For readers, e-books have meant a transformation not just of the reading experience, but of the book-buying tradition of strolling aisles, perusing covers and being able to hold books in their hands. Many publishers have been astounded by the pace of the e-book popularity and the threat to print book sales that it represents. If the number of brick-and-mortar stores drops, publishers fear that sales will go along with it. Some worry that large bookstores will go the way of the record stores that shut down when the music business went digital.
“The shift from the physical to the digital book can pick up some of the economic slack, but it can’t pick up the loss that is created when you don’t have the customers browsing the displays,” said Laurence J. Kirshbaum, a literary agent. “We need people going into stores and seeing a book they didn’t know existed and buying it.”
My response to the first paragraph is a big fat duh. Of course, people want convenience when it comes to information. Talk about the sensual aspects of the codex book form is nostalgia and inculcated habit.
Kirshbaum can’t see past the market modalities that used to put food on his table. Ways of introducing people to books they’ve never heard of exist: education, word-of-mouth, social networks, promotions, giveaways, etc. Priced properly and with the right affordances, the digital book market could eclipse the paper book market, in both size and profit.
Not some time in a distant jet-pack future, but right here, right now.