Friday, June 21, 2013

Whither the paperback?

It felt as if someone had just walked over the ground where my values now lay buried:an article in Slate asks the question whether the paperback book is becoming extinct by slow degrees. They seem to think it is, and it's publishers who would like to dispense with them altogether. 

This does raise the old , dogged, fiercely defiant nostalgia for all things bound between covers, but the story does us the service of letting us on the economic dynamic involved with the decreasing importance of soft cover books.The article belabors a point that's obvious to anyone with the slimmest knowledge of how things work in the actual world, that old technologies are replaced, quickly or slowly, by more efficient technologies. 

In this case, it's the upcoming demise of the paperback book, which has had it's once dominant marketshare eroded by ebooks. The reason is simple: ebooks cannot be resold, as opposed to paperbacks, which can be sold as used books indefinitely. Publishers want to be in the position of being able to charge readers each time they purchase an ebook. From a vendor's standpoint, eliminating the second hand market and being the only ones selling the desired merchandise at full retail is a good thing, although it sucks for the rest of us.