One day, this post (among the dozens written here) will be long gone and forgotten. If I had printed all of the entries on this blog in a book, perhaps you will see what has been written in the past. Chances are reader, you will not. Instead, what I am about to write will be tucked away in a nice corner of that electronic tablet you may have just bought for the holidays. In fact, in the writers workshop, I mention the following:
“Forecast: E-Books sales will jump to $9.7 Billion worldwide in 2016, more than three times the $3.2 Billion expected to generate in 2012.”
“Nearly 30% of E-Books will be downloaded into tablets.” (Source: unknown)
Chandra just released her first book in quite a while, her first e-book and I’m working on (surprise!) e-books of my own focused on the workshops I teach. Does this mean I’ve finally given in to the machines? I have fought the good fight for print only to ‘see the light’ and admit digital is it? Easy, I wouldn’t go that far. It pays to be flexible and although we’re giving e-books a try (non-fiction only), it doesn’t mean we’re throwing all of our physical books away.
In this debate between print and digital, it’s easy to forget books are considered to be part of a ‘niche’ market. That is, books are meant for a select group of people who enjoy reading, which seems to be declining according to the data out there. The over thirty-five crowd is registered as the age group that continues to read quite often. Under thirty-five, not so much. Personally, this is what concerns me about the proliferation of tablets advertised and sold today; books won’t be so much a priority even to the niche market of readers hidden behind games, social media, movies one can buy for download. It would basically mean a further decline of reading as we know it.
As independent bookstores are shrinking and forced to go online. Barnes and Noble, the last major chain left, is fighting to stay competitive with Amazon which proudly has changed the way you or I read books now. I can recall in my local malls a Waldenbooks, B Dalton or Crown Books would have a store inside. Physical books were excessive, easy to buy. I could see what I wanted and if I didn’t have the money for it, get it on my next trip. Now that we’re relying more on digital content and the physical stores are closing their doors, I can imagine had e-readers been around in the 1980’s when I grew up, that self-help title, dictionary or non-fiction book I wanted would be easily out of my mind because I would be more concerned about playing a sports game on my computer than reading a book. I would have to say I’m the last of a generation of readers who actually bought books because they were everywhere from malls to department stores and neighborhood shops. The library? Yeah, I grew up there and books were always plentiful to read.
I’m certain communities in which literature is a part of their culture will continue to thrive. The larger literary festivals may scale back from time to time, but the crowds will continue to be there. What concerns me the most is this the loss of new readership, especially in communities that have lost independent bookstores in the past. The very same e-books that Chandra and I are writing right now, will that be the only thing left in a few years? The attitudes I’ve encountered while promoting the black book expo have been for the most part - frustrating. I’ve expressed my frustration so many times before but I’ll add this thought into the conversation; when independent bookstores continue to vanish, literary festivals in the community aren’t well-attended, book signings are few, it means an author will have limited opportunities. Lack of exposure means that one book whether fiction or non-fiction can’t be seen and bought. Once again the old saying, “out of sight, out of mind” will ring true for so many deserving new authors out there who are willing to showcase their books.
While I’m not certain of how the future of the book will go, based on the attitudes towards reading by visiting and participating in literary festivals and other events, it’s a constant fight to keep our books, faces and stories out there so we as authors won’t be so easily forgotten.