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May 25, 2021

Are books dead, dying or neither?

When discussing the stubborn demise of newspapers, the same argument is always brought to me.

1335451_stack_of_books After a certain generation passes – the Baby Boomers, the over-40 crowd – the era of waking up in the morning, grabbing a coffee and paper will be gone. Anyone younger than that hasn’t been conditioned to read the physical newspaper; they don’t seek that tactile feedback each day that was common to your fathers and mine.

In theory, the same thinking goes for books, which appear headed for the same fate thanks to iPads and e-readers. But as newspapers have shown resilience, are books dead just yet?

The basis for this story, of course, comes from an eye-opening report last week. According to Amazon, e-books outsold traditional paper copies for the first time ever in April, only four years after anyone first heard the word “Kindle.”

“We had high hopes that this would happen eventually, but we never imagined it would happen this quickly,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said. The online retailer noted that, in the U.S. last month, it sold 105 Kindle e-books for every 100 print books to readers.

The Kindle hurts traditional print books – yeah, the iPad does, too – but since the news of Amazon’s numbers, there has been finger-pointing of many kinds toward the entire book biz.

Forbes, for one, says a flawed business model is to blame: the industry, it’s said, has a backwards approach to publishing.

“The books that publishers choose are almost entirely of zero interest to actual book-buyers,” the site’s Raquel Laneri writes, suggesting after-the-fact texts about 9/11 or the Iraq War don’t sell all that well when the Internet provides enough free info for all.

“In no other industry do producers actually wait passively to see what products are suggested to them, instead of doing market research to see what people really want to buy. Yet publishers seldom generate book ideas; instead they wait for literary agents to submit proposals.”

Yes, consumers are a fickle bunch – just look: 3-D is old news already – but it’d be amazing to see e-readers actually slam the door on something like books, which have a history dating back, oh, I don’t know, 5,000 years.

Are you still reading books? Do you prefer traditional print copies or their e-reader incarnations?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money

*Follow Jason on Twitter here.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...