The Future of Books

There has been a lot of discussion about the future of printed books. Since the advent of Amazon’s Kindle, the market for “e-books” has risen steadily, if not explosively. Some say that it will be the end of the printed book. I disagree.

The market for books is changing. But, the market is always changing. In today’s world, to operate your business the same as you did just six months ago may be the kiss of death for your livelihood. We booksellers today are faced with unprecedented market competition on one side and ever-rising overhead on the other side. What will happen?

I would like to offer up some of my ideas about where books and the business of selling them is headed. I have always been a great fan of Alvin Toffler and Thomas Friedman, two writers whom I would label as futurists. A futurist looks around the world as it is, then tries to predict what the world will become. Maybe I am a futurist of sorts too. So, here goes.

There will always be a demand for printed books. Especially those printed before the digital age, and especially those for whom there is a limited audience. Almost without exception, these will be scholarly works of nonfiction. Classic literature and popular works of any age will be available in a digitized format. Eventually, all books, fiction and nonfiction will be released in a digital version. However, there will still be room for the printed book. And there are still millions of printed books out there which will never be converted to a digital format.

Unless they rethink their business model. the large publishing houses will eventually wither and die for lack of demand for printed books. In order to survive, they will have to split their parent company apart into specialized houses serving a particular subject area. There will also be more companies specializing in better quality books. They will offer books with more durable bindings than is the case in today’s mass market world, where a book binding falls apart after one read. There will be more  better-quality books available. The mass-market paperbacks will still be be printed by the specialty houses, but in smaller runs.

There are some people like myself, for whom the feel of holding a book is part of the reading experience. Most of the younger folks who grow up using an electronic reading device may not be able to understand this, but I bet that there will be more and more converts going to the printed book for it’s feel of permanence, if nothing else. Yes, a printed book is, for most intents and purposes, permanent. Does anyone remember seeing Thomas Jefferson’s Kindle? And thankfully, Plato or Shakespeare did not save to a hard drive or to the internet cloud.

Technology itself is the Achilles Heel of the electronic book. Today, you may have purchased several hundred books for your electronic library. However, your reading device can only hold a few at a time. The rest are kept in that electronic limbo called the cloud. If you disable your reading device by dropping it, leave it on the roof of your car as you speed off to work, drop it in the water or fill it with sand at the beach, or the battery is drained, you will have what amounts to an expensive paperweight. And you will be unable to read any of your books until your device is repaired or replaced. True, a book will not emerge unscathed from such treatment either, but it will most likely survive in a readable condition. Last, but not least, your e-book is yours and yours alone. You cannot sell it to anyone else, and you cannot take it to a bookseller to sell or get trade-in credit. You are stuck with it. You can’t even donate it to the local library for a tax deduction.

The electronic reading devices themselves are still evolving. I have looked at some of the reviews for various devices and have read about the litany of problems of the devices themselves: Battery life, battery charging problems, problems connecting to the internet and other devices, delicate screens and other hardware as well as cranky software which cannot be repaired by the user. The e-reader is just one more device needing constant maintainance in today’s electronic world.

So, I think that even though digital books are a major presence in our world, booksellers should take heart. The printed book will outlast any form of electronic media, and is in no danger of extinction.

Why Would You Go To A Book Fair?

If you like books, whether you buy them to read, collect them, or collect and read them, the book fair is the place to go. Where else can you go where 35 to 45 different booksellers bring their best books to sell? Even in this age of internet bookselling, there are many desirable books that do not get listed online, but can be found at a book fair.

PrehistoryOfSex

Here you will find an incredible concentration of first editions, fine bindings, vintage postcards, pamphlets, prints and other ephemera. Instead of visiting forty separate shops, you can visit their owners and peruse their samplings in one afternoon!

AgentOfDestiny

Many of the dealers have their own interests. They are always glad to “talk shop” with you about your particular interests in books.

ButtryShelfCookbook

If you are thinking about selling your private library, go to the book fair to find which booksellers might be interested in looking at your collection.

CherryAmesFlightNurse

You are sure to see books and other materials that you never knew existed. You might find a gem that you just have to own, but you won’t find it unless you attend the VABA Book Fair this Sunday, March 23, at the Sheraton in Burlington, VT (additional information at http://www.vermontisbookcountry.com/ ).

MedicalSciencePapers

Stop in and visit us! I’ll be at the Catamount Books booth. Hope to see you this Sunday!

Vermont Antiquarian Booksellers Association ~ Spring Book & Ephemera Fair ~ March 23, 2014

Vermont Antiquarian Book & Ephemera Fair

FairPhoto

Attention all Book Lovers!

The VABA Spring Book Fair will be held on March 23rd from 10-4 at the Sheraton Hotel in South Burlington. Rare and unusual books, postcards, maps and ephemera will be available from 30+ New England dealers. From Nancy Drew to books from the 1600s, stock certificates from the 1800s to postcards from the 1900s, there is something for every interest and price range. Some local historical groups and bookbinders will have displays as well.

Admission is only $5.

For more information check out the VABA website:
http://www.VermontIsBookCountry.com

Details:

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014 from 10 am to 4 pm
Sheraton Hotel
870 Williston Road
South Burlington, Vermont

Directions: The Sheraton Hotel is just off Interstate 89, Exit 14W. Please call if you need more information: books [at] TheEloquentPage [dot] com or 802-527-7243.

vaba facebook0001 sm2

c2014 VABA

Author events at The Eloquent Page this weekend

Friday, Sept. 27th, 6-8pm meet Walt McLaughlin, who will be reading from his new book, Allure of the Deep Woods. Walt lives in St. Albans and writes wonderful books about nature, poetry and some philosophy reminiscent of Thoreau or Emerson.

Saturday, Sept. 28th, 12-4pm meet Charlie Brooks, another St. Albans author who has written a children’s book, Greystone Valley. Greystone Valley is a fantasy book whose heroine, Sarah, makes an idle wish and finds herself in a land of wizards and magic – although not all the magic is as successful as she might want.

Both events are at The Eloquent Page, at my new location 70 North Main Street in St. Albans.  Books will be available for signing – they make great Christmas presents!