Print dead in ten years—even p-obits? Plus book future show, the e-pricing issue and K-book sales stats

image "In the next 10 years, the whole world of media, communications and advertising are going to be turned upside down—my opinion. Here are the premises I have. Number one, there will be no media consumption left in 10 years that is not delivered over an IP network. There will be no newspapers, no magazines that are delivered in paper form. Everything gets delivered in an electronic form." – Steve Ballmer, Microsoft, in Washington Post interview.

The TeleRead take: So what do you think, gang? I believe they’ll have to kill off some Luddite babyboomers first. But you never know where their obits will appear, if you take a Monster.com founder seriously. As for e-books already some kids in housing projects prefer them over the paper variety, because, says a Richmond teacher, they’d rather press a button than turn pages.

image Also of interest: On the Media radio show on the future of books, including a segment on the vanishing book review sections in newspapers.

Related: Print is Dead and The Book Is Dead  book sites, and the PID blog. Read PID guy Jeff Gomez’s skepticism toward Henry Blodget’s proposal to lower e-book prices—plus TBID author Sherman Young’s questioning of Jeff Bezo’s Kindle sales stats. I myself think prices will eventually shake out at $5-$10 for pure E and maybe $20-$25 for a p-book with an e-edition included. No science here. Check in with me in five-ten years.

13 Comments on Print dead in ten years—even p-obits? Plus book future show, the e-pricing issue and K-book sales stats

  1. I think Steve Ballmer is an idiot besides his above quote.

    A complete electronic distribution revolution in 10 years ?!? He’s delusional.

    Unless, as you said, there was a mass genocide of Baby Boomers and the Mini Baby Boomers.

    Closer to that idea in 10 years? Absolutely, but I think the complete scenario he invisions would be closer to 20 – 30 years.

    As for the other article, I don’t think drastically slashes e-book prices is the missing key. I DO think no e-book should EVER cost as much as the paper book version.

    But what that price will be will be determined by the market place.

    What I believe will be the key is finding/creating/developing the right content – delivery – device scenario.

    The right choice of devices (meaning a selection of prices and features across a wide range, from dirt cheap to “luxury” models) that allow people to easily purchase content of THEIR choice for THEIR device of choice at a REASONABLE price will be the key.

  2. Jack Tingle // June 5, 2008 at 2:44 pm //

    I don’t know. Ballmer and the kids may have something. I brought a hardcover book to work to read over lunch today. I usually read an ebook on my PDA. I found it annoying to have to move more than my thumb to turn the page. You get used to things faster than you realize.

    Regards,
    Jack Tingle

  3. I agree Jack.

    In between feeding my e-book addiction, I must admit to utilizing my local library to feed my overall reading addiction. I’ve found once you get used to e-reading, going back to paper seems so … “old” and I’m over 40, lol.

    I just thought 10 years was WAY to optimistic, however.

  4. I seriously wonder if 10 years from now whether people will stop writing novels (they will never stop reading them).

  5. God, I hope not Robert. Re-reading the same old stuff over and over … UGH!

    I think as long as writers have a legitimate chance at earning a living entertaining all of the millions of readers, they will continue to write.

    Whether that will take the form of publishers, self-publishing or serialization remains to be seen. But I believe, just as in music, writers will continue to write if they can earn some compensation for it.

    Some musicians may be content to entertain themselves in the privacy of their own homes, but writers need an audience.

    If you write a story and there is no one there to read it, have you really told a story?

  6. Ballmers one of techs most reliable pundits. Whatever he predicts is almost guaranteed not to happen. Its like Steve Jobs saying no one reads anymore, it just means he’s working on an e-reader.

  7. Technology changes work in exponential scales. For years, it seems like nothing changes, and then everything is changed. But if you take logarithms, you can see it happening. I think the death of paper will be like this. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen the first gradual declines in paper demand. In offices, fewer pages are being printed, more stored (and read) digitally. In newspapers, fewer pages are being produced, smaller formats being published, etc. In books, eBooks have been a joke for years (growing fast but still zero). I’m old enough, and a former telecom guy, to remember when the telecom people made that joke about data (it’s always growing fast but always only 5% of traffic–oops).

    Time scales are rough, but Balmer can certainly afford a nice logarithm calculator.

    Unlike Robert, I fear that people will stop reading novels but, maybe, not stop writing them.

    Rob Preece
    Publisher, http://www.BooksForABuck.com

    Rob Preece
    Publisher, http://www.BooksForABuck.com

  8. @ Damien

    Geez, I thought I was the only one who caught that backhanded slap at the Kindle from Steve Jobs. Sure 40% didn’t read a novel last year, but a whopping 60% did!

    @Rob

    No, Rob, don’t despair. You’re my hero!

    People will still read and novels will always have their place. Everyone isn’t raised on YouTube and instant messaging.

    I interact with a lot of kids and teacher, THE JOY OF READING IS STILL ALIVE AND WELL everyone.

    (And yes, if Steve Ballmer says it, you can put money that the opposite will happen. đŸ˜‰

  9. Andrew Wilson // June 6, 2008 at 7:57 am //

    No magazines or paper books produced in 10 years time? Utter nonsense.

    I can’t see this happening in the next thirty years. people like paper, it’s still vastly more convenient and easier to use. Don’t get me wrong, I like e, I just don’t think it’s a viable replacement for paper in the next ten years.

    For epaper to take off, it needs:
    1) better contrast — real black on real white.
    2) better resolution — at least 300 dpi.
    3) better refresh rates — enough to make video possible.

    If we don’t get all of those, then you don’t have a viable replacement for the aesthetics of paper. People like paper, they’re quite attached to it. It will take at least one generation (40 years) after epaper become fully usable (see 3 points above) before it totally replaces print.

  10. Re electronic copies of magazines … they wish. So you go to the doctor’s surgery and instead of a pile of mags to flip through there’s an ashtray with a few 1gb memory cards in? You’re about to board a plane and you decide to spend a couple of minutes browsing data chips at the news stand?

    Printed mags aren’t going anywhere. I can get all the tech and gaming news I want off the internet, but sometimes I just want to chill out on the sofa or in bed with a PAPER book or magazine.

  11. This debate always gets framed with the question of “the future of reading,” as it was at the latest BEA conference in LA. The discussion always revolves around the imminent threat of the digital world with mp3s, YouTube and text messaging. Book fans always fall back on the permanence of storytelling; true, but we humans were enjoying stories for thousands of years before anybody even knew how to write or read. You see, it’s not really about books and reading.

    What it’s really about is imagination, creativity, curiosity, wonder and community – what we might call the human factor. Books and language are merely technologies – the book is the hardware and the words are the software. The invention of the book and it’s mass production allowed us to experience our humanity in new ways. Video, recorded audio and mass communications have done the same.

    But in the history of progress the human factor has always dominated the technology factor and this will determine the future of books as well. What we want are ways to experience our world-through our imaginations, our creativity, our wonder, our curiosity and our sociability-in any way or form, whether through books, videos, social networking or cell phones. Print books will continue to exist as one form of technology and reader experience, but digital media is something that will revolutionize the book because it allows us a fuller experience to actually dwell within our stories and explore and share our wonder. eBooks will be another blessing.

  12. Well said Michael! Absolutely on target.

    Novels and story telling aren’t dead. The future is still wide open and certainly what we will make of it.

    But a complete digital delivery system in 10 years is too soon.

    Even if Apple and Microsoft jumped in with booth feet and Amazon, Sony, Bookeen, Astak, et al released e-reading devices that were cheaper, the uptake would not make the Ballmer prediction doable in such a short time.

    As popular as the iPod is, not everyone has one (me included) even though you can get the base model for below $70. Best Buy and everyone else still sell physical CDs in their stores.

  13. I agree, Aaron. But timing is something I can’t really predict with confidence. We’re not really at square one, we’re actually probably half way there. I’ve been writing, researching and sharing digital media for almost 25 years now. It’s just all done on computer, which makes for a lousy reading experience. I’ve just been waiting for the last piece of the puzzle and then everything created digitally over the past 25 years is instantly available.

    Jeff Bezos says Amazon customers who buy a Kindle have increased their purchases 2.6 times, which just begs the question: when are you going to give them away then? The key is being able to take advantage of all the inventory out there–such as that created by Google–and not have to pass through the Amazon cash register on each item.

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