Should books go all digital and abandon paper formats altogether?
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The Yes Argument
Yes - absolutely, this is already happening as writers take control of their own creative output. The book industry still operates an old hierarchical model with control concentrated in a small number of players. Five companies account for approx 80% of sales.
Approx 30% of books sold worldwide are sold in the USA, a market where the ownership of computers is 76% of the population, according to The Economist. The American Association of Publishers reported sales in 2008 reached $24.3 billion
So you have the means and the market !!
A physical book is a luxury for anybody who owns a computer and is connected to the internet, it is an inefficient use of resources. However hardcopy books will remain in production for a long time, for collectors, for the inevitable technical failure, for specialist technical use and for those living in the less developed world.
So Why Go digital
Digital allows authors to gain a fairer share of the revenue from book sales
Digital negates the cutting room, often major publishers cut books down to what they see as an ideal size from a production or marketing perspective.
Digital will usher in a period of intense creativity where any author with ability will rise to the top of the thousands and thousands of publications in the market or at the very least will be able to make a living.
Digital revolutionises the product to market cycle - you need a "How to Search Win7" book, it can be ready and out in weeks.
The digital domain is perfect for books which would not normally make it through the publication process due to perceived lack of demand. For example poetry books,
Digital allows the introduction of a full range multimedia, voice, video, externally updated sources, additional background material, extended author interaction.
Digital can compete in the marketplace if you put in the hours with your Hubpages :-) Facebook, Blog, readings, promotions or specials.
Digital removes the hand of the censor, be it visible or invisible.
The No Argument
Well No.... there are a few qualifiers. The digital book is only suitable for those markets where there is a high degree of computer ownership and internet access. At least until there is some form of technological/political breakthrough that will give less favoured nations a more equitable piece of the pie.
No - the world population of computers is approx 1.3 billion with approx 250 million units shipped per year. the number of people in the world is approx 6.8 billion with annual growth of around 130 million. Of these 6.8 billion the UN estimates that 83% can read. Of course in the less developed nations literacy rates also fall.
So without a major change in attitudes, technology, or a sea change geopolitical control it will be a good few years yet before the majority of people in the world can read a digital book.
Whilst there is some fall off in global population (see chart below) the growth in population far outweighs the growth in computer ownership, especially is less developed countries.
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