Books and Ebooks: Renumerations on the Future
My GF recently published a book, The Girl in the Bunker, which has a ebook version and a physical version. This caused me to think about the future of books (also, given the fact that I will probably never get my thesis published as a monograph, I had cause to ponder). So my basic premise is that ebooks will be the larger market than physical books. The difference between the two will be that ebooks will be more like renting a book, see The Right To Read, while a physical book will be a true ownership position.
The difference will be reflected in the price. My GF’s ebook is priced at just over £1 while her physical book is priced at £10. The difference is ownership. In the case of an ebook you will never own the book itself, see Amazon’s revocation of 1984 as an example. The difference between the price of the ebook and the price of the physical book is the convenience of the digital form and the lack of true ownership of the ebook.
There is also a difference in risk. The risk of an ebook is that the proprietor of the site whence you purchased the book could at any time disappear and take your ebook with them. This means that the risk needs to be adjusted in the renter’s favor. To entice people to rent an ebook means that it will need to be priced such that if the website shuts down, the renter is not out of pocket too much and thus will take the risk of renting the ebook.
So, while ebooks will probably be the larger market, I do not expect books to disappear any time soon due to the difference in legal positions and the risk involved. As a scholar, this means that while it would be nice to have digital editions of the books that I need, I will more than likely continue to purchase books as I cannot afford to have a book vanish. Also, some people like to collect things so while the market in plain books will diminish, the market in autographed copies will probably take up some of the slack.