Is It Really Books That We Love?

It seems that my post on Why Traditional Books Will Eventually Die has sparked a good deal of debate. So far, it has generated more than 40 comments and a number of email messages.


Christian Retailing even has an article coming in its January issue. It is entitled, “Nelson head predicts ‘death of traditional book’.” You can read it online here.

The article’s lead paragraph says,

The head of the world’s biggest Christian publishing company has announced the funeral of the traditional book, though he has not set a date.

Well, not exactly. The key word in my post was eventually. The interesting thing to me is that this is even considered news.

To get some perspective, think about music. Just in my lifetime, I have lived through a plethora of music technologies: the 45 rpm vinyl record, the LP vinyl record, 8-tracks, cassette tapes, CDs, and now digital formats, including MP3 and AAC. This doesn’t even include all the iterations before my time or all the nuances of the formats I have mentioned.

But despite these technological changes, the music lives on. Last night I was listening to the Moody Blues, Seventh Sojourn via my iPod. I originally bought this album as a vinyl LP back in 1972, when I was a junior in high school. The music sounds just as good now—perhaps even better, since it was digitally remastered in 1997—as it did then. I honestly didn’t think about the device the music was playing on—I was too lost in the music itself.

I think books are similar. I don’t believe that people are as wedded to the technology as they think they are. What they love about books are the stories and the content. They remember how those words made them feel. They love the experience of reading and the places that takes them. The delivery mechanism just happens to be a book—granted a very sophisticated technology that hasn’t really changed in hundreds of years.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has said that the reason books work so well is that the technology just disappears. In other words, as a reader, you lose yourself in the content and forget that you are holding a paper and glue artifact in your hands.

He went on to say, ”our top design objective was for Kindle to disappear in your hands—to get out of the way—so you can enjoy your reading” (from the initial press release for the Kindle). Whether or not this goal was achieved is debatable. However, he certainly has the goal right. The content is primary; the technology is secondary.

So while I believe that most traditional books will eventually be supplanted by something digital, this does not mean that the words themselves will die. Writing, editing, publishing, and bookselling will survive for as long as humans have something to say and other humans want to read what they have said. The form may change, but the basic role of storytelling and communication will live on forever.

Rather than resist this change, I say we should embrace it. It may just be the means by which we engage a whole new generation of readers.

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  • Scott Winter

    Mike – Debates like this make me miss being in the digital publishing world…

    I’ve been saying this for years (ever since the first PalmPilot came out and I was reading eBooks on that device). There will always be shortcomings in the device (how many people have the “one true” cell phone they want?). First it was no color, then it was bad color, then it was poor graphics, then it was internet/wi-fi and on and on… The excuses will always be there. What will cause a revolution in digital publishing is a radical change in consumer mindset. Then, and only then, will the device flourish.

    By continuing discussions like this, and generating news articles, you continue to broaden awareness and sway public opinion. This will lead to the predicted digital revolution.


  • Michael E

    This is a fascinating debate.

    1) You compared books to music. I would differ on that point. Here’s why: When you listen to the music you don’t usually hold the album, cd, cassette, etc in your hand. The product itself is not part of the experience of listening to music. The book, on the other hand, is part of the experience both prior to reading the content, during content absorption, and afterwards. I would compare books to baseball bats. Major League Baseball could shift to aluminum bats. Why haven’t they? Aluminum bats are cheaper, more efficient to make, and last longer. Part of the wooden bat is the ambience. The look, feel and sound of the bat. The precise reason that some people dislike the metal bat, is precisely the reason they like the wooden bat.
    2) I do agree that some genres of books will shrink. For example, books that are primarily business books will die out. People that read those types of books are doing so for one reason: information. In this case, this type will shrink considerably.
    3) Consider this: the delivery methods you mentioned regarding music were strong for years if not decades. The physical book has been strong for centuries. That is a BIG difference.

    Great debate!

  • Lawrence W. Wilson

    The death of the book isn’t what concerns me; it’s the death of reading I worry about.

    In a recent column, Sara Nelson noted that “the percentage of 17-year-olds who read nothing at all for pleasure has doubled over a 20-year period (from 9% in 1984 to 19% in 2004). Watching television eclipses reading as a favorite leisure-time activity for men and women of all ages, but for 15–24-year-olds, reading is particularly avoided. On average, these teens and young adults spend less than 10 minutes a day on voluntary reading.”

    As editorial director for a publishing house, I’m far more interested in the changes in reading habits than in reading technology.

    How do we get more people to read good books–in any format–that’s my question.

  • Wayne Leman

    How do we get more people to read good books–in any format–that’s my question.

    For some people it may just be enough if we can get them to listen to good books. I work for a large Bible translation group. We now have departments, individuals, and consultants devoted to “non-print” media.

    If we can’t beat ‘em, sometimes we have to join ‘em. But all is not lost if they still get the content.

  • Timothy Fish

    I think you are probably right. Just the other day, I made a comment about one of Mark Twain’s books and I didn’t have it with me, so I looked it up on Google. I wasn’t intending to get hooked, but I had read through chapter seven and I was well on my way to chapter eight of A Connecticut Yankee in King Author’s Court when I came to my senses. Given a preference, I would have chosen to have the paper book in hand. It would have been more comfortable, but the browser didn’t detract from the story.

    Will digital publishing encourage new readers? I don’t think the Kindle 1.0 is going to encourage many new readers, but as devices and software begin to incorporate new features and authors begin to dream up ways to make reading more of an experience, as the printers are replaced by the software developers, I think people will return to reading as a form of entertainment. Then again, it could be that the Nothing will come and swallow us all up and we are all doomed.

    For me, the story is the most important thing. I enjoy telling the story even more than I enjoy hearing that someone has read the story. As long as people experience the story then I am happy.

  • Michael

    Book technology has changed dramatically. I remarked just the other day how different today’s books are from some older books I find in used bookstores and thrift shops. Older books do not have colorful imagery on dustjackets. They have no blurbs. They have no author pics. Often, the only draw to the book is title and author’s name.

    Comparing music with the written word is not as simple for me. I think written words removed singing and music from the storytelling experience. Much of God’s Word is musical. Most early stories that remain are poems, songs, musical plays. Non-musical novels came much later. The written story, no doubt, suffered because of this.

    However, the first phonograph did what the first “autograph” did. It removed the audience from authors and/or performers of art. Radio, TV, and every type of audio/video recording since has done the same. But the phonograph, et al., did what the “autograph” could not. Before recorded sound, moving pictures, broadcast, and streaming audio/video, one could acquire a written song, poem, musical composition, play, etc. But one at least had to have the talent to play the accompanying music in his head. With recordings, less and less talent is needed.

    E-readers may further remove the reader from the author by removing browsing as we know it, much like the Internet has changed research. I cannot go to a central place like a library or a bookstore to browse books by subject matter, which might lead to a surprise book I want to pick up.

    Anyway…I am not sure I am making sense. But I think replacing shelves of books in a library or marketplace with clickthroughs and “browse before you buy” on will be detrimental to book lovers and potential book lovers for years to come.

  • Timothy Fish

    I don’t think “removing the audience from the author” is really an issue. We still communicate with the spoken word, face to face, a step away. Parents tell children stories. Go to church and pastors and teachers communicate by speaking. What books and audio recordings have done for us is provided a way for people to communicate with a much broader audience. Through electronic media, I have been able to share the gospel with people in countries that I will never visit. To me, that is just cool! Being able to read a book, finding something that a passage that you don’t understand and being able to e-mail the author and ask “what do you mean by that?” without leaving your chair. Or maybe you can discuss the book with other people who are reading the book. We aren’t there yet, but Amazon appears to be headed in that direction. E-readers will not remove the reader from the author, rather they will facilitate a much closer connection between the reader and the author.

  • Jan

    Personally, I like to hold a book in my hand while reading. Oh sure, I get on the internet and read all kinds of things that are interesting. And I enjoy them. But when I want to really grasp what I’m reading to a greater degree I usually print the page. Why? Because I am a person who sometimes needs to look back over something I’ve already read. I don’t like scrolling back up to review something. I much prefer scanning a page. So for me, a book in hand is better than a book online. But either way, I will always be a person who reads.

  • Max Elliot Anderson

    Your analogy of how music has progressed reminds me of an experience I had many years ago. I have worked in two, Christian film companies. While at Ken Anderson Films, we watched the transition from 16mm film to video. I say watched, because the debate raged about video causing the eventual death of 16mm film distribution. Even though we didn’t participate in the transition to video, until it was too late, the distributors were right. The truth is, no one could have stopped it if they tried. You won’t find any 16mm film distributors renting films to churches today.

    I suspect that the fight, as it relates to books, is similar. Major distributors, and the bookstores that still remain, will argue that their business is in jeopardy specifically because they fear that the electronic book is going to kill their business-ministry. I predict they’ll be right.

    As an author, I’m not so concerned with how books will be distributed as I am in knowing that the largest potential market has the opportunity to buy them, and to be touched by their content. It should be obvious to most of us that the Internet is where people will be shopping in the future.

    Since I grew up hating to read, I don’t share the nostalgic notion of the feel and the smell of a book. I do enjoy those senses whenever a new book of mine is delivered, but the easier it is for consumers to find and purchase one of my titles, the wider effect my work will have with boys 8 – 13.

    Max Elliot Anderson

  • Lindsay Terry
  • mickey Hodges

    Have you heard about One Laptop Per Child and its Give 1, Get 1 program? Check out this link on its use as an e-book:

  • Robert Treskillard

    I wonder, though, if e-books will not really be books just made digital. I foresee the time when readers of e-books will *expect* that the book will come with a custom sound-track and audio effects at certain parts of the book.

    Got to that scary scene where the villain opens the door? Well, you hear the creaky door open. Each chapter may have its own music hand picked by the author. Will this be gimicky? Yes. Will many just turn that option off? Yes. But many will want them, especially the younger generation.

    Also, I would think that this direction can move us closer to the author in that every e-book will probably have a video included of the author talking about their book, its writing, life, and everything else. DVD’s have it. Why not books?

    Non-fiction books will have live video showing different concepts. Animated graphs, anything catchy to set it apart from its competition.

    Fiction books will come with a video prologue which sets the book up.

    If the technology is there, it *will* be used! The book as we know it is dead, and I would argue it isn’t just the paper that is going away.

    Not only that, but the publishers that catch on to these technologies first will have an edge in the market.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Deb Finnamore

    Like others, I don’t agree with comparing books to music directly, apples to apples, yet I find it interesting that the comparison was made. My husband is an audio engineer. Despite all of the advancements in digital recording technology, there is no replacing the sound of tape hiss that comes from recording to tape to warm up a track. Many music diehards have tried to replicate the sound of tape hiss digitally. They still end up recording to tape to recapture that old, warm, romantic sound that evokes such an emotional response to the music. Lovers of such sounds aren’t responding directly to the tape hiss – they respond to what it does to the music. It’s a reminder that the medium is important to the delivery of the message.

    I will be thrilled if someone ever invents a leather bound laptop. Now that would be a feat!

  • Dan Morehead
  • Dan Morehead

    “Eventually” is not — after all — much of a statement.

    It’s like saying that eventually we might no longer use cotton. Sure picking cotton is “inefficient” but that doesn’t mean your cotton t-shirt is going away any time soon.

    You might be interested in BoingBoing’s review of Kindle (see: here).

    Until the technology becomes ubiquitous and cheap, the “eventually” remains “not any time soon.” One must remember that an mp3 could be enjoyed from any computer with speakers/headphones whereas book-readers only deal with the portability issue and cost of production issues, but not the issue of ease of reading (eye strain, etc.) For example, no one likes reading text-heavy pdf’s on a computer screen). Most still print them out to read them.

    On the comparison with music: How did people get mp3’s on their computers? First, file swapping. Content — or, software (think mp3’s) — piracy actually helped propel initial hardware sales of mp3 players by decreasing the cost of music acquisition. Mp3 players simply solved the portability issue. At this point, however, there is not much likelihood of people swapping eBooks since few want to read them with or without specialized hardware, thereby limiting the demand for such hardware. Second, ripping CD’s onto computers. Now, nor in the foreseeable future, is there a parallel way to get one’s books onto a reader.

    [One can turn books into pdf’s and read them on a eBook reader, but what would this add to the already portable and accessible nature of books, other than having multiple books accessible at once. One may want to skip between songs every 5 minutes, but one rarely wants to do the same with books. If the average American reads (being generous!) less than 3 books a year, it is unlikely that they will be carrying multiple books around with them, which an eBook reader would make more convenient.]

    There remains the issue of the cost of production of books. However, people are not choosing not to read books based upon the high cost of books. Sure book production is inefficient when compared to the production of a eBook, and it is true that I’m commenting on this post through a paperless medium, but perhaps that has more to do with the fact that the web, unlike books, rarely has large quantities of information to communicate. In the near term, if the book dies, it will be because our attention spans have been shortened by the immediacy and ubiquity of ‘communication’ tools like blogs, news soundbites, and advertisements. Most corporate leaders, politicians, and clergy have become market-driven bureaucratic managers incapable of sustained and substantive deep thinking. This searing technocratic heat has always promised us more my banishing “inefficiency” regardless of whether more could be absorbed. It has also evaporated the focus on learning from our halls of education and will be the death of the book.

    One day we might only produce books in eBook format, but the traditional book will already be dead if we cannot read.

  • Timothy Fish

    I don’t expect creaking doors in the near future, but ambiant noise or music can help to set the mood for a scene. I sometimes use music as a tool to help set the scene when I am writing, so it would be great to have it when the reader is reading.

    Things like creaking doors are a problem because they can’t be put into a loop. There is no way to time when the door should creak. We might be able to guess the reading speed based on how quickly the reader is turning pages, but to get is right we will need to be able to track the reader’s eye movement. That capability may not be on an eBook device for several years. As features become available, I think people will have a tendency to go overboard on a few things. Some things will be corny while others will enhance the reading experience.

  • mattk

    I just can’t believe that parents and children will have as beautifully meaningful experiences with a digital version (no matter what the device is) of The Ox Cart Man, or The Giving Tree, or Farmer Boy, or The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey as they have with the current ink on paper format. I can’t believe that digital will replace children’s picture books.

    However, I am sure that all reference books will be digital within 5 years. I haven’t opened a dictionary, concordance, or encylepedia in 2 years: All that info is available online.

    As for wanting the contents and not the medium, well, that’s a hard one. Certainly didn’t have room for my 2,0000 volume library when I moved into a little San Francisco apartment, it would have ben nice to hae had those books in a digital format. But then I would have missed out on the pleasure of giving them away.

    With the death of my father, who was a pastor for 50 years I have been giving away his books to young pastors he influenced. They are all extremely thankful and are putting the books to good use, especially the notes he wrote in margins. I just can’t see that with digital.

    And what about Modern Library and Everyman’s Library? Half the fun of those books is the cloth binding, the highquality paper, and watching your collection grow over the years, and again, giving a much loved volume to a much loved friend. That will be lost with digital. May it never happen.

  • Timothy Fish

    It seems like some of the objections that people have with getting rid of paper books are some of the same objections that people had with getting rid of card catalogues in libraries, hand written notes, wear indicating popularity, the ability to find similar books by proximity. We still have some card catalogues around, but most people won’t use them if the digital version is available. The world with all digital books will be different, but I think people will find other ways to do the things that they currently do with the paper format.

  • Matt Karnes

    I have to admit that I haven’t thought much about digital books before yesterday. The more I think about it the less I like the idea.

    It seems like technology for the sake of technology, change for the sake of change. And change for the worse, at that. Will no good thing be left good? Must all be overturned for the sake of ‘progress’?

    When I was 12 years old I picked up a century old title called “The Apostolic Church” that I saw sitting on my Dad’s shelf. At first, it was the binding, the smell of the old paper, the little pages, the odd heaviness of such a little book (I guess it was the binding and the thin paper that contributed to the heft of the volume) that attracted me to the book. I didn’t know a thing about the contents. But the construction and antiquity of the book invited me to take up and read. And I fell in love with history. What a sad literary and intellectual world our children and grand children are going to inherit from us.

    I wish we were a half measure wiser and a half measure not so clever.

  • Christopher Coulter

    As one who has a costly rare large-illustrated-edition of ‘Alice in Wonderland’, yes, it is books, themselves, that I love. The content would be the same in a digital page-scanned .pdf/.sgml edition, but it wouldn’t be quite the same concept, nor would it invoke the quite same emotions.

    Music is independent of the technology, books are the technology defacto, if divorced from their current form, they become another technology altogether.

    Books will evolve, and take on differing forms, but never disappear. It’s the ‘extension of’, rather than the dire doom and gloom predictions per ‘extinction of’.

  • Timothy Fish

    Christopher makes a good point about the collectability of books. Some people are more interested in the physical object than the content. Some people buy books as decor. These things will be lost with a transition to eletronic books. I have a few old books and I am glad that I have them, but when we are talking about new books, rare books are easy to come by.

    I write rare books. Many other authors do as well. There are thousands of new rare books out there. The ones that are considered valuable by collectors are the limited edition copies of popular books. For everything else, the true value is not in the paper, ink and glue. The true value of a book is in words that are on the pages. Which is more valueable, a Gutenberg Bible that is stored in a glass case so no one will touch it or a Gideon Bible that is stored in the nightstand at a hotel, so anyone may read it?

    The goal of every author, of every publisher should be to produce products that are more valuable to the person who is reading it than to the collector. Books should be written with the intent that a person who reads it will walk away changed by the experience. Perhaps he will know how to do something that he could not do before. Perhaps a novel helps him see things in a different light. Perhaps he is just entertained, but the words should impact him for what they say rather than how they look. As an author, I couldn’t care less if one of my books becomes valueable as a collector’s item. I would much rather have people read my books and gain something more valueable than the book because they did.

  • Robert Treskillard

    For the record, I don’t necessarily think that the coming changes are for the better.

    I’ve just seen other areas change so rapidly that books will give eventually, too. Maybe not at $9.99 a book with a $400 reader, but get that price down to $7.99 or $6.99 a book and get the reader down to $75 and paper book sales will drop.

    Once paper sales drop appreciably enough for the bestsellers, then the economics of publishing will put pressure on the mid-list and lower books to move to digital only.

    I make the analogy more to digital cameras than music. At first I thought I couldn’t live without printed photos. After all, photo-albums are books, right?

    After awhile though, I have gotten more and more used to looking at my pictures on the computer. Now I only print the special ones.

    The same will be true of books. With the Print On Demand technology coming up, we will only buy the special ones in paper.

    Publishers may want to consider selling the print version at a discount once the e-book version is purchased, allowing for this “upgrade” once the reader decides whether or not the novel is worth a little extra money.

    Again, I don’t necessarily like these fundamental changes, and it might be further off than we think, but the day is coming.

  • Timothy Fish

    At the moment, I don’t believe we know enough to determine what the market will bear in terms of eBook prices. It would be nice if the razorblade model could be used, Amazon could sell the Kindle for $75, preload it with a couple of books and then sell books for the device for $15. That is not what they chose to do and the publisher sets the price for the book. Some books are priced lower than the default $9.99, but I don’t think they should be. In terms of the effort that goes into producing a book, I believe that books are underpriced already. When you consider that an author may receive $1000, total, for a book and that the author spent weeks working on it, many authors are working for free. I fear that pushing prices down will result in even less money making it to the authors. Even as inefficient as getting 50% of the books shipped to the stories might be, publishers should not set prices so low that they make less money on a book, just to help encourage the adoption of the Kindle. Authors are generally more interested in people reading their books than making money from their books, but authors and publishers deserve to get fair pay for their efforts.

  • Robert Treskillard

    I agree, Timothy.

    The reader price I was just guessing at what it might get to a few years from now because of the way technology gets cheaper. But that assumes competition too, which there may not be much if Amazon gets a lock on it.

    The book price I was only speculating based on the very low cost of selling something digitally — no printing, shipping, warehousing, etc. Publishers definitely will not go so low that they make less money. But even the same amount of profit is not hard to make when the cost for product manufacturing, shipping, and all the overhead that goes with that is near zero after all the up front work is done.

    As an aspiring author, I would certainly hope that publishers and authors would earn more, not less, even on a lower price than $9.99. Keep in mind that the purchasers know that the manufacturing costs are $0, too, and so perceived value is lower even if it is the same book because they aren’t getting a real thing they can hold and put on the shelf.

    Anyway, its all wait and see, and my few brain cells can’t grasp it all.

    Thanks for your input, Timothy!

  • Greg Stielstra

    I think, as you said in your original post, that people’s love affair with books is really with the content but they have come to associate those warm feelings with the thing they held in their hand during the experience. If that’s true, then those warm feelings could just as easily associate with an electronic device were it the source of the content.

    It may be difficult for those who grew up holding paper books to imagine anything else feeling quite so good. But remember that increasingly younger people will read their first book from a screen and soon whole generations will arise who have known nothing else. For them it will be impossible to imagine getting that same warm feelings from ink on paper. GS

  • Bob Cooper

    How do we get more people to read good books–in any format–that’s my question.

    I’d have to agree with this poster’s question. My daughter has an undergrad degree in Creative Writing and a PHD in 18th (or 19th, I can never remember)Century English literature. She’s taught Freshman English now at two different colleges as well as World Literature. She and I have had discussions about whether ebooks will replace the printed page and her response was that the format wouldn’t really matter, that the kids she was teaching had no interest in reading (other than Myspace blogs or the like) or writing. She has actually had assigned papers handed in where the writers had used “2” for the word “to” and other texting abbreviations.
    She tries to interest them in reading by comparing literature to various current movies to illustrate the concepts of plot, characters, etc. but to little avail.
    Reading is something they’re just not interested in, and listening to a podcast of a book or a book on CD wouldn’t interest them either. They’d have to think and evidently that makes their brains hurt (my comment, not hers).
    Sure there are exceptions (a few) but unless parents start getting involved in reading to their children from birth and quit using the TV & video games as a babysitter, the technology to beam words direct into the brain wouldn’t help…
    We’ve seen the result of having a leader who disdains reading. Maybe the rapture will happen before the current college students get to be an electable age.

    Oh, and by the way, I couldn’t afford to pay 10 bucks for every book I read in a year. Or if my kids were still at home to buy an ereader for them as well as for my wife and I. Long live libraries.

  • EH

    I appreciated your comments on the pro’s and con’s of the Kindle, but was humored by your comment in which I am copying below:
    “This is also why Amazon has taken three years to get this product to market. It has taken that long to get the Luddite-minded publishers on-board. (I say this as one of them.) Apple has not been talking to us at Thomas Nelson, and we are one of the largest publishers in the country. So I have to assume they aren’t talking to anyone else either.

    Some have suggested that Apple could just partner with Google and offer the thousands of books that Google has scanned from major libraries. You can be sure that won’t happen. Authors and agents already have a major lawsuit against Google. If Google—or Apple—tried to use this material without compensating authors and publishers, they would be buried in thousands of lawsuits.”

    I think your statement that just because Apple isnt talking to you so they probably arent talking to anyone else is ignorant and you underestimate the power of Apple. If you dont think that they have their own Kindle and they have people sitting in the back room taking it apart and coming up with their own version (if they havent already)and waiting to pounce on this if its the “next big thing”, you’re crazy.

    Apple has an ad in Trafalgar Square that they paid a million dollars for and it doesnt mean a thing to them. I dont see Thomas Nelson throwing ads up around the world, dropping a million bucks like its nothing.

    Your comments on your thoughts on how the Kindle works are valuable and has sparked some great debate. Your Napolean Complex comments on how big you think you are, and that you know what Apple is thinking obviously come from a separate agenda which is comical. Thanks for making some of us laugh.

  • Timothy Fish

    Concerning EH’s comments: the issue is no whether or not Apple has the capability to build a Kindle like device and it is very possible that Apple is making plans along that line without telling anyone. It wouldn’t be the first time they have pulled something like that, but the issue here is that Apple does not have the license to generate content for the device. It doesn’t matter how many million dollar ads Apple buys, if the major publishers don’t step up and agree to put their content on Apple’s device then the average consumer will not be buying it for reading books. The cost of developing and promoting a Kindle like device is significantly more than a million dollars, but if people aren’t going to buy it they might as well be developing a several million dollar pet rock. Apple is worried about the bottom line like everyone else, so it is unlikely that they are going to go walk into an venture like this without some assurance that they can get the major publishers onboard.

    One thing that people forget or have never realized about large companies is that they seldom function as a single unit. Each service and product line is a little like its own little company within a company. While Apple is several times the size of Thomas Nelson, the department or team that would be working on a Kindle like device is much smaller than Thomas Nelson and even smaller when the other major publishers are considered. When this team goes to their higher level bosses with a progress report and their bosses ask what the publishing industry things about it, they will not want to say, “we don’t know.”

  • Michael Hyatt

    Maybe you’re right on the Napolean Complex. I hope not.

    My point is exactly the same as Timothy’s. If you don’t have the cooperation of the publishers, your device won’t be worth anything. We are the sixth largest publisher in the U.S. Maybe Apple is talking to those that are bigger; I don’t know. But if I were running the project, I would want to be talking to the top ten—at least. Amazon started talking with publishers two years before they launched, and we were one of the ones in the group.

  • Howard

    I view the book as just another technology. Before the printed book was the codex and before that the scroll. Each of these technologies took time to be embraced and I am sure there were those that believe society was in trouble because of the new way of reading.

    I have been reading books on my Palm for a few years now and I like the convenience of having a book with me where ever I am. I am getting older and the screen size of my Treo makes it more difficult to read. I also deal with a number of committees and have notebooks lined up on my desk with reports, minutes, notes etc. I am hoping I can move all of this to an eReader so I can get rid of all the paper. I am also looking forward to reading on larger screen.

    I just read an article about J.K. Rowling and her aversion to ebooks. She writes in long-hand and believes people should read her books on the printed page. She can afford this attitude because she has made millions and will sale the books, but I will not buy them because I want an electronic version. I am not suggesting piracy is right, but I noticed several places one could go and download ebook versions of her work. To me she is leaving money on the table and that is foolish.

    As to young people not reading, i did not enjoy reading until I was in my 30’s. Since that time I have read many of the classics along with some of the recent best sellers. Most of it in the form of ebooks. Perhaps I am a minority, but this is what I prefer.

  • Doug Overmyer

    When I took public transportation to work, I found standing, holding a book like a small paperback bible, and holding a bar for balance too difficult, especially to turn the pages.

    So I downloaded a free bible from, converted it for my Palm, set it for autoscroll, and then conveniently read it each morning on the way to work.

    Eventually, I downloaded other books – usually classics like by Dickens or Tolstoy or shorts by Edgar Allen Poe, and then would read them on the way home.

    As I travelled the country for work, I would leave the books at home, and just take my Palm, which was primitive by today’s standards. It took getting used to and there were some limitations, but I read several classics that way.

    On one trip, I was in DC for about a month, and found the limitations of reading Anna Karenina on my pda too frustrating, so I went to a local bookstore and bought it.

    I recall a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where someone marveled that the captain had paper books, despite their obvious ineffeciencies. Picard said he loved the tactile nature of books, which could never be replaced by the digital experience, and I think that is true. If I could catalog all my books digitally, and have an effecient digital reader, I’d do so. But I’d also lose some of the experience paper has to offer.

    For instance, I can use an electronic Thompson Chain reference system for study, but then by not using my copy with the notes scribbled over the years, or even better, my great-grandfather’s Thompson-Chain Reference Bible, handed down to me over the years, well, I’m sure I’d lose something. :-)

  • Jerome Smith

    I am a recently retired English teacher and reading specialist.

    Recent research on reading trends would seem to paint a dismal picture for the fate of reading for pleasure and the printed book.

    We need to encourage parents to read to children, and turn the TV and computers off.

    There is a super-short short story by Isaac Asimov, “The Fun They Had,” which in science fiction portrays a future age where some children discover a real book in an attic. There is another short story by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, “The Portable Phonograph,” which depicts a lonely scene after the final War where a remote survivor, a professor, has managed to salvage and preserve just a few things to remember past civilization by, works by Shakespeare, the Bible, and a few phonograph records. These two stories are both worth reading and pondering.

    Both stories relate to the significant theme of what is worth saving for the future of civilization.

    But in the “here and now,” I’m thankful Nelson Publishers are still producing fine books. Mine just came off the press (in China, at that!), Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible. If you don’t have it, see it under “reference” on Nelson’s main page, and get one.

    Every Christian who loves the Bible, and reads it, needs the Cross Reference Guide to the Bible.

    We use it in my family many evenings in the week. We sit down, choose a verse in the Bible to study, and read each cross reference in turn. Then, perhaps on another evening, we go back to the verse we studied and follow up the cross references marked with a “+” and turn to those passages in the Cross Reference Guide and read each verse given there in turn. This is one most inspiring and instructive way to get into the Bible, the Word of God.

    As for electronic Bibles and books taking over the market, I hardly think this will ever be. Constantly charging and replacing batteries is a nuisance, and should all our technology vanish, the book is still viable, electricity or not!

    Their one advantage for me is they save shelf space!

    For people who actually read, there is no substitute for a physical book. It is impossible to scroll through a book electronically with the same effect that it is possible to consult the pages of a physical book.

    I have many books in electronic form, but I always prefer using the real books on paper.

    It saves on our electric usage, too!

    What publishers need to do is make better uses of the resources they have access to now but fail to use properly–their published authors.

    At present, in my case at least, the author is left totally in the dark about what is happening.

    I just did a search for where Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible may be purchased locally. The only “in stock” link I found was to the Barnes and Noble Bookstore in Port Huron near where I live. That store has it because I went to the store, showed the book to the manager, and suggested she might like to carry an important Bible reference book by a local author, for I had already informed people that they could get it there.

    At this moment, Barnes and Noble is the only website which has a comment from a reader about the Cross Reference Guide. The reader was very pleased with the book.

    I am too. Nelson produced a beautiful book that needs to be used by everyone who reads the Bible.

  • Christine H

    I absolutely love books themselves. The feel of the glossy cover, the smell of new ink on the pages, the sound of the pages being turned, the way the pages and corners soften with time and use. I love being able to toss one in my handbag to take along with me while I wait in X location for Y person. I like the fact that if a book gets wet or dropped… no worries! I can pick it up, dry it out, and it's still just fine. I can even read in the bathtub if I want.

    An expensive electronic device like a Kindle is going to give me headaches from looking at the screen. If I drop it or get it wet, bye-bye hundreds of dollars! And it's not just the one book that is lost, but all the books stored on it. I won't be able to "read" until it is replaced.

    I think that books – real, physical, paper books – will eventually become luxury items, and all the poor slobs who can't afford them will have Kindles.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I love physical books, too. But I also love my Kindle. I'm not sure about books becoming luxury items, but I do think they will be like candles. People buy them for ambiance, but they won't use them to light their homes.

      One thing to note: if you drop your Kindle in the bathtub, it is indeed probably fried. However, the content is safe. It is all stored on Amazon's servers and can be re-downloaded at will.

      Thanks for your comments.

  • Ms. Yingling

    As a middle school librarian, I can't even afford to have Playaways. I can't imagine giving a student a $200 e-book reader. With paperbacks costing about $6, and hardcovers costing $15 or so, I can afford to supply books to students, and these books can withstand a lot of wear and tear for many years before falling apart. The traditional book needs to survive until 2038, when I can retire. Schools can't afford anything but the printed book, and sometimes we are the only place where children are able to get books.

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  • Tom Conley

    Technology will break and the contents could be lost. Computers crash and so will iBooks. But I will still have my paper book with its' dirty black marks and all. I will read on the beach and not worry about sand in my iBook.

  • W. Mark Thompson

    Even though I feel like I am hooked on the technology (I doubt my music would sound as good on a regular MP3 play as it does on my iPod), it does make me think about how I read.

    I haven’t gotten a Kindle because I really like physical books. But analyzing it a little, I actually am pumped  when I find even a few good thoughts from a whole book. Those can be found just as well reading from a Kindle.

    Maybe one day I’ll be ready to take that plunge. May help if Amazon was equipped with Evernote. Ha!

  • Rob Sorbo

    I love technology, but I must admit that I prefer paper than a digital format. The problem I ran into on my iPad is that there were too many distractions to my reading and the screen seemed too bright. I also tried using my cellphone for reading, and I found the same issues as I had with the iPad, but also my cellphone battery died too quickly.

    I have yet to try something with e-ink. I think this might be thing I’m looking for–I’m hesitant to buy one until I know I’ll like it. 

    Is there a good way of taking notes and highlighting with any of the e-readers? I know if I was a student I would want to stick with paper so that I could highlight and write notes in the margins. If there is a way to do this, does it work well or is it lacking?

    • Michael Hyatt

      You can highlight and take notes in all the e-readers I am familiar with. Plus, they give you many options once you do so that print simply cannot accommodate (i.e., search, copy and paste, etc.) Thanks.

      • Rob Sorbo

        I hadn’t thought of the searchability…that would make a huge difference. Thanks for pointing that out.