The Future of Print Books, Something to Think About

This is a repost I thought you might enjoy. It generated a conversation between my kids (young adults) and the future of printed books. Would e-books take over books in print? Both of them said no, not even in ten or twenty years. There would still be book lovers who wanted the feel of paper in their hand, the smell of a new book, and the ability to put the book away to reread later. The e-readers were great for traveling and they saved the use of paper, but they couldn’t imagine reading in bed with an e-reader. I didn’t tell them, but as much as I love books, I could imagine using an e-reader in bed-if only to free up my end tables. 

Change Is Afoot in the Great World of Publishing, and This Is Terrifying

Posted by Meg Leder
“If you love books enough, books will love you back.”                                                                                                –Jo Walton, Among Others
Lately, I’ve been trying really hard not to get stressed out by the world of publishing.
Example #1: Recently, I was having dinner with a book designer friend who was lamenting the rise of e-readers and what it means for people who cherish books as objects, as well as the designers who meticulously create and lay out these beautiful printed designs. I told her I believe there will always be a market for books as objects, but that the electronic world was potentially opening up the door for even more readers, people who might not ever have picked up a book before, and there was a need for beautiful design in these formats as well. And yeah, the change is scary, but there are potentially really good things coming from all of this change.
Example #2: During this same dinner, a freelance editor friend was asking about Borders, and what their financial difficulties might mean for all of us in publishing—publishers, authors, and readers. I told her that I think there will always be people who want to read, and whether they find their books at Borders or B&N or their local independent bookstore, they will still seek out books. Yeah, the climate is kind of scary, but there are potentially really good things coming from all of this change.
Example #3: The next day, my young adult book club was talking about how much growing up we loved to read Judy Blume books. And someone asked, “Do you think kids will still read Judy Blume, even if she doesn’t talk about texting and the internet and Facebook and whatnot? Will she become outdated?” I said Anne of Green Gables was my favorite book as a kid, and I still related to it, even though I didn’t go to school in a horse-drawn carriage, so yeah, I think readers will respond to Judy Blume books the same way. Sure, the reading world is changing rapidly, but there are potentially really good things coming from these changes. 
During all these talks, I felt brave and confident, bolstered by a belief in the importance of the work we do—that there is an intrinsic human need for books—for stories and instruction—and this need will carry us through this time of change. But honestly, inside, I still felt anxious. Change is unpleasant under even the best of circumstances, and when your livelihood and passion is affected by change, even dictated by it, life feels a bit more daunting.
I recently read a lovely novel called Among Others by Jo Walton. In it, the young narrator, who’s undergone the horrific loss of her twin sister and is confronting the lonely world of boarding school, finds escape and solace in the pages of science fiction and fantasy books. No matter what change is whirling around her, she always has Asimov and LeGuin and Tolkien. Near the end, she writes, “If you love books enough, books will love you back.”
It’s good to hear and remember those words during this time of change. We’re all here—in the publishing world, in bookstores, reading this blog—because we love books. We publish books because we love them, we read books because we love them, we write books because we love them. Even with all of these industry shifts happening around us, those facts aren’t going to change.
And in return, books stimulate our imaginations, they move us to action, they help us solve problems, they entertain us with story. Quite simply, they love us back. Those facts aren’t going to change, either.
So the next time I feel stressed about publishing, I need to remember that whatever the format, whatever the sales venue, whatever the content, readers will always love books. And in return, books will keep loving us.


Categories: E-readers, future of books, Meg Leder, Publishing

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