Well, is the print book going to survive? Is the Earth going to be hit by an asteroid? Are the rising seas going to push us all into the hills where we’ll kill one another because of the stresses of being so hemmed in? All unanswerable questions, of course, till we have lived through the next 100 years, just like all questions which require one to guess about future events. This of course doesn’t stop us going on guessing.

The recent slowdown in e-book and e-reader sales are being taken as evidence that all is rosy for the future of print. Maybe. But as I’ve argued before; we can’t say much using the scanty evidence we have to hand. Even if the numbers analyzed did include self-published and indie published e-books — and they don’t — they are still telling us a story with a ridiculously short time span.

Here, from Medium, via The Digital Reader, is “The Death of the Death of Books” by M. G. Siegler. This sort of piece is all too common. For the time being there are obviously bookstores selling print books: who’d seriously doubt that with 70% of regular publishing’s book sales being of the print variety. So what can one say about that? Not too much I fear — it’s just too soon do much more than express a preference. Siegler’s a bit dismissive about the bookstore scene in San Francisco. It’s true a downtown resident would have to take a trip out of town to get to a Barnes & Noble store, but why would such a native bother when there are several good independent stores around town?

Craig Mod criticizes Amazon for not developing the Kindle more than they have. Maybe this is fair: though it hasn’t been that long and it is comfortably dominant. If Amazon really is ignoring the Kindle, that could I suppose have print-survival implications. But I bet there’s some exciting new technology development lurking round the next corner. Mod’s much referenced piece at Aeon shows (at the very end) one sort of e-book development at Bret Victor’s Communications Design Group research laboratory in San Francisco. But who is going to pay for this sort of work? I suspect that the truth of the matter is that reading is a fairly straightforward activity. Bells and whistles aren’t necessary, indeed may be a distraction. In reading, one word after another gets the job done just fine. That’s no doubt why the printed book is such a suitable vehicle.

 

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