Will printed books be obsolete in future?

With the advent of online libraries, pdf, epub and so many versions of virtual books, some may argue whether printed versions will be stacked on the shelves of history soon.

E-books have several convenience factors. It is cheap, storage does not require measurement in square-feet, babies cannot tear it down and you can easily carry thousands of them without hiring a taxi. The only downside could be the readers’ personal preference of turning pages, feeling and touching a book and experiencing the convenience of reading it without turning on gadgets and looking at battery level. Remember the fresh smell of new books when we started new school years? Some find e-books very mechanistic that does not add to the emotional experience of reading a “real book”. Well, some might disagree. Particularly, in the age of advance e-readers like Nook or Kindle, some readers feel that the lack of emotional connection to a physical book can somewhat be re-established.

So what is the magic point that would answer the question that we posed at the beginning? Will printed books survive? I guess the magic word is “convenience”. Once upon a time, “books” meant a stacked pile of carved stones that you had to handle to “read” inscriptions in there (muscle power required besides intellectual passion!). Then appeared the invention of paper, which was not what it looks like paper today, it contained some dried and straightened paste of fibers, combining some loose feeble scrolls that were delicate enough to be handled by average users. Today, we are lucky to have high quality paper that is versatile enough to print and store any thoughts in writing. This whole chain of evolution spanning over thousands of years was based on one single requirement: Convenience. So if there is any convenience factor that would be relevant to paper version of books today, they will probably survive.

There is one more thing that needs to be considered when we talk about “convenience”. How big is the size of consumers who think that either of the two (e-book vs. paper version) is more convenient to them? We never thought in the early ‘90s (when e-mail was the only virtual medium of texting) that there would be something like facebook and messengers which would be so convenient that a big chunk of users might love spending hours in the virtual world. Did we ever imagine spending hours in e-mailing then? No way. But spending hours on facebook or other social networking sites has become “convenient” because of the two-way real-time communication and consumers’ preference of multiple sources of information as those social sites offer today. So the “evolution of customers’ preference” by a sizable amount may also determine whether print version will be dead or not. For example, many readers (like myself:) would find printed versions personally more convenient to read and connect to the author. How about a decade down the road, majority of readers might find better technology and gadgets that would give them the same feeling and convenience of reading an e-book? Surely, the market size of paper versions might shrink to such an extent that it would be commercially unfeasible to produce paper books anymore.

Well, unless a sweeping technology completely takes away the convenience of paper books, we will probably see the co-existence of paper books and their e-versions.


About 1mmarketing

Working as Associate Professor, School of Business, United International University, Bangladesh; a North-American graduate, with doctoral studies from UUM, Malaysia; cherishing a wide-view of the world, with multiple interests in culture, people, traveling, and specifically marketing science. I have a colorful and diversified background with a blend of corporate experience, research, consulting, training, public speaking and teaching. I love to write about marketing issues that affect our lives, and talk about its direction that would promote the greatest human welfare.
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