There has been a lot of talk as of late about the book publishing industry as a whole, and where it’s headed. Certainly newspapers are in decline, but I would also argue that the conservative right is fed up with liberal reporting, having a significant affect on those numbers. And the music business is still reeling from the advent of digital downloading.

But as with all industry that has any longevity, it’s those who think outside the box–and think ahead–that stay in the game, and end up inventing new ways to do business. Some might call it the American way. I call it hard work, divine inspiration, and creativity. News companies started websites; musicians started recording, publishing, and distributing their own work; and publishers? That remains to be seen.

Is it dead? Will eBooks kill paper books? What do you think?

I was inspired by a video post Michael Hyatt put up today on his blog. Granted, he is the CEO of Thomas Nelson, so there is, without a doubt, some personal preference in his opinions. As there is in mine, as I’m a novelist who–by gum–likes to see his name on the spine of a physical book. But the more I got to thinking, the more a different vision of the future presented itself. Well, not different, just more clear than I had seen it before. Here is the comment I left on his site:

I’m a youth pastor. I’m with hundreds of teens every week. The future consumer. The present consumer.

I’m also a published novelist. While I adore physical books, I create them on my iMac, and never end up reading the physical copy.

My favorite books seem immortal, and therefore must be obtained for my library “in the flesh.” I suspect that view is shared by many. As a result, particular works will always have a viable clientele. But more informational-based reading–particularly that which I gather–is expendable, at least with regard to it’s transfer vehicle. The inconvenience of a hard copy is annoying.

So I argue that the question is not the generation, so much as it is the content. Give my epic fantasy that immerses in another realm, and I’ll pay the price to keep it beside my bed; but tell my the 10 steps to managing people and I’ll bookmark your website for free.

Do you agree or disagree? Are you excited about the advent of eBooks? Are are you dreading the day your favorite work goes out of print…forever? ch:


SilverAngel · 18 Mar ’10 at 12:02 pm

hhhmmm… i prefer having a paper book then eBook thing.. though i do not know a whole lot about it. huzzah for paper! πŸ˜€

Seth · 18 Mar ’10 at 1:03 pm

I actually don’t have much of anything to say about eBooks, I’ve never read on an eReader. And I know this has been said before, but I just don’t think a paper book will ever go out of style. There’s just something about the feel of the book in your hands. I think eBooks are good for traveling, but for just small car rides and sitting at home, I would rather have a paper book, not something electronic, I already have too much electronic things.

Billy.J · 18 Mar ’10 at 1:13 pm

I personally LOVE the feeling of a physical book in my hands. The whole eBook thing is cool, I just picture myself getting a headache from staring at this tiny screen the same you would a computer. If physical books disappear, I’ll buy an eBook reader, just so I could read books. Books are my life, they make me how I am. Well, that’s my opinion. See ya soon,


EaglesWings · 18 Mar ’10 at 1:38 pm

I perfer the feel of a real book to an eBook or an electronic book. There is just something about turing the pages of a paper book that can’t be replicated in an electronic device. But, that is just my opinion.

Leighton · 18 Mar ’10 at 2:07 pm

IMO, take mail. When telephones were invented, did people stop sending letters? Nope. When email was invented, did people stop calling? Nope. I think it will eventually make the printed book industry smaller but not for a good while.

Nathan Petrie · 18 Mar ’10 at 3:13 pm

I wholeheartedly agree with your comment Mr. Hopper. It is the content and not the product itself that will dominate. I don’t know any reader that would prefer eBooks to physical books, fiction–fantasy highlighted–readers. But certainly, digital information stuff is WAYYYYY easier to have online. Easier to access, hold on to, and even read. So…..yeah…I agree πŸ˜€ lol

Wayne Thomas Batson · 18 Mar ’10 at 3:21 pm

I’m probably in the minority, but I truly believe that digital publishing will, for all intents and purposes, replace print publishing. Here’s how I think it will happen:

1) Over the next 15 years, Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, B&N Nook, The iPad, etc. will be joined by a dozen other eReaders, and the price of those devices will come down markedly. Some shrewd companies will offer to “give” their eReaders away with a paid yearly contract, say, you’ll purchase 20-30 eBooks a year. Much like cell phones now. You can get a BOSS COOL phone, IF you sign up for a plan, right?

2. Print Publishers will continue to operate, but they will need to change the way of doing business or they will perish. Here’s how they will need to change:

A) Forced to compete with ePublishers who offer much better royalty percentages to authors, print publishers will offer dual royalties, raising the percentage of print royalty money and including a very high percentage of eBook money.

B) Over time, print publishers will have smaller and smaller print runs of all but the biggest name authors. Smaller quantities will be shipped to brick-n-Mortar stores and be available to the consumer in what will be a “collector’s only” market.

C) Print Publishers will modernize their operations to become “Print on Demand” publisher. With smaller print runs and smaller numbers of books in-store, publishers will find a way to take “demand” orders, print, and send books as fast or faster than Amazon currently ships.

3) Authors will wake up and realize that they are strong. For decades, the creative artist has been exploited by the music industry, publishers, radio, tv, film, etc. In publishing for instance, it’s very common for an author to make just 10-12% of what a book actually sells for, in many cases, that’s off the publisher’s sell price to the brick and mortar chains. That means 88-90% of the book money is going somewhere else besides the artist. Obviously, there are a lot of people who currently play a part in getting a book to the shelf, and all these people need to get paid too, right? But shouldn’t the artist get a larger percentage? Look at it this way: Can you imagine if Pro Football players only received 10-12% of their contracted millions, and the rest went to the people who coach, train, design uniforms, etc? It’s not a perfect analogy, I admit. But if it worked like that, how long would the NFL survive?

With the advent of ePublishing, authors who are being exploited will begin to break away from their traditional print publisher shackles. They will become their own publishing companies, publishing eBooks exclusively or forming partnerships with print-on-demand companies.

4. We’ll also begin to see a massive drop in price for eBooks. Right now, publishers are going to the mattress with Amazon over eBook prices. Traditional publishers want their “eBooks” priced at 60-80% of what the hardcover paper book would cost. Makes sense for the publisher who would make a MASSIVE windfall of profit since they can chop 70% of their production budget on every eBook. After all, no charge for paper, no charge for binding, no charge for shipping, warehousing, etc. Amazon wants the price low. Why? Increased profits. They know that pricing eBooks too high will cut WAY down on who buys. It is digital info, after all. Intellectual value? Yes. Material value? No. And that leads to the next reason that the price will go low: High price leads to digital piracy.

We live in a broken world where people redefine right/wrong all the time. Guaranteed as soon as you price The Door Within Part 7 at $16.99, there are going to be those who pirate it. What about DRM protection? Sure, they’ll try. But someone will find a way around it. Let’s take a look at some hypothetical numbers.

eBook A priced at $12.99 sells 4,600 copies in a year. If the publisher makes 50% profit on that book, then, the publisher takes in $29,877 profit on that book.

eBook B priced at $2.99 sells 50,000 copies. If the publisher takes in even 30% of that pie, the publisher makes $44,850. That’s a substantial upgrade.

5. The Public Will Decide. In the past, publishers have used their various formulae and observations to determine what they believe they can sell. Then, they judge the quality of potential manuscripts and make the call about what will sell. Hopefully, they get it right, and good books get published. Poor quality books, don’t.

That may continue in some capacity as Amazon and other online publishers may adopt some quality standards for what they will publish. But largely, the public will decide. People will go hunting for new books, trying to discover the “next big thing.” Word of mouth will travel–at light speed online. And goodstuff will rise out of the murky not-so-good-stuff.

Maybe Amazon will adopt a “sell so many copies or get booted off the site” policy. Not sure. But more than ever before, the public will determine what they like. And that sounds good to me.

In conclusion: I love paper books. I may never buy an eBook myself. I like rooms full of books. I like holding books. I take books to the beach and up into my bed. But I was born with paper books. I might feel very differently if I was born with an iPad in my hand. And, unless I’m way off here, the publishing world is about to be hit by a digital temblor…because this generation is the digital generation.

Uhm…now that I’ve made my comment a book of it’s own. I’m going to go post it on my blog. Thanks, CH!

Christopher Hopper · 18 Mar ’10 at 3:36 pm

Well, the younger voice has certainly spoken on my site. And then came Mr. Batson. I think he took the conversation to a whole new level!

Who else?

Leighton · 18 Mar ’10 at 3:45 pm

Wow! O.o *gulp*

Aaron · 18 Mar ’10 at 3:46 pm

Until devices and digital communication are able to simulate textural as well as visual elements…that is, until they are able to appeal to all of our senses dynamically and on demand, print will survive. Granted, the ipod has its own cool texture, but it only has one texture, no matter what you are reading or listening to. Books have smells. Everyone of them feels different. I suppose they even taste different. Never tried, but you get the point. We are multi-sensory and although we migrate with trends because we crave belonging, our trends are cyclical and always bring us back to the familiar and memorable.

Seth · 18 Mar ’10 at 3:51 pm

Hmmm, I may do a post on my blog about this, or comment later tonight, but I got school right now lol, wish I could go into this deeper though.

whisper · 18 Mar ’10 at 4:05 pm

I say physical books dominate. πŸ˜€ Much rather pay the extra price for a flesh-and-blood book than buy a cheap e-book.w

Mike Kim · 18 Mar ’10 at 4:08 pm

I can certainly identify with the hit the music industry (and I myself) have taken with the advent of digital music and piracy. I’m not sure that the music industry will ever recover, especially considering that it costs much more to record/mix/master quality music than it does to write a book (or at least certain kinds of books w/o factoring in travel, research, man-hours, etc.). It might be a generalization but I think more people are apt to pirate music than pirating a book.

I find myself in an interesting spot because I just finished writing my first book (in editing right now) that I co-wrote with a friend. We are using an independent publisher that will let us print on demand…something we are grateful for b/c it’s not a “mainstream” book. We’re also going digital w/ it.

I recently got the Barnes & Noble e-reader (the Nook) and though I enjoy paper books, I must say I’m really happy with the ability to instantly download a book online. I also read in bed (lying down) a lot, so I like using it when I read that way (no worrying about page turning and holding the book up).

I’m a big Apple fan and may consider the iPad (though it’s expensive) because the Nook is HORRIBLY slow and clumsy. Terrible operating system, magnified even more so when I compare it to how easily my iPhone and MacBook work. Hardware issues aside, the convenience factor in instantly downloading a book cannot be ignored. If the iPad functions well as an e-reader, I’m all over that thing.

I think Wayne makes a great point about paid contracts w/ eReaders. Wouldn’t surprise me one bit if things went that direction.

What I’m really wondering is when college/university textbooks will be made digital. If books start going that route, watch out. Students would take that up in a heartbeat for e-books, as long as the hardware works well enough to accommodate that (touch screen highlighting, touch screen note-taking, etc). Talk about a killer market for e-readers.

Heather C · 18 Mar ’10 at 4:17 pm

I am an avid reader. I love having a paper book in my hands. There really isn’t anything that can replicate that feeling. But….
I am also an owner of an e-Reader. It was purchased as more of a need, than a want. With our tiny apartment, trying to fit in another bookshelf wasn’t really an option. You can fit hundreds more books on an e-Reader then a bookshelf. Also, being able to download books from the library’s website is easier than trying to take an active 1yr old and a 3yr old to the library to look for books for myself.
Both have pro’s and con’s. E-books will probably never completely take over for paper books. But paper books will probably end up in the minority in the future. Just like film cameras, tube TV’s, VHS, tape decks, ect.

Storyteller · 18 Mar ’10 at 4:42 pm

Oh, good post, Sir Hopper…. And Sir Batson. *laughs*

I agree with Leighton. I think most readers would revolt against the market becoming exclusively electronic. I for one will treasure my pages forever.

But I think the e-books are going to become increasingly popular. There is great convenience in being able to access all your books at one time in one device. Also, it is nice to not have to wait for that library book to be returned so you can check it out.

It would be very sad to see the printed work vanish forever. I hope that does not happen, and I pray publishers will be able to find a happy-medium.

Leighton · 18 Mar ’10 at 6:50 pm

Mike Kim said: “I’m not sure that the music industry will ever recover, especially considering that it costs much more to record/mix/master quality music than it does to write a book (or at least certain kinds of books w/o factoring in travel, research, man-hours, etc.).”

I disagree. The music industry is going more and more to home studios. How do I know? I myself among other friends have one. If you have the right equipment it’s just as good and WAY cheaper. My second two cents. πŸ˜›

Celebrilomiel · 18 Mar ’10 at 7:11 pm

I quite agree on the point of content being a very deciding factor in the debate between e-books and paper books.
While I love to hold books in my hands, I can readily see the point of e-books – Take my whole personal library with me? You bet! But also, if I love a book, I want it’s physical presence on my shelf. The mediocre books that I may or may not want to read again, the ones I check out from the library, I hesitate to spend money on them.
If I had an e-reader, and the e-books cost much less than the physical copies, I would buy the more ‘expendable’ books as e-books. I would still purchase physical copies of my favorite books, just not all of the books I read.
On another note, if I could read my science textbook on an e-reader and not have to lug the heavy thing around – that would be a definite selling point.

Jason Clement · 18 Mar ’10 at 11:15 pm

I see some definite hints of the music industry happening…

When my favorite artist releases a new CD (or CD/DVD which I love)… I rush out and purchase it. I’m a huge fan of the packaging, lyrics, the entire package as a piece of art. Something I’m not quite sure of, I’ll either buy digitally or listen to by some other means…

I think there will always be books that people will demand in print… but I also see awesome opportunities for “enhanced” books in digital format. I’m someone who always has to buy the special edition of DVDs and watch hours of “making of” or “storyboards”… I envision some of the same thing happening with books.Stop and think for a minute about all the other media could be packaged with a digital Dibor book to further tell the story…

*sigh* I can’t wait for my iPad and the 3rd Dibor book in digital format!

Millard · 19 Mar ’10 at 12:17 am

I have extremely enjoyed this discussion/comments. Well thought out lads/lasses.

Now my own three cents πŸ˜‰

I love the feel of a book. I love the texture of the IoF pages. The thickness of RotD. I get a thrill out of seeing, GOSH! I STILL HAVE XDXD like 1.5 inches of pages to go. Idk maybe that is just me, but it is a visual stimulant to read a book, rather then scroll/flip the pages electronically. I have done reading on the computer, and reading in a book, I love the book. The battery never wears down, I can loan it out without making them sign an IOU-if paper. I can hold the book and imagine what happened. Look at the cover across the room and drift alseep to Luik son of lair, to Aidan crossing the princes crown, or raising the sail by jumping off the mast.(the BEST action part in that section)
With a book I have a friend, an enemy, a brother, a bride, a ship, treasure the world has never seen. I have everything it contains. I have it all. I have a Book.

Ereaders are fine for “ereading” but where is the time worn pages to caress? The faded print to smile at when the lines, “You came back!?” are faded from oft reading? Where is the life in the book.


Christopher Hopper · 19 Mar ’10 at 10:39 am

Thanks for all the wonderful input, everyone. I guess what I’m seeing is that while the majority of readers prefer to have the physical book in hand–whether because of it’s long “battery life,” or the intrinsic value of the worn pages–the industry will move toward eBooks because of unit cost and distribution feasibility.

I really appreciate your thoughts. Thanks for being willing to chime in. You’re the best bloggies in the world! ch:

AB · 19 Mar ’10 at 2:02 pm

I would like to add one more vote for the paper books. πŸ™‚
But I can see how the industry is heading towards e-books. I mean, who wouldn’t want to take their entire collection of books with them in a small device? But something that I wonder is, what if it crashes and you lose all the books you had stored on there or what if it gets stolen? There goes your entire library. Also, staring at a computer screen for several hours can really tire one’s eyes and, to be honest, I dislike reading off a computer screen. There’s nothing like holding a paper book in your hands.

    Christopher Hopper · 20 Mar ’10 at 9:12 am

    I hear that! I work on a screen all day…the last thing I want to do is read on one for leisure. (One of the reasons I’ve resisted a Kindle, and now an iPad, for the sake of reading books).

Christopher Hopper » Kindle eBook for 99 cents. No catch. · 25 Mar ’10 at 4:51 pm

[…] special his publisher is offering, and I couldn’t help at marvel about the timing, given our discussion last week about eBooks versus traditional publishing. And because I’m such a magnanimous […]

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