An article published by Slate magazine on November 2, “It Looks Like EBooks Won’t Kill Print Books After All”, reports that ebook sales are continuing to drop. According to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales dropped 11% last year (publishers still raked in $2.8 billion in sales) in the U.S. alone (Pressman). The fact that print book sales are declining now means that we need to re-examine the existing fear of the disappearance of print books, a hot topic in the publishing industry. Was the indsutry stress simply a symptom of human resistance to change and fear of the unknown? We’re definitely not in the clear yet, but we can still take comfort in knowing that public interest changes overtime and that publishing print books well continue to be a time-honored tradition, at least for the next decade.
We must consider: was the popularity of e-books ever really something for book aficionados and publishing professionals to fear against in the first place? After all, there are great things about publishing ebooks:
- First, a perk for publishers is that e-books are not returnable (Woll 331), meaning, once they’re sold, publishers can account for that profit without having to worry about a return coming back to bite them.
- There’s also the opportunity to repackage a print book to regenerate interest, as demonstrated through Peter Meyers’ book, Breaking the Page, where the message that digital books can be beautifully done, is at the book’s core message.
- Ebooks have general low distribution and manufacturing costs. You also don’t have to worry about warehousing or shipping as ebooks are downloadable.
The real reason for the maniacal look that publishers might give e-books is that their popularity symbolizes the death of a well-loved tradition–the print book.
In the article, “It Looks Like Ebooks Won’t Kill Print Books After All”, Ballatore and Natale, mention that rumors of print books being replaced out of existence actually began in 1894 when the phonograph was introduced into the market. Well, folks, it looks like old habits really do die hard. It’s 2016 and there are still books everywhere! Maybe it really is–and has been–all in our heads. Ballatore and Natale go on to mention that studies on human behavior reveal the human tendency to grow emotional relationships with physical objects. The human fondness for objects and technology, and the stress when those “emotional bonds” are threatened may be what keeps print books around.