The electronic challenge to reading gains momentum
Kindle ebooks outsold traditional volumes on Christmas Day, while “vooks” — books augmented with video –grow in popularity. Is this the end of reading as we know it?! Not yet, but it’s a distinct prospect for future generations.
As Ben Parr reports at Mashable, the Kindle broke sales records last month, as people bought the latest cool gadget for Christmas presents. So it’s no surprise ebook sales spiked on Christmas day — those who found it under the Christmas tree were playing with it.
At the same time, Parr notes, “it makes sense traditional book sales would be down. The Christmas shopping season would have passed and most people were concentrating on their families, not shopping, that day.”
Furthermore, while conceding the Kindle’s popularity, Parr terms Amazon’s crowing as “mostly PR smoke and mirrors.” Sales of ebooks were a fraction of traditional books over the holiday gift-buying season as a whole.
Still, while ebooks may not quite be shoving paper volumes off the shelves, it may be only a matter of time, as the digitization of everything continues apace. Who knows?
Nobody, that’s who. The Washington Post weighed in yesterday with a long, comprehensive assessment of the publishing industry as it grapples with new technology in a poor business climate. The Post says publishing companies find themselves at odds with both readers, who want cheaper books, and authors, who want higher royalties.
Publishers so far have been flatfooted in their response to the digital challenge, but the Post says ebooks do not have to mean the end of books as we have known and loved them. Publishers, though, need to adapt quickly. Will they? Take a look at the Post analysis and tell me what you think.
If you want a really scary look into the crystal ball, though, read the Post‘s excellent report on vooks.
I recoil with horror and disgust at these “multisensory” sensory books, with their thin narratives and video enactments. But young readers — what the Post calls “digital natives” — have an entirely different relationship to technology. They find vooks comfortable, familiar and fun.
A publishing exec argues that vooks and books are entirely different genres– a comforting thought for fogeys like me.
But my fear is that vook “reading” — which is actually more akin to watching a video or surfing the Internet — will supplant traditional text reading.
The Post reports that reading researchers say children already can’t do imaging and imagining exercises as well as they once did. “Video’s doing it for them,” says reading consultant David Sousa.
The Post challenges each assertion made by vook partisans. It’s an excellent piece of reporting. Give it a look. Then tell me if I’m overreacting.