Today I found myself driving through Leicestershire listening to debate about the rise of ebooks being discussed on the radio. It is interesting that ebooks are like the unruly gatecrasher to the party, having been and trashed the music and film parties, it’s doing the same for books. Given just how massive the market for ebooks has become, it left me wondering just what I think about the format and why it has become so successful so quickly.
My thoughts aren’t entirely flattering. I value physical things, and got into computers in an age where copying things equated to bad and evil piracy (hoist the Jolly Roger, Jim lad!). I’ve never got over that, and rather resent the idea of paying money for something that does not even give me a physical disk in return. I also love sleeve artwork and liner notes too much. But it seems that I am very much in a minority as most people have become conditioned to accept first their music and then later film and television in this format.
Now that format has reached books, and I have little doubt that these same people will take up ebooks in the same way they took up digital downloads. Why ever not? It’s no great leap from one to the other than they have already proven that they don’t mind doing things digitally. Of course, people like me who still buy LPs of music for that tactile analogue experience, and get their films and 80s TV box sets on DVD the paper book will never die. But I feel that I’ll become a minority with them too.
This digital revolution has democratised publishing of all sorts. Gone are the days when the record industry, film industry and now publishing industry could act as gate keepers and pick and choose what they made available and who they elevated to super-stardom. Now anyone can easily get their work out there. In a lot of cases some people, turned down by the conventional companies and outlets, have stuck up a raised middle digit and done it themselves to such success that they have highlighted the old school dinosaurs as on their way to extinction. It’s exciting, and at the same time a little strange.
I don’t think paper books will ever truly die; records didn’t. What I don’t want to see is the price of books go through the roof as they become “trendy collectable items” in the manner that LPs went. I refuse to pay £30 for a vinyl copy of a Radiohead album, and in the same vein I would refuse to be ripped off to the tune of £30 just for the privilege of having a book that doesn’t fade when the power does. Still, what do I know? I’m just the old fuddy-duddy with a gramophone on my desk.