Is the Book Dying?
JoCasta Zamarripa worked with Planned Parenthood of
Wisconsin before successfully running for the Wisconsin
Assembly in 2010.
Noble, one of the largest traditional booksellers in America, stepped into the e-book Market. The company came out with an electronic
device called “Nook,” a Barnes & Noble version of Kindle. Other booksellers, notably Border’s, have ceased operations.
According to a British expert of the publishing industry, John Thompson, because Amazon is the major source for e-books right now, it
has forced the traditional fiction publishers to keep prices very low, making it hard for these publishers to make money.
Amazon’s chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, wants to cut out the traditional fiction publishers by publishing e-books directly. He has
won the heart of Stephen King and continues wooing other top writers.
Traditional fiction publishers think removing the publishing industry is a bad idea. “It (traditional publishing)’s been about art-making
and culture-making and speaking truth to power,” Dennis Johnson, the publisher of Melville House, wrote the New York Times. “Nor
do I know many writers who want to publish to an algorithm (referring to the e-book). They want their work to be part of the greater
ecosystem of literary culture.”
Christine Pawley, the director of School of Library and Information Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison, will feel sad if the e-
books replaces the codex (the traditional book format), a historic invention around A.D.300.
“People (low class, low income) would prefer borrowing printed materials without any charges from the public libraries,” Pawley
said. “I think class and income are really important. If you have lower income, e-books will be out of reach.”
However, she agrees that e-books have helped her a lot. E-books work very well when readers look through multiple materials at the
same time. They can also help readers find books of the same author or books with the same topic.
“I’m going to China for a month,” Pawley said. “And I’m planning to buy a Kindle. It’s very convenient to carry and it can store
thousands of reading materials.”
“My father is 70-something and he has a Kindle. He likes it a lot,” Kristin Eschenfelder, a professor of Library and Information Studies
at University of Wisconsin-Madison, said. “The Kindle can expand the text’s print size. They (Kindles, ipads, etc.) are not very
complicated devices, so it’s not too hard for the old people.”
Sometimes people buy traditional books for their social meanings, according to Eschenfelder. “If a book is very popular, carrying that
physical book means you’re in the trend,” she said.
Eschenfelder also thinks it will be easier for students to take notes on the surface of a traditional book. “It’s well-known that if you
have to take notes on a book, you prefer paper, as the highlighting functions in e-books are not very good,” she said. Someone online
agreed that Kindle is impractical for any decent and rapid notes-taking.
Compared to e-books, traditional books are more sustainable and environmental-friendly, according to Pawley. “Energy is a huge
problem. You need to run electronic devices to read e-books.”
A small-scale local business can produce traditional books, while producing e-book devices must require large-scaled, well-
capitalized and centralized form of production, Pawley said.
Both Pawley and Eschenfelder think the physical books and the e-books will go along side-by-side in the future.
“I think they will both exist at the same time. There will be fewer sales of some paper books, but I don’t believe they will go away any
time in the near future,” Eschenfelder said. “It’s just like now we have both MP3 (a digital format of music) and CD. Sometimes you
prefer to buy a CD maybe because it’s a gift and you want a physical object; maybe because you are a collector and you prefer to have
the CD for the art and things like that.”
By Winnie Yin Wu
Lots of people still read. According to a 2011 survey on the Pew Internet
& American Life Project, 80 percent of Americans 16 and older say they
read at least occasionally for pleasure.
But some of them no longer read books. Instead, they read e-books — a
book-length publication in digital format — on the screen of electronic
devices (computers, Kindles, iPads, etc.). According the survey, 43
percent of Americans age 16 and older have read e-books, newspaper
or magazine materials as of December 2011.
The survey also shows that the e-book readers have read more books
than others in 2011. Thirty-two percent of them read on a daily basis.
Growing up from a small online bookstore in 1995, the Amazon.com
now has become an aggressive public enemy of traditional booksellers
and fiction publishers. In order to compete with Amazon, Barnes &