Today I saw a tweet that pretty much summed up the sort of 'digital publishing speak' that most annoys me. I put that in inverted commas, because I don't actually believe that many people who work in publishing actually believe it for one minute. In fact, this sort of talk, the stuff that brings in the headlines, is the stuff peddled by people who think they understand the publishing industry – or at least love the opportunity for them to cry from the rooftops that books are dead. It's a big headline. One of the final frontiers of traditional media to go digital. To be 'massacred'. The last one that the big executives have lost control over. The commentators. They love this talk, but I just wish they'd shut up.

So, back to that tweet. Well – I fundamentally agree with it. It points out exactly what is wrong with the way these commentators operate. It was a quote from Stephen Fry:
I realise my source may seem less than credible. But in the spirit of the internet I thought I had better stick to my original source and credit them. And for those that want it verified, here it is from the horses mouth back in 2009. Yes, 2009, over four years ago. And I believe the point still stands.
Stephen Fry could see this situation back in 2009. The Kindle wasn't launched in the UK until 2010. Over a year later. Yet, commentators will still insist that print is dying, that it is no longer 'economical' to print books. I would have to disagree, however.

The thing with eReaders – be they tablets or e-ink – is that there will always be a barrier to entry. Price. That price has become dramatically reduced, with the Nook and Kobo Mini recently available for as little as £29. But even that is a barrier – and is most likely a price point that the manufacturers simply can't sustain. So with price comes a natural point at which people will no longer purchase an eReader, and I would argue that would leave behind a fair chunk of the population.

So what is actually dead? I would say big print. And by big print, I really mean the big publishers. Why? Because they have overheads. Huge overheads. Offices. Warehouses. Staff. And those staff have targets. And executives. Who are tasked with forever growing everything. Growth cannot be sustained forever.

Little print however, is much more manageable. By little print, I mean independent publishers. It makes sense for them to publish something on a smaller scale. Their overheads are smaller. They might only amount to a room in their house. If they really want, they can post books out themselves, direct to customers. They can do it well. They can offer better service to their customers. They can get to know their customers. They can produce enough stuff to make a living from – probably a fairly good living if they put in the effort.

All in all, little print is possible. It can make financial sense. And it will for many small publishers, and probably many big publishers too. There will always be that chunk of the market that doesn't want to pay for an eReader. There will always be that chunk of the market that can't afford to. And there will always be that chunk of the market that likes books for being books. A physical object. One that can be passed on. One that can be gifted. One that can be displayed. One that can be cherished. One that can be written on. One that can't run out of battery.

So print is not dead. Nor is the Kindle or any other eReader killing it. It is not a threat, just a changing marketplace. Each can live alongside each other – some titles will perform better in print, others in digital form. Some people may even like to buy both. At the end of the day, it is all about a passion for books and stories. How you experience that is just one piece of the puzzle.

Rather than books and print being dead – the headlines might as well say 'progress is happening' or 'managers must get off their arses and adapt to a changing environment'. Sadly, neither will grab your attention. There just isn't much of a headline in things changing slowly, and some people not getting as many fancy lunches. That's news for you.
 





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