on words

19 Oct

the last physical book i purchased was shelley palmer’s “television disrupted:” – a required reading not available in digital format. i can’t remember the book i bought before that, although i’m sure i went for the “buy 4 and get the 5th one free” deal at commercial retailer a summer or two ago…

don’t get me wrong – the number of books i’ve bought is a poor measure of the amount of literature i’ve read recently, but rather reflective of the physical to digital shift. i’m an avid reader- swapping books with friends, borrowing from the archaic yet fundamental public library, and downloading e-books. while e-books are nothing new to the literary playing field, the electronic library has grown exponentially in recent times and is causing quite an uproar in the traditional publishing industry.

with e-books and readers proliferating the market and the google library project looming over our heads- books don’t seem to have the same weight that they once did. readership is shifting to the digital world and book sellers are scrounging to stay competitive this holiday season. two retail giants, walmart and amazon, are slashing prices for hardcover books as well as e-books in a price war whose casualties may be the very books and authors these retailers are trying to sell.

while the big retailers may be able to offer too-good-to-be-true discounts, independent booksellers are going to have to rely on loyal customers who value the whole book experience of staff recommendations and store events just as much as price. however, as more customers get wooed by the retail powerhouses and online options offering low prices and convenience, it could ultimately affect what gets published by structuring the industry around a few buyers deciding what gets published with best sellers dominating the market.

oh sure, there’s nothing like sitting down with a good book and flipping through its pages, immersing yourself in another world… but how much are you willing to pay for the experience and can the book industry survive off of that number? what does it do when new books have their prices slashed and how does this affect a books’ future in the market? perhaps the discounted prices will have a positive short-short term result, but will the discount effectively kill a book’s future sales?

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