Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Shadow At the Entrance

As I entered Barnes and Noble I was presented with a salesperson hawking THE NOOK, B&N's e-reader. Now, I have nothing against The Nook, although I am a Kindle Person myself. However, as I watched the salesperson and the interest in this reader, and as I watched the employees behind the cash registers, at the cafe, and milling about as they serviced the different shelves and fielded questions from customers, I wondered what they were thinking? Were they looking at The Nook and seeing their future? Were they considering a recent article where the number of e-books sold last quarter constituted a sizable chunk of the market.

A great many folk will point out that a tremendous number of folk love books...that which they can hold in their hands and collect. Ignoring the diminishing number of titles being released and the collapse of the magazine fiction market, these folks point to the cost of an ebook, which isn't always a bargain when one is considering new releases.

I am not taking one side or the other in the e-book v. book challenge. I am merely an observer. I was also an observer in the cd v. vinyl war and the famous mp3's v. cd apocalypse. I recognize change is inevitable and while some will dig in and rail against it, the less stressful path is to either throw open one's arms and welcome the new, or else take the role of quiet observer. But be careful folks, it ain't about the aesthetics, it's about the economics, and who can control more while squeezing the most out of it.

Capitalism isn't about philanthropy.


Anonymous said...

It's hard to call what will happen in regards to ebooks vs paper books. I don't know if you can compare what happened in the music industry. Music is auditory, it has no tactile sensation, no pleasing smell. I don't miss CDs or Vinyls--even though some of the artwork was pretty cool. But paper books are an entity all their own. An old book has its own aroma, its own pleasing feel.

I like ereaders. They save space, if nothing else. But I can't help but wonder if the bubble of buying ebooks is going to burst. It may be that readers are just getting into this trend, filling up their ereaders with books. And once the ereaders are full--will the bubble burst? Will sales of ebooks start to plummet?

As a writer, I'd like to get in while the market is hot. Make some money off the frenzy of downloads. But I'm not holding my breath for it to last. I think it's still to early to call the winner.

Arlene Frank said...

You are indeed right that capitalism isn't about's about pure profit whether it's an oil company or B&N. Capitalism creates the necessity and we very often have to follow whether we like it or not.

SQT said...

I've been thinking about this too. I love my Nook. That said, I still plan on keeping a sizable number of print books too. I can't take my Nook into the bathtub with me-- so there's that.

But I wonder what the future is going to be. Going forward I'm sure that I'll buy the majority of my books on download, especially if I can save money. But who knows, maybe they can support the brick-and-mortar stores off of the electronic sales.

Charles Gramlich said...

A timely warning. Let the buyer beware.

Gwendolyn said...

I have to agree with Christine. Books are a completely different animal than cds, tapes, or 8 tracks. This is the first time we've actively changed the format... and I think the two (books and e-readers) can abide side by side.

I've also been interested in how this new high tech phenomena will affect independent booksellers... There's an interesting article here: