This is the moment when that object people call a “book” officially started to become a “file” on a computer. From the New York Times,
In 2010 young-adult e-books made up about 6 percent of the total digital sales for titles published by St. Martin’s Press, but so far in 2011, the number is up to 20 percent, a spokeswoman for the publisher said.
It seems many kids (most likely middle-class) were given an e-reader as a Holiday gift. Both the Nook and Kindle Wi-fi are $150 or less, making them a more affordable device than they were previously.
And there’s this anecdotal tidbit,
In a speech last month at a parents’ association meeting in Westchester County, Ms. Vila asked for a show of hands to indicate how many parents had bought e-readers for their children as holiday gifts.
About half the hands in the room shot up, she recalled.
“Kids are drawn to the devices, and there’s a definite desire by parents to move books into this format,” Ms. Vila said. “Now you’re finding people who are saying: ‘Let’s use the platform. Let’s use it as a way for kids to learn.’ ”
Some teachers have been encouraging, too, telling their students that they are allowed to bring e-readers to school for leisure reading during homeroom and English class, for example.
So many kids will begin to see books as something to download instead of as an object to be purchased in a store or borrowed from a library. This is similar (but not exactly so) to how it was for the popular music business. Once kids saw music as a file on a computer and not as CD or cassette, the old ways of music distribution began to crumble.
(For another example…there are some of us who are old enough to also remember when video games could only be played in a place called an “arcade.” Now you can spend a couple hundred dollars on a game console and buy many games with intensive gameplay to play at home. Or just use your computer.)
This does not mean that the book as an object will die. Print runs will simply get smaller. By the time this current generation grows up (the ones growing up on e-readers) print runs for books will be minuscule compared to what they are now. Those runs will be for a “collector’s edition” for the person who wants a keepsake and/or an autographed copy from the author.
Books are a format, a powerful one that engages people’s senses of sight, touch, and even smell. Stories are independent of format. As long as there are human beings there will be a need for stories.