What is a book in the digital age?

This is the question … what is a book in the digital age? I still read (and buy) paper copies, but have also bought and read digital / eBooks. I like both formats for different reasons.

What is a book in the digital age?

The article ‘What is a book in the digital age?‘ covers the questions very well, highlighting how we perceive the differences between paper and electronic, the pros and cons of the two formats, and the advances being made in the ‘richer reading experience’. 

For me the disappointment in the question is there seems to be an either / or mentality: which is the future, electronic or digital? Does it really have to be, or indeed need to be like this? Let’s look at the music industry. I’m not even going to go into the details of the impact Napster and the iPod had to it in the 90’s (but this will help if you want), but the recent upward trend in vinyl sales has not dented sales of digital music, but could almost be seen to enhance it (I myself am currently digitising some 300+ vinyl albums and singles). The sales of CD albums continue to decline, but is this due to the format war, lack of new music, inadequacy of the CD album in the iPod-age (by this I mean are people still interested in 10-15 tracks as an album, or are they buying only the tracks the want/like)?

The same is true of eBooks – some books I want paper copies (textbooks, reference books, etc.) and some I’m happy to buy the (cheaper) eBook, usually something unknown or new. I’ve been reading the digital-only Frontiers Saga by Ryk Brown, currently at the 10th episode of the saga (Frontiers Saga Ep.10: Liberation). I would not fork out £6-£10 for each of episode if they were in print, but £1-3 for each episode was well worth the money. The Frontiers Saga is available in print, but not at those prices, not for me.

  • The 10th episode is currently £1,87 for the Kindle version, or £8.51 for the paper. Considering the author is advertising 5 parts to the Saga, each part having 15 episodes (75 episodes / books in total) that’s another good reason to buy digital / cheap too).

Could the rise of eBooks also herald a shift, in time, for paper copies too? As many readers will know I wrote and self-published a book on QR Codes in electronic format. Since then I have also researched, prepared, and published a paper print-on-demand edition too, which has been well received and is gaining steady sales.

What do you think? Does paper still have it in it to continue, if not flourish, in the digital age?

Image source:  Zoe Sadokierski