I have never been on board with electronic books. I am not excited about any of the devices such as Kindle, Nook, or iPads. I like a book. I like to hold it, carry it, display it, and engage in conversations about it when others see what I am reading.
I thought it was interesting in the Wall Street Journal on May 9, 2011, when Penguin Books CEO John Makinson claimed there is still a future for physical books. The article is entitled “Penguin CEO Adjusts to E-Books but Sees Room for the Old” (p. B9). The link to the full article appears below, authored by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg.
Notice that he says that physical books will always be published. “As we add value to the physical product, particularly the trade paperback and hardcover, the consumer will pay a little more for the better experience. I looked the other day into the sales of public-domain classics in 2009, when all those books were available for free. What I found was that our sales had risen by 30% that year. The reason is that we were starting to sell hardcover editions—more expensive editions—that people were prepared to pay for. There will always be a market for physical books, just as I think there will always be bookstores.”
And, even with the closing of Borders’ bookstores, he finds a strong future for such retail outlets. “There is a future in book retailing. A lot of the issue is not just that there are too many bookstores, but that they are too big. How do you diversify the offerings to consumers in order to make productive use of space without losing the experience of being in a bookstore?”
Finally, as I have stressed in other posts on this blog, there is a strong emotional link that book owners experience that goes beyond mere content. Makinson notes that “When you look at the structural competitive advantages Amazon.com has over any physical bookstore, it is overwhelming. But people will willingly pay a higher price in an independent bookshop knowing they can buy [the same book] for less down the road. That’s because consumers feel an emotional engagement with the bookstore and feel that bookstores are providing a public service as well as a commercial service. I see no evidence that independent bookstores will become obsolete.”
I am excited and energized by the fact that a leading, credible authority in the business remains in the physical book arena. While he reads manuscripts in digital devices, he reads physical books as well.
What do you think? Let’s discuss this really soon!