Books are here to stay


Why do people buy books? What kind of people buy books? What kind of books do they buy? The answers to these questions are changing rapidly. It used to be that if you had a specific need (job interview, wedding, new baby, etc.) you would go to the store and pick up a book on that topic to educate yourself on the newest thoughts on that subject. Books were the preferred tool for disseminating new information. Not anymore.

Magazines (also a changing animal) hit the scene and trained readers to grab for the “highlights” on a topic. No longer did people feel that they needed a deep, thorough understanding of their topics. They learned that they could “get the gist” in three to five pages at most and, in most cases, do just fine.

Then came the Internet. Think you have lupus? Log on! Want to cultivate a pink-and-white-only garden that will not be eaten by your local deer population? to the rescue!

The people who think they are too busy to read a whole book and cannot find the time to catch up on the stack of magazines piling up on the counter can now have seventy-five words on any given subject electronically handed to their inbox to be downloaded and absorbed in seconds.

But what about novels? Fiction? Yes, there is still a strong market for beautifully written, well-edited, sharply crafted fiction. Keep in mind, however, that the competition from popular, established authors and brand-named celebrities with clever marketing/ghostwriting/PR teams have driven the chances of a new writer’s work appearing on a national chain’s bookstore shelves way, way, way down. Therefore, many talented writers are moving to Web-based and self -printed digests.

Fans of savvy, edgy writing are flocking to Websites to get their daily dose of prose. Every day, established, talented book authors are writing 3000–5000 words for readers who will never see those words in a printed book. ’Zines, Web digests, salons, and blogs are changing how fiction readers get their fix.

This does not mean that books are dead. In spite of the Cassandra-like warnings from experts over the last 100 years that the book was becoming obsolete, books are here to stay. Newspapers, radio, and television did not kill the book nor will the Internet and iPod. Books offer a sense of comfort and reliability that other mediums simply can’t touch.

What is changing is how we think of “books”. E-books are getting an erratic and ever strenghtening launch into our culture. It will not be long before hand-held electronic book machines gain full and total acceptance by an entire generation of readers who will still refer to what they are holding as a “book”. It is a book. A book that is more environmentally friendly than paper and more handy than carrying six to ten pounds in one’s suitcase on a long vacation.

Let’s not get too hung up on what a book is and keep our eye on what we need a book to be.

For people who hear a particularly compelling speaker and want to learn more about there message, there are books. For those riding to work each day who want to escape into a good story, there are books. For those who want to deeply explore a topic and have a reference to which they can always go to, there are books.

There will always be books.


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