‘The Book Lives On’ – that’s the tag-line for the Amazon Kindle, perhaps the most popular e-book reader on the market.
I wrote an essay just before Christmas entitled The Impact of Electronic Publishing: Are The Book’s Page’s Numbered? After congratulating myself on the title, I spent around two thousand words debating the book’s unsure future. Is it on its way out? How can it compete with the glossy new e-book?
The ‘digitalisation’ of literature isn’t always a pretty process, though. For one thing, writers will arguably take a hit due to unfair royalties. Think of it this way: currently, writers don’t get a huge amount of their books’ profits, because their publishers are footing production costs, including printing. E-books, conversely, have next to no production or distribution costs, as customers can simply buy it on-line.
As a result, writers are looking for improved royalties to make up for the fact that the publishers have less legwork, but the publishers won’t budge. This is just one of several dilemmas, including a possible loss of ‘culture’, that have caused some public distrust towards electronic publishing.
It’s therefore interesting to see the Kindle sidestep this hullabaloo by calling itself the ‘new book’. But perhaps this is exactly right. After all, the original book as we know it didn’t just spring up out of the ground. Its predecessor was the manuscript, and there was no doubt a similar public outcry back then towards the book on its arrival.
Who knows, maybe in a hundred years time, what we know as e-books and Kindles will be called, simply, ‘books’.