Too often, I see articles about the “battle” between traditional publishing and e-books. I’ve seen discussions about Amazon being great or brick and mortar stores being better. It’s left me wondering if reading has become rare to the point of becoming elitist in the future.
Here are a few of the points that I wonder about when it comes to this topic.
- Amazon dominance. As Amazon grows in power, brick and mortar stores become weaker. This doesn’t just mean the decline of bookstores, but also the decline of physical retail stores. Even other stores have been forced to take on a web-centric sales model just to survive.
- Digital positioning. So long as there are ways to digitally read, there will be greater incentive to go for instant delivery methods. The more this trend continues, the less stores feel the need to stock their shelves with physical books. For two or three years now, Barnes & Noble has instituted an “Endless Shelf” for ordering books, surrendering their bookshelves and replacing them with toy racks.
- Bookstores are becoming more urban. Regardless of the type of store, these businesses are refining their focus to greater population centers. While this covers a greater area with less effort, it leaves smaller communities unable to carry books with ease, forcing greater efforts to find any reading material.
- Price barriers. No matter the avenue, reading is becoming a more expensive enterprise. E-readers go from $50 to $300. Hardcovers have shifted from prices in the low-twenties to prices in the mid-thirties. Mass market paperbacks are vanishing, leaving their more durable and costly trade paperback cousins to carry the load. Those who use libraries may not pay these fees directly, but the library itself can’t escape, making it harder for them to stock shelves.
I look at these things and wonder what sort of world are we making for reading. Are we moving to delayed purchasing of books? Will we buy the permission to read in the future? Have we left those outside of metropolitan areas unable to move the course of publishing? Is reading for pleasure going to become something difficult or forbidden to underprivileged people?
Just food for thought, but I’d love to hear what you think.