Monday, February 15, 2010
Are Print Books Dead??
Remember the musical Oklahoma? Gordon MacRae singing to, of all people, Rod Steiger: "Poor Jud is daid, poor Jud Fry is daid..."
Well, the way folks have been talking lately, I'm waiting for the new musical, "Digital World," where a Gordon MacRae-esque editor will stand next to a book and sing out, "Poor print is daid, poor print books is daid, they're lookin' oh, so tattered and passe..."
Seriously, I keep hearing the rumblings:
Digital is taking over.
No one is buying print books.
Brick-and-mortar bookstores are closing every day.
The future of publishing is uncertain.
What does this mean for authors?
How will this change our contracts?
And on and on the questions go. The person sitting next to me on my flight to Nashville last weekend even asked me about this when she found out I was in publishing. We had an interesting conversation about it all, especially I heard some of these same doom-and-gloom thoughts from her.
I just smiled, and pointed to her lap. "What are you reading there?"
She held up her book--not her Kindle, mind you, her BOOK--and we talked about the author. Halfway into a sentence, she stopped, looked at the book, then at me.
And then she smiled.
"Now, look around us," I said. "How many Kindles do you see?"
She hopped up and, on pretext of heading to the oh-so-spacious bathroom on the plane, took an informal poll. Upon her return, her smile was even broader. "Two. On this whole plane, only two."
"How many books did you see?"
Smile shifts to grin. "Too many to count."
"So is print dead?"
She settled back in her seat, hands caressing the cover of the book in her lap. "I don't even think it's sick!"
Agent Steve Laube brings a voice of much-needed reason to the whole discussion. Be sure you read the comments, too. Good stuff.
So no, print's not dead. It's not even on life support. In fact, as my friend on the plane finally concluded, it's not even sick. Sure, things are changing. That's the one constant in life: change. But we authors and editors and publishers need not fear those changes. Far wiser to understand them, what's behind them, and how we can take them in stride.