduced to a print-on-demand sort of deal (some CDs already do this through Amazon). But for printed books to go away entirely? I can almost guarantee it won’t happen. Enough people still care about the printed word, and given the book’s longevity, permanent compatibility, and ease of use… I just don’t see it happening, no matter what Mr. King says. And I’m never, ever entrusting a collection of 1000 ebooks to the whims of a complicated, changeable piece of technology such as a hard drive.

    • April 10, 2014 at 1:40pm

      Actually, I want to amend my post a bit. I’m a firm believer that print and digital mediums will coexist. Print will naturally be reduced, and the digital medium will expand, but I very much doubt that one will annihilate the other. Why? Well, a print book is excellent insurance against software incompatibility and hard drive corruption. And an ebook is insurance against decay, water/fire/bug damage, and misplacement, especially for very rare books that are falling apart or had a very small initial print run. I personally believe that both formats complement each other, and keep everyone happy. I do the same thing with my music. I insist on hard copy because I’m a collector and the sound quality of a pressed disc is better, but at the same time, I appreciate occasionally buying one track if I don’t like the rest of the CD. But again, my CD to MP3 ratio is probably 30:1, and I don’t rely on my digital copies or make any attempt to organize or re-tag them. Far too time consuming when I can just shift a CD on a shelf.

  • April 10, 2014 at 1:54pm

    And for criminy’s sake, there are still places that sell ribbons for manual typewriters… think Royal and Smith Corona. I know this because I have a portable Royal from the 30′s, and had to replace the ribbon a few years ago. And for the longest time there was a typewriter repair shop in the city where I work.

  • April 10, 2014 at 2:16pm

    Hi Jonathon,

    I always love your posts.

    In my opinion, Tim Waterstone is a dinosaur who is not looking at current data but coming to his own opinions based upon emotions and not wise when it comes to creating a business model.

    Case in point: Years ago Netflix, the on-line video streamer approached Block Buster Video as a potential partner to add DVD-by-mail as part of their business. Block Buster in their narrow thinking and without real research into the market rejected Netflix’s offer. Well we know what happened to Netflix. Huge! Block Buster tried to recover after and enormous loss of customers by creating their own DVD-by-mail service but it was too late. In 2010, they declared bankruptcy.

    I don’t think that print books will ever be gone completely – they may carry on as a niche market the same way that LP’s have found customers despite CD’s and MP3 downloads.

    As an indie writer, I offer my customers both POD and e-books. I also made one of my books into an audiobook, which I think is a whole other market altogether.

    Thanks for letting me chime in.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 10:43pm

      Heidi
      Your comment is a 100% crystal clear understanding of the market reality.
      If you look down all the comments here you’ll see an awful lot of the same ‘Waterstone’ wishful thinking. Thank you for your insight.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 2:17pm

    Sorry Jonathan, I spelled your name with an ‘o’ instead of ‘a’.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 11:41pm

      For Heidi

      Jonathan Jo – by A.A. Milne

      Jonathan Jo
      Has a mouth like an “O”
      And a wheelbarrow full of surprises;
      If you ask for a bat,
      Or something like that,
      He has got it, whatever the size is.

      If you’re wanting a ball,
      It’s no trouble at all;
      Why, the more you ask for, the merrier –
      Like a hoop and a top,
      And a watch that won’t stop,
      And some sweets, and an Aberdeen terrier.

      Jonathan Jo Has a mouth like an “O,”
      But this is what makes him so funny
      If you give him a smile,
      Only once in a while,
      Then he never expects any money!

      ~ Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 2:35pm

    I think Ebooks will win and printed books and other printed materials will become like objects d’art, or for brochures, pamphlets, or marketing/advertising materials for Ebooks.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 10:54pm

      Steve
      My thinking too.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 2:37pm

    I can reach a lot of people thru the e-reader…across the country…across the globe. but in the small town venue, the festivals, the author/reader events…the paper book is a take away from the experience. A book doesn’t have a battery life…and can be signed by the author…my Kindle gets books into my hand…but the actual paperback gets into my soul.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 10:58pm

      Robin
      I like those types of smaller cultural uses of paper books too, but also feel it’s beside the point. The reality is that the majority of readers will not continue to pay an expensive premium for paper books. Publishers cannot survive a market reduced to small groups of traditional book lovers and enthusiasts if the mass are buying eBooks.
      ~ Jonathan

  • The Witticist says:
    April 10, 2014 at 2:41pm

    (Well, I can’t get the dern clip to play on my cell phone, so I’ll just say this):

    The same concern came up about radio when the TV was invented & about the printed newspaper when the Internet first came on the scene. I think paper books may still stick around – just as the newspaper has, but eventually will be downsized or available only in limited specialty stores as Mr. Gunson stated.

    I can appreciate the obvious conveniences digital formats can offer, but feel the unfortunate side of the coin impacts kinesthetic learners, and additionally robs the end user of that “whole package” experience – i.e., as when holding a new full-sized album cover while listening to the music and letting the printed words, artist’s photos, & artwork meld indelibly with the music. It’s an aesthetic part of the experience. CD’s compromised that – MP3′s have eliminated it entirely. Everyone is impacted – children especially. Just think about pop-up books, picture books, & coloring books – even fill-in work books for students & adults.

    I also like the benefit of accidental discoveries while flipping through the pages such as when looking up words in the dictionary. It’s a great way to learn vocabulary and sparks writing ideas for me at times.
    ;D

    I imagine down the road people may be reading holographic books eventually – can you just see someone sitting in their easy chair, flippin’ pages in mid air like Michael Douglas in the movie “Disclosure” – just no vision goggles required…

    Ah well…times evolve…and so will technology. I guess we gotta roll with the flow & ride with the tide if we’re going to survive in the work force no matter how uncomfortable or unfamiliar it may feel. There’s always going to be some kind of trade-off – each generation receiving its own. I’m just glad I came through the more “analog style” growing up ’cause I treasure those moments & feel the younger crowd somehow has missed out.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 11:03pm

      Dear Witticist
      Children’s books stores, on average, are having a far easier time of it in the marketplace apparently. So my feeling is that specialties such as pop-up books and picture books will live on for quite some time yet.
      ~Jonathan

  • LJ DeLeon says:
    April 10, 2014 at 3:07pm

    I love books in whatever delivery system I can get them. As a child, they were my best friend. As an adult, they are my major form of entertainment. I love the feel and smell of books. Having said that, I adore my Kindle.

    The older I get, the more I and my hands appreciate my Kindle, especially the thinness and light weight compared to a heavy book. There are also other advantages: No bindings, so they don’t come apart due to the cheap glue. It doesn’t get trashed in my purse. I can take it with me everywhere. When I finish one book, there’s another already on the Kindle or waiting to be bought–talk about immediate gratification. If I particularly like a passage or it’s for research, I highlight it or make a note with comment. And yes, I’ve read my Kindle when soaking in the bath–of course, I first seal it in a vacuum sealed food saver bag. :)

    Because my books are only available via download, at signings I have 5″ x 7″ glossy covers of my books, with the blurb and qr codes for different the major retailers on the back. My readers buy the book right in front of me, and I sign the covers for them. They love it. In truth, I now sell more downloads at a signing than I ever did at B&N when I wrote under a different and was print published.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 11:04pm

      LJD
      You summed it up ideally, and also described why eBooks will crush paper.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 3:32pm

    Hi Jonathan. Thanks for the King clip. My own experience and observation is that, in general, print books offer the better reading experience overall, while e-books offer a range of other benefits, such as superior cost and convenience. Also, print books never need software or hardware upgrades. But I do expect e-books to continue to supplant print books.

    One thought is that e-books depend on the vast infrastructure of electricity and information, and if this is thrown into disarray or doubt, then e-books could suffer a crisis of confidence. There’s never any anxiety about whether a print book will work. If another Dark Age awaits us, people will be glad of their paper books.

    As for me, my actions speak loudest: I’m “all in” with e-books for my own work.

    Thanks for your writer-friendly blog!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 11:09pm

      Paul
      “…One thought is that e-books depend on the vast infrastructure of electricity and information, and if this is thrown into disarray or doubt, then e-books could suffer a crisis of confidence.”
      Margaret Attwood holds the same view. She advises authors to always keep a printed copy of their eBooks. She says “…one big magnetic pulse, and all your work is gone. But a paper book? You can still read that by candle light if the power is off.”
      Unfortunately the market doesn’t take this into consideration.
      ~ Jonathan

  • J Hutton says:
    April 10, 2014 at 4:12pm

    Any book that goes in the toilet is done.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 11:10pm

      J H
      An uplifting part of the video.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 4:33pm

    Great article… I honestly believe that both will prevail in the long run. Printed books stood the test of time since the first written words were ever created and placed on stones, then papyrus. However, times change and people evolve. You’re right when you say that publishers HAVE to adapt to that.

    I start off all of my authors with e-book versions of their novels for several reasons: 1) to build an audience platform, 2) because they are so much less expensive to produce in bulk, and 3) to test different marketing strategies to see what works best. After the novel has proven successful in the e-book market, we then start doing small print runs between 2,000 to 5,000 copies, because even the most innovative publishers have to accept that some people simply are not reading their favorite books with e-readers. We have to accommodate all buyers and book lovers, and that is what separates the successful publishing companies from the non-successful.

    I am so glad I signed up for your newsletter, and I look forward to hearing more from you. Your advice is extremely valuable.

    • April 10, 2014 at 4:35pm

      Sorry about my earlier typo… I am a grammar Nazi and hate when I post mistakes. I meant to say, “Printed books HAVE stood the test of time…” LOL If my 12-grade AP English teacher saw that one… oh boy! LOL

      • Jonathan Gunson says:
        April 10, 2014 at 11:14pm

        Tamara
        I’m something of a grammar Nazi too, but I wasn’t going to pounce on your typo. :)
        ~Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 4:43pm

    First of all I’ve come to appreciate Stephen’s advice and wisdom. The most encouraging quotes I’ve read have been made by him. He’s been a major encouragement to other writers. Secondly, I sell most of my books on e-books, even when I make them available in paperback too. There is no doubt about that and as an avid reader my Kindle is more convenient for me to take places. I love the feature of text to speech. I can listen to a book whenever I’m doing dishes, working out, or just being lazy and don’t want to read. Kindles are great because of the price of e-books, (for some—some e-books I’ve seen are priced the same as paperbacks, which I find silly) and the fact I can have so many on the device, that way if I don’t like one, it’s easy just to close out and find another. I do agree with Stephen about the paperbacks. The only paperbacks I own have either been given to me (by other authors) or I’ve found them second hand. I love the feel of a paperback in my hand. I love the texture and even smell, but when it comes to my high paced life, I like just grabbing my kindle, throwing it in my bag and heading off.

  • Lety says:
    April 10, 2014 at 5:11pm

    I would not like to see paperback go away. There is something about the ability of holding a book in your hands, the touch, feel. The ability to mark your favorite pages. The portability of e-books and audio has made it possible to reach a diverse audience for authors. I would like to see a combination of the two remain.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 11:18pm

      Lety
      Agree that we’d all like things to stay the way they are. (But I don’t think they will.)
      ~ Jonathan

  • Deborah says:
    April 10, 2014 at 5:21pm

    Under the pros and cons, or preferences and economics, lies the emotional experience of holding a book that some have referenced. Star Trek [of course :-) ] used the tactile arousal as a plot device. In STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, Captain Picard explained to Riker how he loved the smell and feel of a paper book. In “The Measure of a Man” #40272-135, Data is given an “ancient” book; his sentimental attachment to a gift helps prove his sentience. Our writing is intended to evoke that reaction in our readers. Perhaps, with a paper book, form and function are complementary? Perhaps, in time, e-reading will have attendant smells and sensory additions we can tailor to our personal tastes (pun intended). Would that make this a different discussion and more complex individual decision?

  • April 10, 2014 at 5:43pm

    Hello Jonathan! I love Stephen King, but I have to agree with Tim Waterstone on this one. I just did a book reading/signing at a school and was pleasantly surprised with the excitement and enthusiasm the kids demonstrated for reading, writing and books. I had a great time! Also, I visit the Barnes & Noble bookstores in my neighborhood frequently and there doesn’t seem to be a lack of people buying books. I own an iPad and have the kindle app, but I still buy certain books. So I believe books will be around for a while longer.

  • Danielle says:
    April 10, 2014 at 6:13pm

    I think the traditional way to deliver printed books is disappearing, but on-demand printing will become bigger. eBooks have advantages that printed books don’t have and vice-versa, so both are here to stay!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 11:31pm

      Danielle
      Print on demand is expensive compared with eBooks. If you bought 20 books this year, would you spend $30 a book? ($600) or $2.00? ($60)
      I know which one 99% of people will choose.
      ~ Jonathan

  • Kyra Dune says:
    April 10, 2014 at 6:42pm

    I put my own work out in both ebook and print format for the time being. I use a Kindle, but I still like an actual physical book better. Especially a used book. As I’m holding the book it’s like being connected to all the people who read it before me. I hope physical books hang around, but things evolve and I think it’s very likely one day people will not know what a physical book even is the way most kids don’t know what an 8-track is today.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 11:43pm

      Kyra
      I feel you’ve scoped it out well with this:
      “I think it’s very likely one day people will not know what a physical book even is the way most kids don’t know what an 8-track is today.”
      Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 7:24pm

    I’m with Venkatesh and King. There is room for both and things will eventually settle down. When movies came out, people predicted the end of the radio; when TV came out, people predicted the end of film; when videos and DVD came out same predictions. Yet, people still watch TV, listen to the radio, rent DVDs, and go to the movies. The Internet hasn’t destroyed newspapers and magazines; it definitely changed the terrain, but they still exist. The smart ones are online and in print. My magazine subscriptions give me both options, and I use both.

    My 85 year old mother has a Kindle Fire–because it’s light and she can make the font big enough to see easily, and she can go on Facebook and read her emails. She knows more about her extended family than I do.

    I like both. I’ve come to prefer an e-reader for light reading, but I refuse to buy e-books that are not substantially cheaper than the paper/hardback–I’ve seen e-book more expensive than the hardcover; apparently publishers don’t get it or they are trying to fight the inevitable. Often my way of protesting is to get the book from the library.

    When I’m doing research, I buy paper books; when I read novels and some non-fiction I prefer e-books. It’s a big world out there with plenty of room for both. Traditional publishers seem to still be fighting the digital tidal wave.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 10:20pm

      Cora
      You stated the reality perfectly: “apparently publishers don’t get it or they are trying to fight the inevitable.”
      It’s true, eBooks are crushing sales of paper books.
      The pivotal point that most commentators don’t seem to ‘get’ is that while there may theoretically be room for both ‘e’ and paper, unfortunately below a certain sales level (already reached in many cases) book stores begin to fail, and like dominoes, the publishers who rely on them to survive will also fail. Ergo, no paper books, other perhaps than limited specialty editions from dedicated boutiques.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 7:42pm

    Great post. I enjoyed getting the scoop from Steven King and shared on Twitter. I love to hold a book in my hands, see it on my shelf and turn its pages. I love my kindle too… That’s what I take when away from home even for the day. HAPPY READING! :)

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 10:14pm

      Bette
      Exactly the point. For book buyers it’s “Happy Reading!” , Not ‘Happy paper book Reading.’ It’s all about the story, not the delivery mechanism.
      ~ Jonathan

  • Rosemary A smith says:
    April 10, 2014 at 9:31pm

    A printed book is a tangible thing, an e book is not.
    A printed book has character, an e book does not.
    If print books become extinct, what will happen to bookshops and libraries?
    We can pass down our print books in a way that we would never be able to do with e books.
    To me there is nothing like rows of books on bookshelves.
    Let the printed book win, not only for this generation, but for generations to come …

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 10:10pm

      Rosemary
      Let the printed book win? A fine sentiment and I agree. The trouble is that the market has other ideas. To quote from an earlier reply to a comment:

      “…Unfortunately the harsh reality is that the majority of readers will not continue to pay an expensive premium for paper books, because what they really buy is the story, not the delivery mechanism such as a printed book. This is the central point Stephen King makes in the video.

      Survival of paper also comes down to (a) whether there will be any book stores left to sell them and (b) whether there will be any publishers left to publish them.

      Sadly, the disintegration of both has already begun, because below a certain sales level (that in the majority of instances has already been reached) book stores begin to fail, and like dominoes, the publishers who rely on them to survive will also fail. Ergo, no paper books, other perhaps than limited specialty editions from dedicated boutiques…”
      This will apply to libraries too I suspect.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 10, 2014 at 9:58pm

    I think the answer to the ebook/paperback question may just lie with our children. How are we teaching them to read and learn? I believe they will bring what they know with them into the future, and since our youth constantly have a digital device in their hands, the swing to digital will only get stronger.

    Great post, Jonathan. Loved it.

    Joanne

  • April 10, 2014 at 10:42pm

    Hello Jonathan,

    Interesting question, and one that economics will have a major play. To point: Most people believe that internet access is necessary for everyday life. Yet millions of people right here in the US don’t have internet access even now. The reason? They can’t afford it, or find it an unnecessary expense on a tight budget. That’s not going to change anytime soon for a hefty segment of the population.

    The same applies to digital books. Most may feel that smartphones, tablets and e-readers are as common as blades of grass, yet there are millions of people who don’t own any any of the above, and that won’t change anytime soon either. For that reason alone I see the change to digital reading as inevitable, but the phase out time won’t be as fast as some believe it will. It will continue to grow in popularity among those that are tech savvy and/or comfortable with the digital lifestyle (and again, there are millions who still are not) while buying printed books will gradually decline as the market changes to adapt to the demands of lower e-book pricing and availability.

    Not to argue with the King, but my crystal ball reveals a generational transition, one that will probably last for more than a single generation before we all stroll around with a thousand books in our pockets. Printed books will continue to find their markets, but the window for traditional publishing opportunities will continue to shrink as the search will grow ever more frantic for the next Grisham, King, Rowlings, etc. Like Hollywood, the demand will be for loads of prequel and sequels with the quirky, cult and even many literary novels facing major hurdles for publishers to risk putting their stamp on.

    Self-publishing authors will continue to expand and flood the market with mostly mediocre writing, but the business and quality minded will be able to establish their brands through hard work and solid storytelling, expanding the ranks of bestselling indie authors. The hybrid approach will more than likely be the most successful form of expanding one’s audience until the avenues of foreign language translation and market rights become easier for self-published authors to tackle on their own.

    The waters of publishing are very choppy right now, but as you continually point out, it’s the story that will survive whatever the means of delivery evolves into. I think the evolution will take its time because of economic and demographic speed bumps, but I concur that eventually the day will arrive when printed novels will be collectors items and libraries will be museums, a testament to an age long past when we once held a book in our hands, opened the pages, and inhaled the scent of creativity.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 10, 2014 at 10:49pm

      Bard

      You nailed it with “…Not to argue with the King, but my crystal ball reveals a generational transition, one that will probably last for more than a single generation before we all stroll around with a thousand books in our pockets.”

      I agree that it’s going to take time to happen, but it’s inevitable. Remember that the cost of devices will soon drop precipitously too which will speed up the process. But current affordability? I will take a moment to underscore your point of view: Last week I saw an ad for a toy robot that uses a smart phone to run it. The ad intoned “Just use an old smart phone that you have lying around in a drawer, not your latest one…” On which planet do they think most people live?

      ~ Jonathan

      • April 10, 2014 at 10:58pm

        Lol, exactly. I think when schools go all digital nationwide, that will fast-forward the transition very quickly from that point on. Again, economics and old-school thinking will slow that down, but you can’t stop the iron-shod march of technology, no matter what the nostalgic attachments. I’ve probably only purchased three physical novels in the last three years, despite my love for the printed page. It’s simply not practical to lug a book everywhere when I can read just as well on my Kindle and have every book that I want in my pocket. And that’s coming from someone who just a few years ago laughed scornfully at the idea that an e-book could compare to holding a beloved novel in hand.

  • Ron says:
    April 11, 2014 at 12:00am

    The physical book will gradually die out with the people who read them. Don’t get me wrong, I too grew up with and love physical books…I just don’t buy them anymore. Period. I love carrying around my entire library with me on a digital device. I’m guessing the majority of comments being made here are coming from my fellow baby boomers; I can feel the nostalgia and wistfulness in the comments. Honestly, the younger ones won’t miss the printed book any more than they’ll remember us…except as we leave our stories behind in whatever format they choose to read them. I just think its awesome that e-readers have, er, kindled the passion for reading in those too young to really care about what we’re discussing. The storyteller will be around forever, in whatever form suits the times.

  • Jonathan Gunson says:
    April 11, 2014 at 12:39am

    Ron
    Got it in one:

    “…Honestly, the younger ones won’t miss the printed book any more than they’ll remember us…except as we leave our stories behind in whatever format they choose to read them…

    Check out my post about one massive advantage of being a writer: LEGACY

    “All shall dissolve, and leave not a rack behind … ” There’s no escape. Every material thing in this world will eventually crumble to dust… including you. Nothing will be remembered, except for something truly extraordinary: Your stories.

    http://www.bestsellerlabs.com/the-key-to-growing-readership

    ~ Jonathan

  • April 11, 2014 at 1:39am

    Well, I’m a science fiction fan, and a science fiction writer. So I’m always looking to the future. Maybe that all makes me more receptive to new technology. Society is only going where science fiction has been for several decades.

    Will the paper book disappear? I think more and more they will become collectors items, a novelty. I think fewer writers will publish new paper books, and only publish ebooks. I think in the future, ebook delivery systems will change and improve.

    Perhaps one day people will have a virtual bookshelf on their wall, showcasing their collection of ebooks. Now isn’t that a neat idea!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 11, 2014 at 4:20am

      Jacqueline
      You said it! “Society is only going where science fiction has been for several decades. Hence the move to ‘e’. There’s no going back to the dinosaur era which Tim Waterstone imagines still rules the earth. (He’s obviously missed the true nature of the giant approaching meteor called ‘e’.)
      ~Jonathan

  • April 11, 2014 at 4:14am

    My books are published in three editions- print, EBook, and Audio books. I cover all bases.

    I don’t think print books will fade away. People still want signed and inscribed copies and I have yet to figure out how to inscribe and sign editions other than print books.
    Prices will probably decide which method sells best, and print and audio seem to be expensive.

    Also, if the tree-huggers prevail on printed material, they will eventually find something wrong with digital stuff; like EBooks fry your brain and audio books ruin your hearing!

    Bottom line is: The story and the story-teller will sell the books before the publishing style!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 11, 2014 at 4:28am

      James
      Your bottom line nails it. A paper book is purely a delivery mechanism. But people have this delusion caused by so much mystique having been built up around printed books, libraries and book stores. They equate delivery mechanism with content. But it’s not about the delivery mechanism it’s about the story.
      Unless publishers begin to offer ‘promotion’ to authors they will have no point of difference. Might as well do it yourself instead of giving a publisher a large chunk of the royalties for doing…. nothing.
      With eBooks, this is the era in which author will begin to rule all.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 11, 2014 at 5:18am

    I do prefer printed books, and not out of some attachment to the old-fashioned style of publication, but for very practical reasons.

    Because I do most of my reading outdoors or during the rare meals I get to enjoy by myself, I like having a book I can set down and actually read for a while without having to turn a page. With my Kindle I have to flip to the next page so often, it can actually be quite a bit of work – plus it does nothing to keep the sun out of my face when I’m lying on the beach ;) On the other hand, the Kindle is far more practical for travelling, because if I’m going to be out of town for several weeks it’s not as easy to cart around a crate of hardcovers as a half-pound digital device that I can reload whenever I want.

    The bottom line, however, is this – we need to stop killing trees in order to make books. Recycling is great, but it’s not the most efficient process, and every time I think about books being published and then destroyed because they don’t sell, I simply cringe inside. This goes, too, for CDs, DVDs, and other media the content of which could just as easily be delivered digitally. It’s incredibly wasteful to devote so much of our energy and resources to unnecessary frills like “packaging” just because we like the look and feel of them.

    I’m not looking forward to the eBook age myself – but morally, I think it’s about time it arrived.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 11, 2014 at 5:43am

      Lori
      The conservation aspect is an powerful point to make about eBooks. A great contribution thank you.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 11, 2014 at 5:42am

    I first read Ayn Rand’s novel _We The Living_ before the days of the Internet. It was hard back and from the library. I loved “the texture and feel.” I especially enjoyed those covers that libraries put on books. Nothing beats “the texture and feel.” Ultimately, that’s why library books are just so superior to books that I buy from stores.

    Then I read it a few years ago on the computer. I decided it was a horrible story. It just didn’t have that “texture and feel.”

    I’ll have to check it back out from the library again. Nothing beats “the texture and feel” I get from library books.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 11, 2014 at 5:51am

      Chris
      We all love the paper book, with its fragrance, texture and page riffle. But it’s a generational thing. We can attempt to persuade the next generation of the magic and value of paper, but they give us increasingly blank stares. Fact is we have a long story experience all tied into traditional books that we feel deeply. But they don’t. The approaching change is coming at us like a meteor at the dinosaurs.

      Authors who insist on ‘Traditional Publishing’ risk becoming invisible. If for one moment you think that when children become adults they’re going to quit using their shiny, story enhanced eReaders and go back to paper books, think again. They may be 9 year-olds right now, but in a mere 7 years they’ll be 16 and reading voraciously, and it won’t be traditional paper books.
      See this blog post: >> Why Children Hold The Key To Your Future As An Author
      ~ Jonathan

      • April 11, 2014 at 9:46am

        That was sarcasm. I don’t read books. I read stories.

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          April 11, 2014 at 10:14am

          Yes, I did gather your drift.
          ~ Jonathan

  • April 11, 2014 at 6:36am

    Jonathan, I’ll tell you my Kindle experience. When I had to take an early retirement in 2012, due to health issues, I wondered what I would do with all my free time. I gave up my dreams of writing after college, many years ago, predating the internet. I listened to everyone telling me that writing was a pipe-dream and I should “get a real job.” So, I did. I worked in customer service and sales for over 30 years. Back to my retirement. When I got my back pay from disability, I wanted to get a new TV. All I had was one of the old analog big TV’s and it was going out. My roommate and I walked into Best Buy. She had talked about getting a Kindle, but I never gave it a thought. I was a book person, through an through. She was over at the Kindle displays. I walked over and while I was waiting for her, I played around with one. Now, my eyes are not as sharp as they used to be. The selling point was that I was able to change the font to my preference. It isn’t the same all the time, so that flexibility was a big factor for me. Then I saw the capacity, the Kindle Touch could hold 3000 books! Wow! Much easier to carry around. Well, I walked out with the TV and the Kindle. As for what to do with my time? I had been thinking about writing again, but I hadn’t gone any further. My roommate said, “Just do it!” I started reading up on all the new technology. I still hadn’t mastered my computer completely yet at the time. I was amazed at being able to get books so inexpensively. That is when I hit on the idea for my author’s platform. I read that every writer needed one, and a blog was a good place to start. It said to blog about your passion. That was easy. Reading and writing. I didn’t feel qualified to write a review blog about the A-List authors. After all, who would care about my opinion? Well, the Kindle got me started. I decided to write a review blog for those like me. Just starting out in their writing. So, my blog is my personal experiences and what I’ve learned along the way, and mostly, reviews dedicated to debut authors. I started out with the freebies and inexpensive books on Kindle. Then I got a Twitter account. I have been closed for new requests for some time now, because my queue is maxed out for at least a year. I owe it all to my roommate and Kindle. I had my first publication in an anthology of seasonal stories last November, and I am currently working on my debut novel. I am writing too, finally. :)

    • Claudette says:
      April 11, 2014 at 6:52am

      Jonathan, I’ve talked to several writers over the past year and many agree with what King says about the future of chain book stores and embracing books as we know them. My thought move along the same vein, not because I want to lose print books but because the materials to make “real” books are finite.

      The thing I see happening is ebooks taking over in the next couple of decades and handmade books in print becoming the collector’s items that are treasured. Whether that happens for not seems to have more to do with the Big Five and how much ground they’re willing to give during that time. They aren’t the most flexible providers around, after all.

      • Jonathan Gunson says:
        April 11, 2014 at 11:30am

        Claudette
        We’re of the same mind. I might add that people from all over continue to send me compliments about your article. It was rich, insightful, but mostly full of humanity. It seems you have admirers everywhere. I should ask you to write something again for me!
        ~ Jonathan

        • Claudette says:
          April 11, 2014 at 3:18pm

          Aw, what a lovely thing to hear. Thank you, Jonathan.

          It’s good to know that I’m not spinning in the wind all by myself by thinking that books and those who collect them will find more challenges in the future.

          And any time you want me to write something for you, just let me know. I certainly don’t mind spreading my opinion around. :) Seriously, Jonathan, ask whenever you want. I’ve so enjoyed your readers and their comments over the past months.

          Have a terrific day and weekend.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 11, 2014 at 11:32am

      Rebecca
      A wonderful tale thank you … with a happy ending. (I read every word.) What a life you’ve led, and now you’ve come back to your natural place. Welcome home :)
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 11, 2014 at 10:14am

    Dear Jonathan, The increase in reading through e-books is to be wholly applauded BUT, which is a big but which Johnson noted forcefully in the mid 18th Century with the enormous splurge of printed matter exploding after the lapse of the pre-publication Licensing law in 1689, there appeared a vast amount of dross.

    Today the same is true; when such as 50 Shades is hyped and sells as a result the quality of what people are reading drops, alarmingly in fact, to the point where readers never learn what really good writing is – not one single one of the books in my huge classical library – the work and thoughts of the Great Men who have shaped Humanity’s progress – is available on Kindle so people flop around in a modern manufactured vacuum, very often alas in the company of writers who have no classical understandings whatever nor any real experience of The Human Condition to infuse what they write of for being locked in The West’s sterile bubble. Through my library I have travelled in the company of The Great of the past which, as Buchan pointed out, is the best education of all.

    There is a place for both, but without the Great of the past, in their superb bindings, Humanity will remain locked in the ephemera of the foetid froth of today, because of inhabiting only the world according to e-books which are inevitably of now. My local ‘antiquarian’ bookshop has a trolley outside in which he sells for virtually nothing old hardbacks no-one buys – from which I have had my most eclectic reading through fine literature, discovering work of the past, written by supremely educated people, which I did not know existed.

    Personally I hate reading a Kindle so frightfully IMPERSONAL where a bound book has a personality which infuses the text. Yours Margaret Montrose.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 11, 2014 at 10:22am

      Margaret
      There’s no question a beautifully bound book has personality, much as a superb frame around a painting. But only the content is really relevant to me, no matter the media. Far more people are reading as a result of ebooks than ever before. But it remains to be seen whether the quality will rise – as you lament.
      My simple mission is to help the writing of the better writers become noticed. Much as I adore volumes in splendidly attired containers, the container in which a story is housed is of considerably less interest to me.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 11, 2014 at 12:27pm

    I agree with Stephen King on everything, but the point where he says it’s not as easy to go back to a previous page on your Kindle. There are so many ways of checking back and checking on vocabulary, and that is the crux of the matter. The older generation is more comfortable with a paper generated book, the younger ones rather read electronically. I doubt the paper book will ever go away, but I do not think that we will ever see the painstaking detail of some of the treasures once created by true masters. We own a set of Brockhaus encyclopedia that dates back to the turn of the 20th century. The pages are silky thin and the illustrations are fantastic. It’s gold leaf on the edges. The bindings are real leather and engraved in gold. I know no one will ever do anything like that again. Do you?

  • April 11, 2014 at 12:35pm

    I like how he said the print or e-book was just the delivery, what is important is the story.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 11, 2014 at 11:37pm

      Sandy
      Exactly.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 11, 2014 at 1:16pm

    Hi Jonathan. Great topic here, and I loved the inclusion of King’s interview segment. I agree with King; there’s a place for both mediums, others still evolving, and perhaps new ones to come. I also agree that the “book” is simply the delivery system. The essence is the story itself. As writers, we all know that. If we’re smart business people, as well as creators, we’ll have to not only accept, but embrace new technologies throughout the course of our careers. That’s just good business sense. On a personal level, while I love the look and feel of a paper book (especially my own), I also own a Kindle and love it’s ease and accessibility of titles, the fact that I don’t have to figure out how/where to store books I’ve read, and of course, the price point of ebooks. We’re living in a time of change within the book publishing industry. That’s exciting! It means both writers and consumers have more choices before them than ever before. I won’t get hung up on the format of medium for my stories. Instead, I’ll focus on writing, and promoting them in all available formats as much as possible. Great topic for disucssion.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 11, 2014 at 11:40pm

      Debbie
      This post and Stephen King’s video certainly brought to light the wistfulness of baby boomers! I sense a strong undercurrent of denial.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 11, 2014 at 5:02pm

    Great topic, Jonathan. I’m with Stephen King wholeheartedly when he says it’s the story that matters, not the physical book. We should all be aware that it is mainly the bookstores and the entire chain connected to that, that are worried and trying to make statements about the future of the paper book. With due respect to all the jobs involved (it is a painful transition), in the end the story will still be there when the dust settles. I feel that for the people it really comes down to (authors and readers) this is, in the end, not really a topic. It’s a good thing there’s an authority like King around to make a strong statement: things WILL change.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 12, 2014 at 12:27am

      Well put summation – thank you MHV.
      ~ Jonathan

  • Michael R. Stern says:
    April 12, 2014 at 12:09pm

    Jonathan-thanks for this post. Always interesting to hear Stephen King. Recently read his “On Writing” and his take is important, IMO. The concept of a story’s “delivery system” is a perfect description. Personally, I like paper, but also read Kindle. I think preference will change as generations age. Growing up in a digital age may have significant influence on forcing the traditional market to change its approach, but I think paper will be around for a long time. There is a certain sense of permanence that people will always want. Libraries in the home are a statement-I live here. “A house without books is like a body without a soul.”

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 13, 2014 at 5:20am

      Agree Michael
      Except… well, let me repeat what I’ve replied elsewhere:
      People who say “I’ll never give up paper books”, will not actually have much influence in their survival, because below a certain sales level a tipping point occurs, (that in the majority of instances has already been reached) and book stores begin to fail, and like dominoes, the publishers who rely on them to survive will also fail. Ergo, other than print on demand, and sales in the 3rd world (which is not profitable) there will be no paper books, other perhaps than limited specialty editions from dedicated boutiques.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 12, 2014 at 1:42pm

    I have an e-reader where I can read both, Kindle and Nook books on, but I’m old school, I would much rather have a paperback book. And yes, they are expensive, so when someone asks me what I want for Christmas or my birthday, I usually have a list of books ready for them. As for Stephen King, he is my favorite, and I did a post on my blog yesterday showing my collection of his books. I have 72 in all. :-)

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 13, 2014 at 5:22am

      Karen
      I’m old school too, but that makes no odds, because… (I’m pasting this in each time because it’s always the same debate) … below a certain sales level (that in the majority of instances has already been reached) book stores begin to fail, and like dominoes, the publishers who rely on them to survive will also fail. Ergo, other than print on demand, and sales in the 3rd world, which is not profitable, there will be no paper books, other perhaps than limited specialty editions from dedicated boutiques.
      ~ Jonathan

  • pyramidman says:
    April 12, 2014 at 6:16pm

    The e-book will dominate the future market without a doubt, until another technological breakthrough comes along. However, remember people tend to be traditional and reluctant to change so the paper book will still be there for those who wish to feel and smell the paper. We are still building houses like boxes even though the pyramid is the strongest structure we could use which I cover in my book The Pyramid Home Book, along with the thrust of technology that moves us into the future of widgets and gadgets, the e-book will rule regardless of our resistance to change and our grip on traditionalism.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 13, 2014 at 5:19am

      Good points Pyramidman.
      Agree… people who are ‘reluctant to give up paper books’ will not actually have much influence in their survival, because below a certain sales level (that in the majority of instances has already been reached) book stores begin to fail, and like dominoes, the publishers who rely on them to survive will also fail. Ergo, other than print on demand, and sales in the 3rd world (which is not profitable) there will be no paper books, other perhaps than limited specialty editions from dedicated boutiques.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 13, 2014 at 4:53am

    Please forgive any repetition. At the hour I read this, I’m happy to have gotten through the post.

    Story transcends, in paper, digital, audio and visual (i.e., movie). I can’t imagine paper books going away, but how we get them–and other forms–to our audience will most likely be on a continuum of change throughout the ages ahead of us.

    Our job: keep cranking out the stories the recipients of the tales love. The rest we figure out as we go, with the help of those like you, Jonathan.

    Thank you!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 13, 2014 at 5:30am

      Joanna
      You may not be able to imagine a world without paper books, (and I mean new ones) but the next generation can; They won’t be reading paper books, and they’re the ones who count, not us.
      Why Children Hold The Key To Your Future As An Author
      It’s only ever about the ‘story’, not the delivery mechanism.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 16, 2014 at 4:23am

    It’s important to realize that the book industry we think of as being so “traditional” (print books for the masses, authors paid comfortable advances, bookstores as the primary point-of-sale for books) has really been an anomalous blip in the history of the printed word. The bound book (codex) was *always* a luxury item, up until just a few decades ago. After the printing press became common, literacy and reading did, as well–but bound books were still for the higher classes, through the 17th, 18th, 19th centuries and well into the 20th century (the paperback book made bound books more accessible, and created a revolution in the publishing industry as earth-shaking as the ebook, now mostly forgotten).

    What was published for the “common” reader through those years–in huge quantities, quantities we don’t appreciate now because they’ve been lost to history–were newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, broadsheets, serialized novels, and so on; fiction and non-fiction (using the term broadly) in short, easy to read and more or less disposable form that sold for a penny or two and was devoured in vast amounts. The more successful of these sometimes ended up in bound editions, but that wasn’t a given. Still, it was very common for 19th century novels to be serialized.

    This went on well into the 20th century, with the thriving periodicals market for fiction and non-fiction. Many best-selling novels were serialized in popular magazines before they were published in book form. That periodicals market is now a bare trickle through the dry riverbed of its former glory–and it wasn’t ebooks, the Internet or print books that killed it.

    It was television. I’m serious. Television, which Americans now watch for an average of four to seven hours *per day*, filled the ecological niche in everyday life that used to be filled by reading magazines and newspapers, especially short stories in magazines. Television, more than anything else, is still the great enemy of reading. It’s so ubiquitous, and so universal, it has become invisible to us.

    I love print books as much as anyone could, but I read ebooks just as happily. I recently bought the Kindle edition of an old favorite book, *Up the Down Staircase.* I hadn’t had a copy for years and I was pining to reread it. I read it on my phone. I’m a very new smartphone user and I’d just put a couple of reading apps on the phone. I took the phone to bed with me and was reading *Up the Down Staircase* on that little screen, swiping away…and just as absorbed by it as when I read it in paperback. The format didn’t mean anything. I was right there in Calvin Coolidge High with Miss Barrett.

    I don’t think there is any conflict between print books or ebooks. I think the great divide is between people who read and people who don’t. It’s *reading* that counts…on anything. On paper, on screens, on plastic, on cloth, it doesn’t matter. The written word is a unique form of communication by which we encode meaning and thought and transfer it magically to other people’s minds. I don’t care if someone is absorbed in a story on their phone, ereader, computer, a magazine, a paperback or a hardcover with gilt edged pages. They’re reading. We can’t let that be lost.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 16, 2014 at 10:15am

      Inanna
      A beautifully articulated commentary thank you, and a blog post in its own right!
      As you say, it’s all about *reading*, not the means of transmission, the central point Stephen King strives to make. The truth of this is perfectly demonstrated by your comment about reading *Up the Down Staircase* on a smartphone: “The format didn’t mean anything. I was right there in Calvin Coolidge High with Miss Barrett.”
      ~ Jonathan

  • Shirley says:
    April 16, 2014 at 10:48am

    The only way books will become obsolete, is if they’re removed from print.

    I surveyed people on the subway car I was riding in the other day, and found,

    Books – 3
    e-readers – 0
    cellphones – Too many to count.

    First edition books become valuable with age. E-books do not.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 16, 2014 at 10:43pm

      Shirley
      Re: “The only way books will disappear is if they’re removed from print.”
      It’s already happening; Below a certain sales level (that in the majority of cases has already been reached) book stores begin to fail, and like dominoes, the publishers who rely on them to survive will also fail. This means that eventually, other than print-on-demand, there’ll be no paper books, apart from limited special editions published by dedicated boutiques.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 16, 2014 at 5:21pm

    I agree with Mr. King. A book, kindle, audiotape, etc., is simply a technology used to deliver the story. Tech changes. So what? The story transcends.

    I come from a feature film screenwriting background. This “book vs ebook” argument is similar to the film vs. digital video argument of several years ago, and more recently, the 35mm print delivery system to theaters vs. Digital projectors and movies delivered on a hard drive. In both instances, the newer technology eventually won out. I believe this will be the case with ebooks in the coming years.

    And I am putting my money where my mouth is. My first novel in 20 years, NOCTURNAL, will be published by myself exclusively through Amazon’s Kindle service. And I will also publish for paperback through Amazon’s Create Space service. But I completely expect to see the lion’s share of my sales through ebooks. That’s where the customer demographic for my vampire novel live and breathe. It is not their job to find me. It is my job to get my book right underneath their noses.

    Great article, Mr. Gunson. It encouraged me that my instincts on these issues are pointing me in the right direction.

    All the best,

    Mark Allen
    Screenwriter/ Novelist
    San Diego, Ca.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 16, 2014 at 10:45pm

      I’m sure your instincts about where this is all heading are 100% correct Mark.
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 18, 2014 at 6:29am

    I think there is a balance there. Print books will never disappear to be replaced by eBooks, but I think the eBook will move to roughly 50% of the reader market as today’s “e-aged” youth and young adults, move into their 30′s and upwards. But agree with King, you have to appreciate all forms – but nothing ever quite replaces the feel of that book in one’s hands and having it on one’s bookshelf.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 18, 2014 at 7:14am

      Hi Réal
      Thanks for your email comms.
      Re: “Print books will never disappear to be replaced by eBooks”
      Sadly, it’s already under way. Book stores are falling left and right thanks to Amazon. And like dominoes, the publishers who rely on them are also starting to fall. This means that eventually there’ll be no paper books, apart from limited special editions published by dedicated boutiques. The dream of the old school of traditional paper publishing ‘die-hards’ is that everything will settle down to a 50/50 balance, and everybody will have what they want. Unfortunately that level is too low for book stores to survive – because its already only a marginally profitable business.
      See this amazing comment by Inanna Arthen: http://bestsellerlabs.com/no-more-books-stephen-king/#comment-47927
      ~ Jonathan

  • April 20, 2014 at 7:56am

    I just felt the need to get in on this conversation – not only as a reader but as an author as well. It’s disappointing in how technology has transformed over the years and for the most part, has increased the needs for lazy people. I hope I don’t offend anyone but it’s true.

    Libraries around the world are beginning to feel the pressure as well. Less and less people are checking out books because of these Kindles, Ereaders, etc… It’s pathetic if you ask me. I love the feel of books in my hands. Just the touch of each page as I turn them is a gift that so many kids these days have hardly had the pleasures of experiencing. I do not own any of those electronic devices and I refuse to feed into the propaganda.

    And even now schools around the world are following suit with these devices. They have taken down the chalkboards and replaced their books with computers. More and more teachers are sitting down at their own desks during school hours and doing less teaching with their mouths and on their feet.

    My local library deserves the respect of my visits. I love finding a table off to myself in there and just sit and read a book for hours on end before I take them home.

    Their reference section is desolate due to computers. A lot of their books remain untouched due to Kindles and such. Their biggest business now is the computer stations, which stay compacted full of people who are just too lazy to lift a book and sit down to read it.

    When my children’s book was first released, I made it a point to visit my local libraries and give them autographed copies of my book as a thank you for their service.

    Technology is killing brain cells in my opinion and it’s increasing the ideas of being lazy. I still remember the times when our fingers worked hand and hand with our brains. Now, our fingers are working hand and computer and the brain is being used less and less.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 20, 2014 at 9:27am

      Paul
      I feel your pain!
      But I don’t agree that the flood of new electronic tools is making young people lazier. In fact, right at this moment, they will be inventing new ways to express themselves that we can’t even imagine. If you believe the opposite, you’ll find yourself standing in their dust as they head into the future. The young are just as good as ever, and considering what they have to deal with now, may be better equipped and more savvy than our lazy and overindulged generation.
      Unfortunately, most readers and authors live in the nostalgia of personal experience, and cannot see outside the bubble of their current ‘paper books’ paradigm. Books were a luxury for the wealthy right up until the mid 20th century. Then came the paperback and boom! ‘Book democracy’ arrived! Everyone could have them. Now that is fading, and eBooks are the next wave. Trouble is, people who have enjoyed a lifelong experience of paper books (including me) often make the colossal error of confusing the magic of story with the medium in which it is conveyed, such as traditional paper books.
      I’m with Stephen King; it’s the story and talent that counts, not the delivery mechanism.
      ~ Jonathan

      P.S. Article about the future of books.
      http://bestsellerlabs.com/why-children-hold-the-key-to-your-future-as-an-author/

  • Stefanie says:
    April 29, 2014 at 4:23pm

    How sad for us that the printed word could soon disappear. I agree with Mr. King that the story will prevail. We readers love the written word no matter the format. The words are the most important unless it is children’s books we are discussing. What then? Do illustrations look as beautiful on the screen than they do on paper? I guess some would say yes, some would say no and others would say that interactive illustrations are even better. For me, there is just something about holding a book in my hands. The feel of the pages, the sound of the rustling paper, and the smell. I will keep on hoarding books for my library. I figure that way when all this technology fails then I will still have something to read. We may be ahead of our time now…but Rome was too. I feel the loss of the printed word would be a tragedy. However, if all I can get in the future is a book on a device then that is how I will have to read. The story will always prevail. I despise the fact that he is right.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      April 30, 2014 at 1:40am

      Stefanie
      People loved horses and carts too. Grieved at their passing. You say the very same words a gazillion others do who still live in the bubble of the current paradigm: “For me, there is just something about holding a book in my hands. The feel of the pages, the sound of the rustling paper, and the smell. Fair enough too. But that is your personal experience, not the coming generation’s who will increasingly think paper fiction books are adorable but quaint, like old telephones.
      Article for you: Why Children Hold The Key To Your Future As An Author
      http://bestsellerlabs.com/why-children-hold-the-key-to-your-future-as-an-author/
      ~ Jonathan

      • Stefanie says:
        May 1, 2014 at 7:36am

        Ha! I guess I live in a big bubble because I love a horse and carriage. The Jane Austen fan that I am compels me to love that form of transport. Yes…I know but would I give up my car…not a chance. I know most of the future generation will indeed feel as you say they will. My nephew had to ask what a rotary phone was! All I can do is make sure my own child has the chance to love the real thing. Hopefully, she will choose wisely.

  • Sarah says:
    June 14, 2014 at 11:55am

    I’ve had to switch to ebooks because I can enlarge the font on them. My eyes are not what they used to be.

  • Cindy J. Smith says:
    September 23, 2014 at 2:39pm

    I do both with my books, I have many books on my e-reader but the better ones I have also purchased in print, to have on hand and share with others. If they come to my home, they will see the books and ask about them, no so with all the titles on my kindle or computer.