Bookstores are one of my favorite hangout places, and as much as I love digital publishing I have a soft spot for printed books.
The experience of reading is very personal and for many the ebook has become a better medium for reading than traditional books. If the current trend of coloring books for adults tells us something is that there is an opportunity for printed books, just not what we have experienced before. Ebooks won’t kill physical books but they will force their specialization.
In order to survive physical books should exploit their unique characteristics:
- Manipulation: Printed books are real objects you can manipulate, and so are great for note taking, coloring, and modifying in any which way.
- Unique layout: Like with any other object there is a relationship between the object itself and the user (reader in this case) handling them. The House of Leaves is a book that takes advantage of its own physicality with type printed in unique ways in pages that need to be rotated and manipulated to be read.
- Print Quality:And last but not least, physical books, as of now, are better for print quality and color reproduction and so are perfect for showing artwork.
- Special editions: Physical books also have an essence and unique presence, and so are great for special editions, leather covers, unique designs, etc.
- Conservation: Physical books also excel at conservation and are a great format for preservation of work.
What physical books are not great at is accessibility and readability for people with reading difficulties or in adverse conditions. We should welcome the differences between print and digital and focus our efforts on the strengths that make physical books unique, instead of battling with the ebook industry.
I see a great future ahead for printed books, it just doesn’t look anything like what we have now, and that change scares many.