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E-Books Are Taking Over

Well, it’s official. E-books are outselling paperbacks on Amazon.com. The news — the subject of consecutive blog posts by Shane Richmond at the Telegraph — is not shocking or unexpected. But the milestone raises many questions about printed books and authors, and Richmond offers some compelling observations.

His initial article includes opinions about the future from several subject-matter experts. And the outlook is not rosy if you like reading printed pages. “He (Tim Spalding at LibraryThing.com) thinks that prices will ultimately be driven down and it will be harder and harder for writers to make a living,” Richmond reports.

For those of us in the world of enterprise content management (ECM) it sometimes seems as if paper is never ending but some of Richmond’s sources make convincing cases that the near extinction of paper books, and even book ownership, is inevitable.  

The move to e-books could outmode traditional book ownership because current e-book DRM (digital rights management) agreements resemble leases and place limits on purchasers. Richmond says, “The obvious answer is for publishers to sell me both. I’d happily pay extra to get a hardback with a ‘bundled’ digital copy.”

In a second, related post, Richmond doubts whether printed books will ever follow the dodo bird off of the extinction cliff. “Just as there are people who love vinyl records, even if they were born well into the CD era, there will still be a dedicated minority who love physical books,” Richmond writes.

Regardless of how this shakes out, collecting, preserving and sharing printed books in one location might become a booming enterprise if e-books continue their takeover of the retail market. And somewhere a librarian is smiling.