of plastic and pixels

I think I’ve read more this year than I have for the last five years. To be fair, I was on sabbatical last semester and was being paid to read, in a sense. But I’ve come to several conclusions, one of which has nothing to do with the ideas themselves. E-books are here to stay.

I should have realized that when I read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy on my iPhone, which I bought for $13 dollars from E-reader.com (the trilogy, not the phone). Or when Katie and I read three of L’Engle‘s books out loud to each other from her Kindle. Or when we bought five books by Spurgeon for 99 cents.

But I’m a slow learner, and have a huge personal and emotional investment in books of the paper variety, with close to 6,000 volumes in my library. And I’ve believed all the naysayers about the feel of paper and the smell of glue. I’ve clung to the romantic image of paper books.

But it’s a losing battle, from the standpoint of both convenience and cost. I can download a new book in 90 seconds, without driving to the bookstore. I’ve seen the handwriting on the wall, or at least the typeface on the screen. And it looks and feels better than ever.

Andy Ross, whose large private bookstore in Denver eventually succumbed to large retail giants like Barnes and Noble, told Gordon Crovitz that the future of physical book stores is pretty bleak: “The only thing anyone in the book business is talking about is e-books.” It’s changing everything.

Barnes and Noble itself is now for sale. It’s not that they don’t sell ebooks, like Amazon. They just have 700 locations to maintain.

Crovitz reports that Amazon already sells more ebooks than hard cover books, and expects to sell more ebooks than paperbacks by the end of this year. We can forget about the Shop Around the Corner, no matter how “You’ve Got Mail” may have idealized it.

Yes, I know. People still takes pictures with film too. But if you are getting married, you better hope your wedding photographer has a couple of digital cameras and a very large hard drive. And if you are a reader you are going to want a Kindle or an iPad, something with pixels and plastic.

Note that I’m not saying that there will be no books. I’m just saying we will experience them in different ways. The truth is there may be more books, although the profits for bookstores are going the route of the record store. Or the video store, for that matter.

I’ve read more books than ever partly because it so much easier to acquire them. I’ve bought 24 ebooks in the last year and read 17 of them.

These books includes new novels (A Reliable Wife), theological books (the complete works of Augustine), cultural analysis (In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed), communication books (Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die and, my guilty pleasure, fantasy Robin Hobbs assassin series, The Farseer Triolog). Oh, and did I mention the 341 theological titles that came with my Logos Bible software?

All these books have made me want more books. In the same period I bought nine audio books to listen to while I’m walking in the mornings. But more that that I’m buying and reading more print books as I become interested in new ideas, references and authors. I’ve even bought some print books after I read the electronic versions so I could share them with others.

No, books are not in danger of dying, the books stores are. As a journalist, it deja vu all over again: news isn’t dying, but newspapers are. It’s not clear how this will affect authors and publishers, but it is clear how it will effect readers.

They will read more, in more places, and in more ways.

What could be wrong with that?

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About wally metts

Wally Metts is the daysman. He is director of graduate studies in communication at Spring Arbor University and is a pastor at Countryside Bible Church in Jonesville, MI. The father of four adult children, he and his wife Katie raise barn cats and Christmas trees in Michigan. His grandchildren call him Santa.

3 Responses to “of plastic and pixels”

  1. Hi Mr. Metts,

    I’ve been on your blog a couple of times, when people from Countryside post links to here from facebook. 🙂 I’ve really enjoyed reading through your posts, they’re insightful and thought-provoking. Thanks.

    God bless,

    Megan Kunkel

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. you read it here first « the daysman - August 25, 2010

    […] 25th, 2010 § Leave a Comment Last week I wrote of pixels and plastic, about ebooks and the future, pointing out that I’m reading more—both electronically and on […]

  2. in praise of posters | the daysman - September 14, 2010

    […] So cork board kiosks and tack strips everywhere, I say. It’s old school, I know. Especially for someone who praises e-books. […]

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