Are Books Doomed to Extinction?
Unless something changes, books as we know them are doomed, and not simply because people prefer to read on their iPad or Kindles. You’ll see the major publishing houses starting to go away in three to five years. Their business model is in free fall. Already, we’re seeing books becoming shorter, cheaper, free in lots of cases, and diminishing in quality. You’ll soon see fewer really good authors bothering to write books, because books are no longer a meaningful source of revenue. Some reasons WHY! Attention spans are diminishing. three-quarters of teachers said their students’ attention spans are shorter than ever, according to a poll released in June. By 11 years old, nearly half of the kids had stopped reading for pleasure. The poll, by publisher Pearson UK, is just the most recent survey/study documenting shrinking attention spans and a corresponding drift from books. Major publishers are producing lower-quality books. The big publishing houses today are more interested in a quality marketing plan than in the quality of the book, so we’re being deluged by low-quality books. One reason is that many large publishers have stopped taking on the expense of marketing books, but they know it’s necessary for sales. So they take on authors with a marketing plan and budget. They’re also less interested in “star” authors, who demand higher royalties. They also lost authors when they eliminated advances in response to the 2008 recession. Books are moving to devices, where content is free and time is thin-sliced. Online, you don’t expect to pay for content. People will expect books available online to be either free or very inexpensive, and if those books turn out to be one chapter of ideas and eleven chapters of Hamburger Helper, they will be less willing to pay for them. Also, people don’t spend much time going into depth online; books are supremely inappropriate for the surface-skimming nature of the Internet. Once people have bought a bunch of ebooks they’ve never started, they’ll stop buying them altogether. Authors have a more difficult time earning a livable wage. Fewer authors can earn enough to make writing a full-time job. The audience is shrinking and fewer people are willing to pay $15 for a paper book when cheap alternatives are available. People need to read, and they need to read to their children or buy them books. If people stop demanding good books, there eventually will be none available!