There was a good article in the Globe & Mail today (NB. Kim McArthur, quoted in this article, closed her Canadian publishing company in 2013) about the future of publishing in Canada, and the effect, during their very brief life, so far, that e-readers and e-books have had, are having, are expected to have, on publishing of traditional print books. Not surprisingly, it’s actually the older readers who have embraced this new technology, and for the very reasons why trade format paperbacks became a popular alternative to mass market format a couple of decades or so ago, and not only for publishing “serious” literary fiction – but because they offered bigger print for failing eyesight. Mine is also the group (Boomers) who read the most “books” (in any form), and buy the most books, because we have a disposable income; we belong to book clubs in larger numbers than any other generation; and, while I haven’t checked my facts on this next statement, I’m going to throw out there that we are also a more educated group overall, the majority of us having studied liberal arts, rather than receiving specialized learning, or job preparation, that seem to be the norm now. (i.e. We received an education that not only encouraged us to read, but also encouraged us to think about, and discuss, what we were reading, and we value print books.) Plus my peer group is proving to be lifelong learners, with many of us going back to school in order to study “for fun” and/or personal enrichment. Again, that disposable income, as well as retirement.
I was one of the most vocal naysayers, not too long ago, who was dismayed at the thought that a computer might one day replace all of my lovely print books that take up a great deal of room on my shelves. But I too have come around to seeing the many benefits of reading a book online (mainly from having read advance manuscripts in PDF format and finding that very convenient indeed, not to mention being a cost-saver for the publishers), and of having whatever I want to read next available at a click. Environmental concerns alone should be enough to send most people out to buy an e-reader. Think of all the paper that will eventually be saved.
My real concern about the publishing business, though, and where I believe we should all be concentrating our efforts, is in getting the word out as to who is currently writing, and what books are available to be read. You can’t believe the number of people who ask me, “What should I read next?” There are fewer places that promote or review books, or maybe it’s just that the promotion being done is not all that effective. Whatever the reason, the information just isn’t getting to the people who want to read. So that’s where I see the challenges in 2010. Many people still do read, and whether they read books in traditional print form or as e-books really shouldn’t matter – so long as they’re receiving the information as to who is writing, about what is being published, and what might interest them enough to want to plunk down the money to buy a print book or an e-book. It’s time to start thinking creatively here, and promote outside the box. We need people who will champion books, authors, and reading in general.