Posted by: ccclib | July 27, 2010

Is Print Doomed?

Over at the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America site, author Cat Rambo posits that electronic publishing will become more and more prevalent.  That’s hardly going out on a limb, but she asserts that the corollary of ubiquitous e-books is the obscurity of print.  Print publishing will have to change in order to survive, but we are already beginning to see changes such as print on demand services and simultaneous publishing of a title in several different formats.  Of course, electronic publishing has also opened yet another arena for ongoing format wars (e.g. Mac vs. PC or Android vs. iPhone).

Rambo contends:

While you may well continue to be able to slip something paperback-sized into your back pocket two decades down the line, we all know that the odds are that it won’t be made of paper.

We all know that?  Really? While I concede it’s certainly a possibility, I don’t know that’s it’s necessarily inevitable.  In order for it to happen, electronic publishing cannot afford to rely on the status quo any more than print publishing.

For example, the price of e-reader hardware will have to drop substantially in order for a majority of people to make the initial investment.  Also, a digital rights management (DRM) compromise will need to be reached under which consumers are allowed to “own” an instance of an e-book instead of merely licensing access to it.   People who buy print books frequently loan them to friends or even resell them without being labeled pirates or subjected to legal action for copyright infringement.  The same is not currently true of many e-books.  Perhaps Rambo assumes such changes, but they are not stated.

What do you think?  Is print doomed to be relegated to a tiny niche market?  If it does survive, will it change and if so what form will it take?  Let us know how you feel in the comments.

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