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Global Pulping Alarmism – A rebuttal

About ten days ago I posted and discussed an article from The Guardian website about the death of paper books all thanks to dastardly Amazon and their Kindle.

A rebuttal to the prophets of doom has now been published (if you prefer the mobile site, click here). There’s some pretty convincing hard data there which seems to blow every claim made by the other article out of the water. I await a counter argument (if any is forthcoming) but it seems, for now at least, that the book market is thriving.

One other thought occurred to me. Let’s assume for one moment that the claim about Amazon killing the paper book market was true. Amazon still has a vested interest in selling paper books. As noted, they are now the biggest retailer of new books and just as importantly, maybe the world’s biggest re-seller through ‘Marketplace’ (they charge a commission on each sale).

As for the Kindle, it hasn’t killed the market and it could be argued that the device has given the market a boost. I’m still unconvinced that I want a Kindle. Certainly I see the benefits over hardbacks (weight in your luggage, shelf space) and paperbacks (loose pages, broken spines and shelf space). If I was still at University the advantage would be immediate. Hundreds of people can share the same book at once without checking the library list and seeing that all copies of the core text for your essay have been taken out and there is a request list about a mile long. I always, where possible, downloaded digital copies of journal articles so this method of reading is not unusual to me. The other advantage for a bookworm like me is choosing which books to take on holiday. I always take about 4 or 5. With a Kindle I can take as many as I like without worrying about weight or space.

The major drawback is the lack of a “sell-on” market. After finishing a book, if I decide that I didn’t like it or liked it but not enough to want to read it again, I list it for sale. Also, selling on academic books helped keep my head above water while at University when Blackwell’s were offering a pittance in comparison and putting a huge mark-up on the re-sale. In a Kindle-only world, this marketplace would disappear.

The death of the paper book? Might happen, but it will take longer than 20 years in my opinion.


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