The printed word is not going to die.

At least, not during our lifetimes.

When television started getting popular, people thought that radio would die out. I mean, who would rather just listen to a story when you could see and listen to a story? But radio has adapted, and thrived. Podcasts have popped up everywhere (thanks to the Internet), and iPods and other mp3 players mean we can listen to news and music wherever we go. Listening to the news or even a radio drama or an audiobook while you’re on your morning commute or stuck in rush hour on the way home is a way to pass the time, or to find out what’s going on around you. It is filling a need that isn’t going to go away any time soon. (Unless they find a magical cure to traffic jams, of course!)

The magical question isn’t, are physical books going to die? but instead, do we still have a need or an intense desire for physical books?

As book-lovers, we love to see bookshelves filled to the brim. Why? There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with a full bookshelf, especially when you’ve read the books that grace the shelves. It lends an almost otherworldly quality to the room. A full bookshelf is a collection of universes waiting to be brought to life. When you can touch or hold something that has caused to you feel a powerful emotion, that can create a kind of bond. I don’t think that’s going to change, not within our lifetimes.

At the same time, I love my Kindle. I’ve moved around a lot in the past couple of years–from Halifax to Toronto and back, and then out to Calgary–and buying books on my Kindle means I don’t have to lug my books around everywhere. And it means I can buy a book wherever I am.

Do I feel any less of a bond between my eBooks than my physical books? No. Words are words, and because my eBooks are all in one place (my Kindle), that makes that bond all the stronger.

Am I more likely to buy eBooks than physical books? Sometimes. I will buy the eBook version over the print version if:

-I’m on the go/not in a place that has a bookstore nearby;

-There is not a print version;

-If it’s a new author, because eBooks are usually cheaper and therefore less of a risk.

I will buy the print version over the eBook version if:

-I have read the author before and I am in love with his/her works;

-The book is the second in a series, and I already have the first book in print in a particular cover style;

-If I am in a bookstore, and the cover or the description catches my eye, and I have the cash on hand.

As you can see, it’s not about whether eBooks are better than printed books. They are different formats that fulfill different needs. So for some people, eBooks work better for them. For others, print books are king. Or queen. 🙂

So if the printed word isn’t going to be replaced, what will happen to it?

This is my opinion–I’m not a fortuneteller. I think within the next 50 years (or sooner), mass market paperbacks will be replaced by eBooks. Mass market paperbacks use inexpensive binding and don’t have a long shelf life–many genre fiction books, romance especially, are published as mass market paperbacks. Mass market paperback buyers can’t get enough of their chosen genre (young adult fans, anyone?!), so eBooks are the next natural evolution for them. Ebooks are a great value for the reader because their dollar goes farther, and they are more environmentally friendly–this suits many people because the mass market paperback doesn’t hold up over time. And as eReaders become more popular (more mass-market, if you will), the eBook format will follow. However, hardbacks and original trade paperbacks will remain relatively the same. They are the premium book format for any book lover/collector, and that is not likely to change.

What do you think? When do you prefer reading eBooks, if at all? How full are your bookshelves? Your Kindle? I’ll feature your replies in the next issue of the Faery Ink Press Book Club.