The end of book-browsing as we know it?

The New York Times posted an article last week about the year-end boom in e-reader sales, which some analysts believe will lead to a huge increase in e-book popularity in 2011. Most of the article is stuff we've heard before, but my attention was caught by this quote from Carolyn Reidy, the chief executive of Simon & Schuster:
"My No. 1 concern is the survival of the physical bookstore... We need that physical environment, because it’s still the place of discovery. People need to see books that they didn’t know they wanted."
Something to consider, you know? I appreciate the trees we're saving with the trend towards e-books (although I'm certain the e-reader manufacturing process comes with its own environmental impact costs), but their effect on brick-and-mortar bookstores is disturbing. We hear a lot about the loss of jobs, but this was probably the most articulate point I've heard about the changes e-books will make in the way we choose our reading material, and the (negative) impact that will have on the publication industry as a whole.
Posted by: Julianka


13 Jan, 2011 03:48 AM @ version 0

I disagree that the physical bookstore is necessary as a place of discovery. A physical bookstore can be a real treat to visit, but the e-book can provide many opportunities for discovery, too. My SO, the avid reader between us, has found many books through the Internet and his Kindle that he probably would never have noticed if he had to depend upon a physical bookstore only... and that he would not have purchased if he had to lug home yet another bound collection of paper pages.

The e-book format may even open doors to new writers, since the hurdles to become published and distributed are much lower. With the physical format, your book must be printed, packed, shipped, received, unpacked, and placed for display. That costs a lot. With an e-book, your book must be made available in a format acceptable to at least some e-book. If you want to get paid, of course, then things get a little more complicated, since your book must be distributed through a vendor that can sell your book on your behalf... but that is true for physical or electronic books.

What the e-book cannot replace is the atmosphere that a physical bookstore can provide. That would be a shame to see disappear, though it probably shall eventually happen. However, the e-book allows for plenty of discovery for enthusiastic readers.

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