I’ve been working at Barnes & Noble for well over a year now. I am my store’s Digital Sales Manager (even though B&N recently changed that title). So my insight into e-reader devices has grown exponentially over the last year. Here are several things that really worry me about digital books.
First, I’m not opposed to them but I do see some serious flaws in the whole idea. The reading devices themselves are only useful for a certain amount of time. Eventually, just like any other electronic device two things will inevitably happen: the device will eventually break down and become non-operable. Or, the device will become so technologically obsolete it will eventually be useless. The latter typically happens before the former (e.g. Nook first editions are no longer made and have become obsolete, and my Kindle second edition is now obsolete). The former is currently happening. Readers come into the store with their first edition devices, we cannot fix them so they have to trade up because their current device is no longer made. Let me remind you that physical copies of books never become “obsolete” in the same sense that digital readers do. Granted, a book may go out of print, but if you have it and take care of it, it will last until you die. Even then, if it’s taken care of, it will continue to live on.
Second, digital readers/books will eventually cause B&N to downsize their locations. In other words, I believe that digital books will force B&N to close at least 200 or more of their stores, and force the company to find smaller buildings for the remaining stores. The cost of keeping up with current technology is extremely expensive.
Third, eventually, and I’m not sure when, the book in the form as we have always known it will fade. Those who still want physical books will be forced to find them at second hand bookstores. This will cause independent bookstores to either turn to a used books market or go out of business. So, digital books/readers will cost a lot of people their jobs.
Fourth, once a reader’s device no longer works, their only option (unless they get an app on their PC or other device - which will also break down) is to buy another device. And this will go on and on and on. So, not only is the reader buying electronic reading devices (that are not too cheap I might add), they are buying the digital books as well. Buying the reading device itself is shelling out extra money that could otherwise be spent on books.
To me, the above sounds bleak. While I am not opposed to digital books, I simply love and prefer physical copies. What all this means for me is that from now on I will buy nothing but physical copies of books. Because, to be quite honest, sometime in the future I will not be able to do so from a new book vender.
Is there a plus side to reading digital books and using eReaders? Yes. First, you do save space in your home. Second, you can take thousands of books with you on the device when you travel. Third, the new release digital titles are less expensive than their printed editions. Other than these three things, I can not think of any other advantages. Can you?
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- lookitcookit said: I agree with most of this, but one advantage a Kindle has, is that it’s so light it goes in a handbag so is good to read on a train, a bus - anywhere that a large book might not fit. Also you can hold it one hand when reading in bed.
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- bossyandshort said: I agree with the first several points that you’ve made; but looking at printed book sales (I get Shelf Awareness newsletter), I really don’t see the printing of new physical books becoming obsolete any time soon.
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