Are ebooks sucking the blood out of print books? Some say yes.

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Sometimes I forget that just because I love ebooks so much, doesn’t mean that everyone does. In fact, there are still a lot of people out there who don’t like anything about ebooks. And some will even go so far to say that ebooks will be the downfall of authors and literature alike.

One of those people is Andrew Keen, who wrote an article for the Telegraph entitled Ebooks will make authors soulless, just like their product. You can tell just by the title that Mr. Keen won’t be running out to buy a new Sony Pocket Edition Reader anytime soon. He has a doomsday prediction that lovers of physical print books need to be scared, because ebooks will soon render print books obsolete:

The end, therefore, is nigh for the standalone book. The single physical text simply won’t be able to survive the growing e-book storm.

I think Mr. Keen is being a bit of a drama queen here. First, ebooks still represent a very small percentage of overall book sales. And as anecdotal evidence, I still run into more people who hate the idea of ebooks and love print books than the other way around – they are usually very vocal about their views. I doubt the printed book is going anywhere anytime soon.

Mr. Keen’s article also talks about a trip he took to Brazil for the Rio De Janeiro International Book Fair. He says it was a celebration of the physical book and he loved walking around and seeing all the books and talking about books. This is one place where Mr. Keen and I probably agree: An international book fair like that would have me drooling too. I just love books!

Then Mr. Keen quickly goes back to one of his ebook-phobic tirades:

But what the e-reader will do is replace the physical warmth of the paper book with the coldness of the digital version. And remarkably vibrant popular events like the Rio Bienal will lose their sensuousness when everything is being marketed and sold on electronic devices like the Kindle or the Sony Reader.

First, as I said before, I doubt the print book will become extinct anytime soon. But he also talks about the ‘coldness of the digital version.’ I think that a statement like that is being downright technophobic. Ebooks aren’t the only ‘new technology’ to meet such resistance.

For example, when the first phonographs and gramophones came out and it became possible to record music, a lot of musicians and music listeners alike resisted the new devices. They said it would ruin music because live concerts were the only way to experience the true magic of music. If I’m not mistaken, it appears that the music industry has really thrived since then.

Yet Mr. Keen appears to have this fetish with the printed book and, like the dedicated concert-goers during the birth of the record, fears that ebooks will render books ‘soulless’:

The traditional book is the most physical of things, a text to be bent and fingered and written on and imprinted with human signatures. Something to be physically loved. The ebook revolution changes all that. In the new digital age, readers and writers and publishers will increasingly come to reflect their soulless product.

Yes, I agree, the physical book is great. I still buy them. I still read them. But usually when I buy a book, I buy it for what is on the inside, the content. Ebooks deliver the same content, just in a different way. Does the fact that you can read all of the classics in digital form take away from the fact that they are still classics? No it does not.

And let’s not forget the benefits ebooks bring to authors. Ebooks are leveling the playing field. Now authors are writing, editing and publishing their own ebooks with really good results. One no longer has to pass through the gatekeepers of traditional publishers to get their books into the hands of readers. For authors and publishers who don’t embrace ebooks, I say do it soon, or you will get left behind.

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