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|Saturday, September 26, 2015|
Edit: Turns out something smellier than I expected is going on with the NYT and ebooks. From the Stratechery piece:
To my regret, and in a rich bit of irony, I failed to research disconfirming evidence for the New York Times’ conclusion that ebook sales were indeed dropping.
And now, back to what I originally wrote...
Interesting but overly simple NYT article from @Gruber on "The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead". Read the article (I'm not going to summarize past the title), and let me try to paint a slightly different picture using the same content:
Let's recombine those statements with a few others...
Wonder what happened when Borders closed? Hrm... Let's add Ben Thompson's slightly ecologically misapplied Internet jungle metaphor, where you've got the apex predators getting bigger (here, publishing houses), the niche competitors growing in their specialized niches, and nothing in between. That is, guess where underserved book buyers buy books?
Let's also remember...
Here's an alternative take to the latent "print is making a comeback" argument in the article (and @Gruber):
The ebook's initial position as a bargain print substitute pushed large merchants, unable to pivot and compete on convenience and price, off of their perches.
Years later, however, growth has stabilized for both print and pixels because...
And a quick thought on @Gruber's hipster comment:
Combine that with this statement from the NYT article:
I used to think that too, and want to keep thinking it, but I don't any more.
What our young, hipster readers are saying is that they prefer the experience one gets from reading a book successfully offline. Think of all the things that have to happen for you to read a printed book...
Below, I'm going to argue that we no longer read paperbacks in the grocery line, or while waiting for a friend, or over lunch, like we used to. If we stipulate that, one thing becomes clear:
Reading a paper book is now about having time to dedicate to reading. Space, light, comfort. So of course we'd rather have a book in print, because we recall a more pleasurable experience. It's not the book that's great so much as what reading a printed book "requires".
I used to carry around a book everywhere in the 80s and 90s. It was, looking back, my smartphone, so to speak. It was the small, portable device that best allowed you to use up dead time by sneaking in a few moments of escapist pleasure. I used to read a book in the Dune series every day or two until I caught up with Frank, just before he died. Nothing wrong with that, within reason.
But now the alternative is too handy. I have my phone with my all the time. I no longer carry a paperback. It's too easy to have something to read on the phone.
My suspicion is that most read (if they are reading, and not Clash of Clanning, which is also fine, within reason!) more web stories, Instapapered or otherwise, RSS, and email on their phone to help fill up that "catch as catch can" time. Personally, I tend to be reading at least one paper book and one ebook all the time in large part to be ready for down time. I love to have the space to read a printed book. I love to mark portions that are interesting to pull back out later. But when I'm waiting on friends or find myself stuck in a line, it's hard to grab a book beside my chair at home. It's really easy to yank out an iPod or smartphone.
Most importantly, I have both bookshelves full with books so I don't run out of things to read if I have time to relax or have unexpected time to kill. And that's largely why my ebook purchasing is flat. I have my reservoir. I'm less likely to bite on today's deal.
I might prefer have time to sit in a chair on the porch with a drink when there's great light and weather to read, but just like my camera, the best book to read is always the book I have with me.
posted by ruffin at 9/26/2015 10:30:00 AM
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