Saturday, April 17, 2010

Print is Eternal

Moderator: Welcome to Obsolete Anonymous! I've gathered you all here to welcome our latest member, the Print Industry.

Print Industry: Hello, everyone. But there's been a mistake. I don't belong here.

(chuckles all around)

Print Industry: I'm serious. I'm not obsolete. I'm relevant. Print books have been around for hundreds of years. They're never going to be replaced.

VHS Tapes: Yeah, we all thought like that once.

LP Records: It's called denial. It's tough to deal with at first.

VHS tapes: Easy for you to say, LP. You've still got a niche collector market. They can't even give me away on eBay.

Antique Stores: Can we please not mention eBay? I used to have stores all over. But more and more keep closing thanks to that good-for-nothing website.

CDs: At least you still have some stores left. The specialty stores that sell me are almost extinct. I'm down to a few narrow isles at Best Buy and Wal-Mart.

Print Industry: Look, everyone, I assume you all think that ebooks are going to put me out of business. But that won't happen.

Ma Bell: We all deny it at first. I remember when you couldn't walk twenty yards in a city without seeing a pay phone. Then those gosh darn cell phones came along. Do you know some people don't even have land lines anymore? Used to be a land line in every home...

(Ma Bell begins to cry. Print Phonebooks joins in. So does Dial Up Modems. Encyclopedia Britannica, wearing an I Hate Wikipedia T-Shirt, pops a few Prozac. A group hug ensues.)

Video Rental Store: What Ma Bell is trying to say is that when a technology comes along that's faster, easier, and cheaper, the old technology--and all the companies that supported it--tends to fade away.

Print Industry: Why are you here, Video Rental Store? There are still Blockbuster Videos everywhere.

CDs: There were record stores everywhere once.

Cassette Tapes: Hell yeah! They sold cassettes, too! Someone give me a high five!

(no one gives Cassette Tapes a high five)

Video Rental Store: Things looked good for a while. I had a decent, twenty-year run. Then I got hit by all sides. Netflix, shipping DVDs though the mail. On Demand. Tivo. YouTube. But the nail in the coffin came in the past two years. Hula. Roku--which allows Netflix subscribers to stream video instantly. iTunes and Amazon offering movie downloads. Red Box, which rents DVDs for 99 cents and takes up no more space than a Coke machine...

Print Industry: But ebooks are just a tiny percentage of the market. People have been reading print since Gutenberg. They won't adapt to change that easily.

Kodak: You're correct. It takes a few years for people to fully embrace new technology. Some never do. Polaroid never replaced me.

Polaroid: Shut up, Kodak. We both got our asses kicked by digital. When was the last time you sold any 110 film?

TV Antennas: I'm still big in some third world countries!

Typewriter: The bottom line is: when technology improves, it becomes widely adopted. Me and Carbon Paper used to have a groovy thing going. I'd make the words, he would make the copies. Then Xerox got into the act, but he's not doing well now either.

Xerox: F*cking computers.

Floppy Disc: You said it!

Dot Matrix: F*cking laser and inkjet. Doesn't anyone else miss tearing off the perforated hole punches on the side of paper? Don't they miss the feel and smell of that?

Fold-Out Paper Maps: I agree! Isn't it fun to open up a big map while you're driving, in hopes of figuring out where you are? Don't you miss the old days before cars came equipped with GPS and no one ever used that bastard, MapQuest?

CDs: F*cking internet. That's the problem. Instant access to information and entertainment for the whole world. You guys want to talk about pirating and illegal downloads?

(everyone shouts out a collective no!)

Moderator: We all read on JA Konrath's blog that the way to fight piracy is with cost and convenience. Print Industry, are you lowering your prices and making it easier for customers to download your books?

Print Industry: Actually, we just raised prices on our ebooks.

(collective sighs and head shaking)

Moderator: Well, far be it for you to learn from any of our mistakes. Are you making it easier at least?

Print Industry: Well, we've begun windowing titles, releasing them months after the hardcover comes out.

(collective head slapping)

Music Industry: Have you at least tried selling from your own site? I wish I'd done that. But that upstart Apple came along...

Print Industry: Uh... no. We haven't tried that. In fact, some ebooks--we'll use JA Konrath as an example since he was mentioned--aren't even available on all platforms and in all territories.

Moderator: What do you mean? Konrath's ebooks are available all over the place.

Print Industry: Those are the ones he uploads himself. The ones of his that we sell are missing from several key markets, and have been for years. But it's okay. We're paying him much smaller royalties and jacking the prices up high so we can still make a profit. Besides, ebooks are a niche market. Ereading devices are dedicated and expensive.

Arcades: I used to be a thriving industry. Kids spent billions of quarters in my thousands of locations. But then Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft made home arcade machines, and now people play their videogames on dedicated devices. It's a multi-billion dollar business now, and I can only compete if I sell shitty pizza and give out plastic trinkets to kids with the most foosball tickets. If people want the media, they buy the expensive device. Period.

Print Industry: None of you are listening to me. Print will always be around.

Newspaper Industry: Yeah! What he said!

Print Industry: Let's not compare ourselves, okay Newspaper Industry? No offense.

Newspaper Industry: None taken. Hey, maybe we can help each other. I'm selling advertising space for dirt cheap these days, and...

Print Industry: No thanks. No one reads you anymore. People get their news elsewhere.

Moderator: So why won't people get their novels elsewhere as well?

(Print Industry stands up, pointing a finger around the room.)

Print Industry: Look, this isn't about me. All of you guys have become irrelevant. Technology marched on, and you didn't march with it. But that WILL NOT happen to me. There will always be bookstores, and dead tree books. We'll continue to sell hardcovers at luxury prices, and pay artists 6% to 15% royalties on whatever list price WE deem appropriate. And the masses will buy our books BECAUSE WE SAID SO! WE SHALL NEVER BECOME OBSOLETE!!!

Buggy Whip Industry: Amen, brother! That's what I keep trying to tell these people!

CDs: (whispering to LPs) I give him six years, tops.


Anonymous said...

So funny, but sadly also true.


Anonymous said...

This is the funniest post I've read all week, and so true.

Ellen Fisher said...

Hilarious, and all too true.

S. A. Huggins said...

Absolutely looked your post.

JA Konrath said...

I was going to put in a part where Slide Rule and Pocket Calculator get into a fight, but it was getting redundant.

Mike Dennis said...

Radio Drama and Movie Newsreels were probably listening in from the other room.

Helen Hanson said...

Imagine the time - midnight - on a clock.

Did you envision it in digital or analog?

Grandfather clocks still exist because they are quaint. But no one wants to haul one around.

Brilliant post.

Peter L. Winkler said...

Funny post. Let's shed a tear for daisywheel printers, too. And laserdiscs.

bowerbird said...

humor is a wicked too. :+)


Robert W. Walker said...

It's like this...I have recently learned that big corporate businesses of th five chip variety and what are the major print book publishers but that now...that like Wal-Mart they use cheap, oveerseas slave labor (like authors) and they hire 80,000 employees and do things as they have always done them....watchword in fact, motto. But the most egregious new practice at Wal-Mart and too many big companies to enumerate is that they have been routinely and secretly taking out Life Insurance policies on their employees so that the door greeter, kindly white haired old gent that he is, when he dies, Wal-Mart is collecting on his death as well. When authors die, I wonder...I just wonder. No one knows which companies have taken out Insturance on their employees but Michael Moore's film Capitalism, a Love Story lists many that have oome to light, even Hershey! Citibank of course, Bank of America of course. So with our publishers now Conglomerates and this hew hedge fund on the lives of to wonder if it extends to us writers....I would not put it past the blood suckers.

Joe - your post is GENIUS and wise folks eithr listen to genius or they step aside for it while fools rush ahead doing what they have always done, beating dead horses...definition of insanity.


CJ West said...

Too funny and true. Great post for Saturday AM since I don't get comics in my newspaper anymore.


Anonymous said...

Funny post, Joe. No denying it. But I think you're getting cocky. The fat cash keeps rolling in because The List keeps hanging at #1 or #2 for no descernable reason. Let it drop out of the top 3 and your sales will change significantly, life will be different. The 5k or whatever per month will come to an end. Just say'n.

Anonymous said...

Michael Moore is always totally factual. Right?

Anonymous said...

Great post. As a teacher I could see the day, and I know its coming to the middle and high schools, where we don't have textbooks but KIndles or Ipads or whatever a school can get. Once the devices become cheaper there is ahuge market with the schools.

Sean McCartney
Lost Treasure Series
Secrets of the Magical Medallions

JA Konrath said...

The 5k or whatever per month will come to an end.

I'd agree, if The List was my sole source of ebook income. It's certainly my sales lead, and it and Origin have been top 1000 for over a year now, so sales will eventually die off.

Too bad I'll never ever write anything to replace those ebooks once their sales drop.

Oh, wait a sec. I'm a WRITER. Which means I'll keep writing more books.

I haven't put a new novel on Kindle in ten months.

Next month, I'm putting up two new novels. As well as the Newbie's Guide ebook.

This summer, I'm releasing a collaborative novel on Kindle which will probably outsell anything I've done before.

Next year, I'm putting up a sequel to The List, among a few other projects.

Plus, I expect sales will be buoyed by a few secret projects I'm working on. :)

Will it end for me? Maybe. Eventually.

But this post wasn't about me. It was about an ebook future.

And even if I someday fade into obscurity, it doesn't negate my prediction for the future.

Favoured Girl said...

Wicked post! But the truth is there as well. Technology moves fast, and the publishing industry had better move with it, or else...

Anonymous said...

It's getting to the point that I want to not buy any print anymore to drive it home.

Yes, I want indies to survive. Some will anyway. The problem is that the industry is not changing fast enough to satisfy its real-life customers, and it's infuriating.

Also, fuck windowing. My parents are going to order The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest from overseas because the delay between European and US release is 9 MONTHS. WTF.

Zoe Winters said...

This was absolutely freaking hilarious. I LOVED it.

I'm really puzzled why more people don't see it.

Jude Hardin said...


Of course, so is the story of Chicken Little. ;)

I would like to have a Kindle, and I probably will buy one eventually.

But I probably won't take it to the beach, like I did my print book today, where it's likely to get sand and suntan lotion all over it and where its delicate little microchips will be exposed to blistering heat all day; I probably won't put it in my backpack and take it to work to read during lunch, for fear that it might get stolen; I probably won't relax in the tub with it, for fear it might get wet (and I'm NOT reading through a friggin' Ziploc bag!); I probably won't...

I think you get the picture.

Unlike all the other media you mentioned, there are actually advantages to ink on paper. Printed books will live on beside their electronic counterparts in perpetuity, IMO.

JA Konrath said...

I agree Jude. That's why I haven't bought an iPhone, PSP, Nintendo DS, or netbook computer.

Oh wait a sec... I HAVE bought those things. And I take them to the beach, use them in the bathtub, and keep them in my backpack.

The only reason I haven't bought a Kindle yet is because I have Kindle on my iPhone, and it works fine for me.

But I will get a Kindle eventually. And an iPad. And probably a few more gadgets as tech improves and prices come down. And I'm betting I won't be the only one...

Ellen Fisher said...

Jude, I take my Kindle everywhere. The one recent exception was Great Wolf Lodge, where there was splashing everywhere. Had I thought about it in advance, I would have bought a little waterproof cover. Next time, I'll know to do that. I see plenty of people on the Amazon boards saying they take their Kindles everywhere, or that they have waterproof covers for them, so I'm presumably not the only one who carries her Kindle around 24/7.

The point is, YOU may not choose to do these things with a Kindle or other e-reader, but there's no reason to assume others won't. And eventually some bright company might even develop a waterproof, sandproof ebook reader-- who knows? Of course, it's unlikely they can make it theftproof, but the fact that we all carry around expensive phones and take our netbooks with us everywhere suggests to me that carrying around an ereader isn't a stretch for most people.

Jude Hardin said...

That's why I haven't bought an iPhone, PSP, Nintendo DS, or netbook computer.

My son has had all those things at one time or another. They were either destroyed by mishap (the phone at the beach, as a matter of fact), or he got bored with them and threw them in a drawer. Except for the netbook, which I just bought him for Christmas (I purchased the two-year replacement plan, because I KNOW he'll eventually spill a soda on it or something).

Expensive electronic things break. That's why they're able to sell those extended warranties.

As long as you keep a printed book out of water or fire, it will last forever. And if it does get damaged, you're only out a book. Not several hundred dollars.

Jude Hardin said...

I don't really even know how the whole ereader thing works. If your Kindle bites the dust, do you lose your entire library? Or are your purchases backed up online somewhere?

Ellen Fisher said...

Jude, a Kindle owner has an archive of items on Amazon. If your Kindle bites the dust, what you WOULD lose is any items you emailed yourself. You can email yourself documents to be put into Kindle format, and those would be gone. But anything you buy from Amazon remains in the archives. Also, you can back them up on your computer. It's a lot like an iPod; even if you manage to destroy the device itself, your media is still yours.

Jude Hardin said...

Thanks, Ellen.

You know, I still love vinyl records. Certain frequencies are lost with digital, and I think it's a shame a lot of young people have no concept of what an album is.

Sometimes the old ways are the best ways.

Unknown said...

Awesome post. I giggled aloud even though so much is sadly true. Great job! I'm the proud owner of an e-reader because as an e-published author, if I don't support my own platform, how can I expect others to do the same? It's also why I don't cite mainstream authors among my favorites anymore...I'd rather toss the promotion to my own peers that I know are equally as talented.

Rex Kusler said...

Well, I'm not giving up my plaid pants until they're worn out. I bought fifty pair at a closeout sale, thinking I'd never have to buy pants again. Where do you buy the polka dot shirts to wear with them?

David Wisehart said...

Great post. It's funny because it's true.

Esther said...

Most of the books I buy for my kindle reading are books I would have bought as a MMPB. Those versions in physical form, are certainly not meant to last forever. If really thick, the binding will eventually break, and the paper is so cheap that it will eventually mildew. I'm allergic to that.

In the past I've just passed mmpb books on after I've read them. Now I get to keep them in the Amazon archive. I still buy a print edition now and then for a book I want for my shelf, but I buy at least a trade paperback version for the upgraded quality of paper.

In comparison to a mmpb, the ebook version, with search capability, dictionary lookup, archiving through Amazon, ability to highlight and make notes, and a nicer form factor (I hate the chunkiness of a mmpb) holds much more appeal and value to me.

I do see the value of a nice quality print edition for the shelves. I don't see them going away for a while.

Ellen Fisher said...

Sure, Jude, there are certainly exceptions to every rule. Sure there are still people listening to CDs, and even LPs. There may even be people still listening to 78s, for all I know (I grew up listening to them because my dad had a big jazz collection, and I don't miss them in the slightest!). Not everyone has an iPod, or wants one.

But the question is more what MOST people do, as that is what makes industries rise and fall. Right now, most people are not reading ebooks. But I don't think it's a big stretch to look at the growth of the ebook market and guess that many more people will probably be reading ebooks five years from now. Nor is it a stretch to imagine that such a change in reading habits will likely have a powerful effect on the publishing industry.

Edward G. Talbot said...

Jude -

Meh, vinyl's too modern for me, I won't listen to anything not recorded on wax. It sucks finding spare parts for the player, though.

Joe's point is the key one - don't assume that just because you would or wouldn't do certain things doesn't mean everyone else will be the same. I am not suggesting paper books will go away completely, but it may not be many years before ebooks are the dominant format.

I prefer reading paper books, but at this point the advantages of ebooks are starting to bring me around. To me, the lack of ability to borrow and lend books is the only really major annoyance (I buy 30-40 books a year but I read at least 75, the rest from library or friends). Aside from that, I could see switching to ebooks for all my fiction.

That's as a reader, as an author I'd be freakin' stupid not to embrace them.

JA Konrath said...

My son has had all those things at one time or another.

So does mine. If it breaks, we buy another one to access the content we bought.

Jude Hardin said...


My son, who is very tech savvy, looks at those black disks going 'round and 'round, and says, "How does that even work?" LOL!

Jude Hardin said...

So does mine. If it breaks, we buy another one to access the content we bought.

Seems like quite the racket they've got going there. ;)

I don't want to brag or anything, but I have a black rotary telephone from 1967 that still works perfectly.

JA Konrath said...

I don't want to brag or anything, but I have a black rotary telephone from 1967 that still works perfectly.

That's awesome! Can you also rub two sticks together and make fire?

Ellen Fisher said...

Jude, your black rotary telephone is as old as I am. I wish *I* still worked perfectly!

Jude Hardin said...

You guys are killing me! I haven't laughed this hard in a while.

Of course my black rotary phone isn't really hooked up or anything. I have it in my office as a prop. It looks like Perry Mason or Philip Marlowe or someone might walk in at any minute.

Debbi said...

ROFL! You have nailed it once again, Joe.

Zoe Winters said...


What they need to do is make e-readers so that if it's stolen or lost you can call it in and the device totally locks up and becomes useless to the thief.

Something like that would deter stealing. Though I think as the price comes down it won't be much different then people carrying their iPods around. I mean no one goes running with their iPod thinking someone is going to mug them for their mp3 player.

I walk (in a sunny, well-populated area with other walkers) with my Kindle.

Let's me multi-task... burn calories and read.

Rex Kusler said...

The rotary phone? I remember when you just picked up the handset and asked for a three digit number--and Mabel would tell me they were on vacation. You can't get service like that anymore.

Modest Treasure said...

I just learned about this blog two days ago and I'm loving it :). I especially love today's posts. I have been reading your past posts as well, and I must say that you bring up quite a few interesting points.

I'm curious about whether the non-electronic card catalog and the view-finder are secretly making out in the corner while the others are arguing with the print industry. I also know other professional authors are trying to convince their publishers that eBooks are the wave of the future. However, I don't know how much success they are having with the debates.

Anonymous said...

You guys are laughing but those old rotary phones come in handy when the power goes out and all the digital phones in the house are dead. Plus they are great for killing intruders (or so it seems on every 10th episode of Law and Order)

I still have a land line at my house because of the ADT security, otherwise I would ditch AT&T and all my other home phones for good.

RJ Jeffreys said...

I think the Print Industry is sitting at home watching radio right now...

Unknown said...

Love your humor, and so true.

JA Konrath said...

the non-electronic card catalog and the view-finder are secretly making out in the corner

The microfiche is taking pictures.

Remember film strips? Pressing the button to advance them when the tape beeped?

Sophie Playle said...

Ahaha, so true. Kinda scary, though, to be reminded how damn fast technology is moving these days.

SunTiger said...

Very awesome post (My first visit to your site and I'm subscribing!).

Ruth Francisco, author said...

Joe, I think you'll appreciate the irony of this. My Kindle book "Amsterdam 2012" started selling fabulously, so what does my publisher do? They jack up the Kindle price on my DTB books from $5.99 to $19.99. No, they're not afraid at all. Ha!

In retaliation, I published another book on Kindle, "Primal Wound", this week without even showing it to them. What are they going to do now? Jack up my Kindle prices to $34.99?

Anonymous said...

Hilarious! You should sell this as a Kindle download. I'd buy it.

Verilees said...

Of course my black rotary phone isn't really hooked up or anything. I have it in my office as a prop. It looks like Perry Mason or Philip Marlowe or someone might walk in at any minute.

I had a friend attach a modernish phone plug to an old rotary I bought at a thrift shop-- black bakelite-- and it was still working when I gave up my land line a few years back. The tinny old ring was great.

Jude Hardin said...

I might try hooking mine up someday, Verilees. It still has the original cable, and I think it would just be a matter of splicing the wires into a modern plug. of course, I wouldn't be able to go through those menu mazes so many companies use now. Darn it.

Rex Kusler said...

I bought one of those black rotary dial phones at an antique sale in the early 1990s. It worked and had a new cord with a plug that fit into a wall jack. I couldn't wait to get it home and try it out. Everyone was jabbering about the excellent quality we could expect from it, since the new phones were cheaply made and of lesser quality. A couple of Dixie cups with a tight string has better sound quality. After putting up with it for a few days, it went in the closet. It's probably still there at my second wife's house.

JA Konrath said...

I just explained to my 12 year old that before he was born, you couldn't own phones. Remember renting the Princess model from the phone company?

The first Caller ID units--those big white screens--were rentals as well.

Anonymous said...

I also love printed books. But it has become obvious that they will become as rare as a vinyl record. Even cds and dvds are on the way out.
I doubt any more kindles will be lost, stolen, or destroyed than ipods or laptops, perhaps fewer, and people take those everywhere.
Technology is catching up to the book industry. It has taken longer than with music or movies only because those industries are far more profitable than books. But I am sure that in the near future we will see the book trade exist only as a second-hand business and print-on-demand.

Maria said...

Very interesting. Glad to hear The List has a sequel coming out. Funny book.

Karen from Mentor said...

"(no one gives Cassette Tapes a high five)"

That killed me. Maybe if he had been a mixed tape?


Author Scott Nicholson said...

I actually still listen to cassettes and watch VHS--but I am an author so I can't afford to upgrade because I work for both the newspaper and the print publishing industries...

Scott Nicholson

Jude Hardin said...

I never did like cassettes much, except for the car. But the absolute WORST format ever for music was the 8-track tape. Anyone remember those? Fading out in the middle of a song...double tracking...having to wind yards of tape back onto the spool after it getting mangled in the player...

Just a horrible format.

Cara Wallace said...

This post made me LOL several times. The print industry will be dragged kicking and screaming into the future ...

Ruth, not surprising at all, is it?

Jon F. Merz said...

Great post, Joe. Should be interesting to see if it comes to pass sooner than the six-year time frame you give them.

At this point, I'm happy straddling both the traditional and indie realms - doing deals in both areas. But the future should be interesting!

Folklore Fanatic said...

1. Joe - hiLARious. I love it.

2. There's No Point in Stealing a Kindle

I talked to a Kindle rep when UPS sent my Kindle to the wrong building. The manager in charge told me that they can wirelessly deauthorize Kindles if they are reported stolen. They sent me a second one because they were that unconcerned about theft -- they can turn a Kindle reported stolen into a lightweight brick, so to speak. Both arrived with 24 hours of each other. I activated the first one and sent the second one back for free.

There is also a one-click process by which you can deactivate any of your Kindle devices from Amazon's webpage. Just go to "Manage Your Account."

3. Digital Content Has Backups

Jude, you can replace all content downloaded from Amazon if you lose one or all of your digital devices on which you read Kindle books. Amazon keeps records of your books, even the free ones, and dates them.

I have two computers and a Kindle linked to my Amazon account. All of them have copies of every book I bought/downloaded.

Being a paranoid person, I frequently make backups anyway. This is because I don't trust corporations. LOL. If Amazon decides to arbitrarily pull a book from my devices, I will have three backups that I can then strip of DRM and convert to .mobi or something where Kindle has no control over them.

a) I make a spare Gmail account and send files there, like I do with my writing.

b) I .zip archive my files (or not) and upload them to either a secure folder on one of my websites or on a storage locker like and make the settings private.

c) I have a portable, removable hard drive that backs up all of my data from both computers.

Copies a) and b) are considered "in the cloud." Cloud computing means I can access my content anywhere there is an internet connection.

4. Electronics Play Nicely When You Take Care of Them

I have a cover for my Kindle and I take it everywhere (usually when I use it I get compliments and questions about ereaders). If for some stupid reason it breaks past the 1-year warranty, I'll just read ebooks on my old Palm reader and PCs until I can afford one of the forthcoming color e-ink readers. ;)

I used to worry about carrying around my digital camera, too. Once I dropped it and it didn't break, I got over myself and worried about theft. The two times I've left it somewhere, I was lucky and my friends found it and returned it to me. That camera is a terrific camera. Now it costs half the price it did just a year ago, less than $100. It has saved me more than five times that in amount of film I have saved and movies it has made in professional quality.

5. .mp3 Replacement Formats are Lossless

This means they play as high quality music as LPs but never degrade. True, .flac and other lossless formats are larger than mp3s, but with storage increasing at 2^x (Moore's Law?) I'm not really concerned with storage space, either.

6. Cell Phones Are the Reason My Electric Clocks Still Tell Time

I don't know what kind of parallel universe you live in, C. Pinheiro, but I wish I was living there! We have a lot of power outages where I live in the summer, and our landlines often go dead simultaneously. I think it has something to do with ordering phone and internet service through the cable company.

In any case, our cell phones have repeatedly been the only devices NOT to die during outages, and they are the one way we can successfully tell time and reset our clocks when the power comes back on short of waiting for the cable to return and scanning through the channels for a time stamp.

7. Now that I've gone through a technology roundup, I'll end by saying that, imho, print books are not going away. I do think they will be mainly collector's items in a couple of decades, however. They're that way for me now. I still buy them, but only if I like the cover art, can't find them in ebook format, or know they are / will be valuable.

Helen Hanson said...

8-tracks were supposed to help you find *your* cut sooner. Instead they jumped to the one you hated.

bowerbird said...

i said:
> humor is a wicked too. :+)


i meant to say this:
> humor is a wicked tool. :+)

anyway, this was really funny.

but, not to put too fine a point
on it, print books will remain
with us for a very long time,
simply because the cost of
print-on-demand is dropping.
the consumables cost is just
a penny a page even now, and
the cost of the machinery will
drop quickly once we realize
that it's not much more than
a simple little laser-printer...

so people will soon _print_
the e-books that _mean_
something to them, because
they want to have hard-copy.

so p-books will be here for
a long time into the future.

what _will_ be disappearing,
and faster than most think, is
book-publishing corporations.
they'll soon fade away into
simple holding companies
managing their backlist i.p.


Joe Moore said...

Who would ever want to read a book on an iPhone? Just ask this guy:

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" -- H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927

Ellen Fisher said...


"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.", Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

N. Mahana said...


That was fantastic. Sad but true.

Aim said...

Joe, I don't know how long it took you to come up with this post but bravo! very funny and (unfortunately) so true.

Anonymous said...

LOL Way too true

JA Konrath said...

Some of you may have noticed a new ebook in my sidebar.

The Newbie's Guide to Publishing Book is now available on my website for free, and on Amazon for $2.99.

It contains hundreds of essays, and is over 370,000 words. Those who still like paper can print up their own copy--if you have 1100 sheets of paper handy.

Rob Siders, whom I recommended in this post, is the one who put this monster together. I just saw the Kindle version, and it looks great. All the links (and there are over two thousand) work, making this perfect for your Kindle for iPhone/iPad.

7:06 PM

BobbyDarin said...

Shame you couldn't find space for those other obsolete industries, radio and cinema.

Conda Douglas said...

Hilarious, Joe, but you also forgot to mention the post office.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...


Online Newspaper Industry: Scooped you again.

Print Newspaper: Did not! I have an online presence too. Just, I'm not sure who's reading it.

Online Newspaper: Yup. Scooped ya. Got more comments too.

Print: Did not! Did not!

Mike Webb said...

I don't think print is ever going away. Digital only has about 6% of the market now and has a long way to go before print is obsolete. There is just something about holding a good book in your hands. And don't forget about all of the small publishers out here that don't do things the way the big guys do. Will we offer digital? Yes, but will it be our main focus? No. Do I feel threatened by the takeover of digital? No.

Anonymous said...

Freudian slip there, Mike. You said "the takeover of digital". Correct. Print will remain, but in ten years print will have the ten percent and digital 90 percent of the market. Look at the parallel of music. Cd stores are closing because kids are downloading thousands of songs onto a portable device the size of a cell phone. They neither need nor want hundreds of cds or dvds cluttering their homes.

Kendall Swan said...

What a great spoonful of sugar to get the message, uh, medicine down. Quality post, as usual.

Anonymous said...

One thing being left out of anyone's analysis is the long term effects of reading on a device like the ipad, which is projecting additive light at you versus reading a passive device with subtractive light reflecting off a printed page.

That innate quality of print is, at this point, next to impossible to replicate. If and when that becomes a competitively priced option, for real, electronically changing paper, that's will be the true tipping point for print.

The printed vehicle wasn't the real problem. When's the last time someone picked up a magazine and said, "this looks awful—look how cheap the paper is, why did they saddle-stitch a 1/2" thick book?"

Right now, the book, newspaper and magazine markets are losing ground because the distribution and publication mechanisms were not competitive. The problem in the latter is the lack of important content for the price. The publishers consistently cater to the advertisers in their editing and choice of articles, or they cover the same pieces as their competition. Who wants to pay for that?

The book market is very much about the publishers and the distribution channels. I think they're allowing too many titles to be published, in the theory of blindly casting out a dozen lines rather than committing to one. One can see by how quickly the price drops on new hardcover titles that they've made poor choices in the authors. If anyone is replicating the same mistakes as the music business, it's the book publishers. Instead of Britney or the pop-tart of the day/year/etc., they have Dan Brown. There's much better artists and authors out there, but you wouldn't know that if you listen to the publishers' hype. All they care about is pooling their resources into a big mega hit to pump their stock price up.

The writing has been on the wall for book publishing for at least ten years in the printing business. Due to the need for knowledgeable operators and appropriate pay levels, the domestic (US) business has all but been completely outsourced for major book printing. Also, almost no one can afford to have a major publisher as a client unless you are a giant conglomerate, because of their constant push for a mega hit. You just can't meet the demand without a massive factory. Oprah helped kill any dreams of independence in the book manufacturing trades. 0-60million copies in a heartbeat. Who can meet that demand? Oh, we can do that overseas...and use lesser grade paper, in a plant with no pollution controls, using labor they'll just as soon kill as reprimand, and then, like any good drug dealer, cut the publisher in the states a "good deal" way below market price until we're hooked and don't know any other way to do it.

Even without the overseas production, there's been a decade long threat of on-demand laser-print based book production. This never quite fully realized panacea had the same underlying tones as digital book distribution: cut the publisher out of the loop and buy direct. You want one copy, print/bind one copy. Sure, some places have become very successful with this, but there's a cost for everything and unless someone knows and appreciates that they're buying a book made just for them, pricing is going to be an issue.

One last thought...all digital distribution trends towards "free" to the end user. You *can* put together a good song in a week. How long does it take to write a good book? Success and longevity will only come in the digital "reading" business when the author gets paid better than they are now. Will iTunes give advances for people to write books?

JA Konrath said...

long term effects of reading on a device like the ipad

Can't be worse than computers, which are bigger and brighter. Kindle and e-ink don't emit lights, so they're passive.

Right now, the book, newspaper and magazine markets are losing ground because the distribution and publication mechanisms were not competitive.

The reason books and magazines are losing money is because the Internet and cable TV allows the same information to be accessed easier and freely.

Ebooks allow the same thing. Lower cost, instant delivery.

Authors won't need advances. The money will come in monthly.

Jason Applebee said...

Very creative post.

I love the way you told the story and made your point through metaphor and emotion. :)

Erin Morris said...

Great post...have already sent it around to the colleagues who are failing to grasp the inevitability! As for all the places Jude mentioned he wouldn't take his Kindle...I think he will be surprised! Once I got my hands on an eInk device it was over, it goes everywhere with me!

Roberta said...

Bravo. You've said it so brilliantly, who can argue? Thanks.