The topic that I have chosen to study is about the future of publishing, specifically, concerning the sustainability of printed books. Because information and communication technology is constantly changing, the way Americans access traditional and electronic resources are evolving, too. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, electronic gadget ownership reaches new high where 44% of American online consumers own a tablet and 32% of them have an e-reader. A growing number of people prefer eBooks because of the many advantages that it offers as compared to the traditional printed books. Nevertheless, I will argue in this paper that to avoid the extinction of printed books in the future, the government should become actively involved. Even though eBooks are better than printed books in different ways, the government should do something about this relevant issue. The question now is: Can the printed books will they become extinct in the process or will most likely be sustainable in the future?
Based on the generalization that I made hereunder, I then have found resolutions to some of the challenges and issues on traditional or online publishing. I have looked at how to attract publishers to opt for printed books over eBooks despite the advantages that the latter offers. Further, I also have examined what the government’s role is to keep the survival of traditional books over eBooks considering the fluctuating trends and inconclusive findings about the issues and other problems related to conventional and electronic publishing.
In the preliminary paragraphs that follow, I have explored the benefits and disadvantages of printed books and eBooks, as well as, provided supports for my thesis, inference and preference. I have then anchored each claim with supporting arguments or counterclaims prior to the presentation of my own views regarding the source that I have cited. At the end of all the claims that I used in my research, I have offered my own perspective so that my target readers will be properly guided as to the gist of what I have contributed in my paper.
A. eBooks versus Printed Books
1. My first source of information is “The Advantages of eBooks Versus Traditional Books” by Jill Harness. The source states several advantages of eBooks over physical books. The first advantage is that eBooks allow readers to bring a whole library with them whenever and wherever they go as long as they have access to the internet. Smartphones are all that individuals need to bring with them a wide array of reading collections. Additionally, the weight of a smartphone, which contains all the books people might need in their travel, are lighter than standard paperbacks. The second advantage is that using eBooks will save people a lot of disc storage space. With smartphone devices, people can virtually access all the free books worldwide and can easily buy other reading materials, which can be delivered to them instantly. Unlike physical storage for printed materials, people typically need a lot of space (such as bookshelves) just to hold a limited number of books.
The third advantage of eBooks is that they are often cheaper in the long run because there are no printing fees associated with them. Unlike printed books that usually undergo various processes before they become available in a definite number of local, national, and international bookstores, eBooks can easily be downloaded once they become available in various online stores. Additionally, because of taxes, handling and shipment costs, printed books become more expensive as compared to less expensive eBooks. The fourth advantage is that people can read eBook instantly right after they purchased it. They do not need to wait for them to arrive at their doorstep, unlike traditional books that takes several weeks to arrive depending on the destination. The fifth advantage is that, with eBooks, individuals can change the resolution, brightness, contrast, font colors, etc. of their smartphone screen for better viewing and reading experience. They can read in a dimly lighted bedroom space or outdoor underneath the moon’s shade. To the contrary, printed books can only be read when there is sufficient lighting. Below are additional supporting statements from other authors showing further the advantages and disadvantages of one medium versus another:
2. The second source is that of Tony Jar’s "Traditional Textbooks vs. ETextbooks – Which Is Right for You?" Jar lists the pros and cons of using e-textbooks and traditional textbooks. He compares one medium over the other. He notes that at the time of his writing, there might already be changes going on between traditional books and electronic books, which is true. However, he cautions his readers to take note mostly of the relevant contents of his article, and not the other way around.
EBooks have the advantages of never going out of stock, according to Jar. Likewise, online purchasers do not have to wait for their eTextbooks to be shipped because they can be downloaded at instantly. These digital books are not only environmentally friendly, but can also be downloaded with thousands of other electronic resources. Additionally, eBooks have other value-added features, such as text-to-speech reader, multimedia tie-ins, etc. However, some of the drawbacks of using electronic books include copyright issue because the original purchaser cannot simply share it to other people’s devices. Likewise, to use them, one has to have a smartphone or laptop. When it comes to cost comparison, in the long run, eBooks are much cheaper. However, when the device got damaged, an individual has to buy a new gadget and purchase anew the digital books that he or she has to use.
Physical textbooks, on the other hand, can be found new or used, resold or borrowed and available in the library or not. Not only that, with proper care, they will stay for decades or even a century. To the contrary, they are bulky or heavy. They can be expensive, too, especially when they are about to go out of stock because of the too many orders, demands or purchases. Hence, Jar’s article provides the reasons why the government should do something in supporting the sustainability of inexpensive printed books for the benefits of succeeding generations.
3. A third relevant source is an article by Jenny Deam titled "E-Books vs. Print: What Parents Need to Know." Deam discusses the importance of both traditional and digital books for kids – and what some parents have to say about their own children’s reading experiences. She shared some anecdotes wherein a particular kid “was transfixed” the moment he held a handheld electronic device. Deam also cites statistics that digital medium may actually trump print medium. Some experts admit that there is no stopping as of the moment that the trend will continue as an increasing number of young readers prefer tablets over physical books. Nonetheless, parents do have some hesitations whether kid should simply put electronic gadgets in their kids’ own hands. To elucidate further Deam’s point, she also offers the advantages and disadvantages of both traditional and digital media – and why.
Deam’s points out that kids should have both traditional and electronic books. They should use one over the other depending on their preferences. Even when print may be better for hands-on or tactile experience, technology is still technology such that it may distance kids from their social world. Likewise, even though print medium makes kids fall in love with reading, eBooks are by far better for independent readers but not for children with “more controlling” parents, which is understandable. Additionally, even if printed books allow children to focus their attention on the books’ contents, eBooks are more loaded with entertaining features (e.g., animation, games, etc.). Despite of the advantages of printed books, digital versions are far better at trumping them because they are more rewarding and more interactive, as well as, cater to kid's unique learning style. The equally beneficial factor that print and electronic media has is when it comes to boosting kids’ early reading skills. As such, the bottom line, according to Deam’s account is that the human factor (e.g., good parenting and teaching) is by far the “most important app” as compared to traditional and electronic books, which brings us back to my argument why the government should be actively involved in the sustainability of printed books given that digital books are here to stay with us.
4. My fourth source comes from Lee Grayson’s article titled “Types of Publishing Companies.” He lists the different types of publishing companies: how they compare or contrast, as well as, what are their advantages and disadvantages relative to one another. He says that most of the presses are traditional publishers but because of the advent of digital medium, they are adapting to the change. Grayson mentions academic and scholarly publishers whose products are for educational purposes. Educational institutions use these presses when they want to publish their research, scholarly or academic works. There are also trade publishers whose target reading market is the public. Most bestsellers’ lists are in this category. Moreover, there are also independent presses that cater mostly to regional and local publishers, such as businesses that focus on the arts. Other than academic, trade and independent press companies, there are likewise self-publishers whose specialties are vanity and contracts. Publishers in this category are interested in people’s biographies, company products, etc.
Because the trend in this modern age is electronic versions of virtually all kinds, Grayson highlights the importance of electronic book publishers. All the other categories incorporate in their products digital versions. EBooks offer the opportunities unlike any of all the presses. Not only is electronic publishing inexpensive and superiorly convenient, it is also a much profitable venture. Reputable publishers have retail stores wherein anyone across the world can buy and download digital books. As a result, there are increasing sales of eBooks because almost all of the other presses are partnering with e-publishers. Generally, Grayson states that eBooks benefit not only publishers, but the whole book industry. EBooks offer an inexpensive alternative for small and medium business-oriented publications interested in partnering with large publishers’ operating networks to promote eBooks. Today, many people still go to presses when they want to publish their works, but others opt to self-publish to earn more passive income. Hence, the government should do something to avoid some individuals self-publishing poorly crafted and edited eBooks.
5. My fifth source is “State and Local Tax: E-books Are Not Subject to New York State Sales and Use Tax” by Nick Fiore. The article states that, in an advisory opinion, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance has concluded that a California seller's sales of e-books are not subject to sales and use tax. The reason that eBooks are not subjected to sales and use tax is because the e-books are neither tangible personal property nor information services. The author of the article, Nick Fiore, presented the relevant facts that online bookstores sell digital materials inside and outside of the said state. The eBooks are bought to an online bookstore, but only for the specific use of the customer concerned. Said customer, for instance, simply downloads the eBook from the shop for viewing in his or her digital device (e.g., tablet), but neither can he or she transfers it in another gadget or print the eBook’s content given copyright issue and security feature of the eBook.
Based on Fiore’s detailed analysis why eBooks may not be subject to sales and use tax in New York is purchased eBooks do not entitled customers of extra goods or services. Likewise, given that the digital material is downloaded per purchase basis and is device dependent, as well as, marketed as an eBook, it is exempted from sale and use tax. Moreover, since revision done are just once per annum, said electronic materials cannot be included as products that have to be under sale and use tax. In short, eBooks (or similar ones) are non-taxable information services. On the other hand, should one of the requirements or criteria is not met, sale and use tax may be imposed. Thus, it shows that if the above criteria are all complied, authors and publishers of eBooks are exempted from paying said taxes and will earn more in the process. However, the government should look into this matter closely given that taxes collected from individuals, companies and other entities can be used later by government agencies in charge of policy-making, making guidelines, checking, monitoring, and investigating publishers and publication houses.
- Statistics and Experts Shows: Printed Books Preferred than EBooks
1. Young Readers’ Printed Book Preference
Despite the many advantages of eBooks over printed books, according to Liz Bury, young adult readers prefer printed to eBooks. She says that survey result shows that 62% of 16 to 24 years olds prefer printed books over digital books. Although it has come to be a surprise that such was the case, it is understandable from the point of view of those who participated in the research. Even when those individuals are the super-connected generation, they know their preferences. First, they want “value for their money.” Not only are the traditional books tangible, but they can also be shared or resold to others. Second, the survey respondents want the emotional connection that goes with the handling or cuddling of physical books. On the other hand, because eBooks are intangible, they even reasoned out that they should be sold at a lower price given that they cannot be resold due to copyright.
I think that the respondents are correct in pointing out the benefits of physical books over digital books. Not only are eBooks intangible, but because physical books offer more of a status symbol for having collected volumes of physical book. Just think of the easiness in annotating and commenting on printed books using a highlighter. Likewise, people want the scent of the leaves of books. Readers, to date, cannot do so using eReaders or electronic devices. It is the psychology of physical books that matter for people who had been used to traditional books. Many people can virtually have all the books in the world in their tablets, but does that mean anything to someone who has actually read physical books that have been worn out through repeated use? Hence, I support the view that the government should support and promote the use of printed books, other than eBooks, to prevent their extinctions.
2. Authors’ Prefer Printed Books than Ebooks
Additionally, author like Louise Gray, in his The Telegraph article "Authors Stand up for Traditional Books over E-books," discusses how some authors prefer traditional books over eBooks. He cites statistical reports where the use of Kindle has spurred the sales of eBooks for three consecutive years, but later on slowed down. The underlying reasons were limited and not even further elaborated. Gray simply says that physical books let readers put their annotation and comments on. There could be other reasons why the sales of eBooks wane, just like what the other authors that I mentioned above said. Nonetheless, Gray makes his point straightforwardly: eBooks are here to stay depending on which genres are preferred by the general reading public. However, as of the moment, physical books have ‘innately theirs’ that are not found in any digital format. Physical books can be touched, collected, displayed, showcased, bragged about, etc. EBooks, on the other hand, are only downloaded without other people actually knowing that another individual with an eReader have them. Others simply store them in their tablets without actually reading them, except for some apparent reasons (for instance, academic or scholarly work).
Authors want to engross themselves with the contents of the physical books that they are reading. The feeling of scribbling on the pages of a physical eBook is not as engaging as in eBooks. Likewise, people such as philosophers who are deep and reflective readers what to have the content of the books sink in to their being. I think that is something worth philosophizing after all. If people want ‘physical encounters’ with philosophy, it may be because they are already seated in their armchairs on top of their imaginatively built ivory tower. However, that is too much to tell from Gray’s article. The truth is that traditional readers want to have the same experience of engaging with their printed medium. Even when the Kindle or other eReaders might be as new as they for the most number of readers, there is no assurance that they will become as appealing and motivating as physical books. Hence, this is another source that supports my argument why our government should promote the use of printed books for better reading experience.
3. EBooks Destroying the Future? Go for Printed!
For Zoe Chace of the National Public Radio organization, eBooks are destroying traditional publishing; they drive down prices. The consuming readers expect to have lower prices for eBooks as compared to physical books. Digital books can be reproduced in large quantities instantly. They can also be downloaded anytime once a purchase has been made. There are also a wide variety of eReaders (e.g., Nooks, iPads, Kindles) to choose from. But the real culprit, according to Chace, is online piracy. Some hackers can crack an eBook’s version and then resell it in other sites. Sometimes, without having to resell it, the user simply makes an eBook available over the internet. As a result, many people are looking for free downloads instead of buying digital books. Because of that, eBooks, as the author claims, destroy traditional publishing; nevertheless, the story is not that straightforward yet.
Some digital publishers are doing “pretty well despite the piracy problem” (Chace). They know how to take advantage of digital books to increase their sales. They lower their offer for an eBook that has been for a while since its initial publication or edition. Because of that, some people are driven like crazy given that the eBook is a quality one. The result: a bestselling eBook. People like lower priced eBooks – and that is what the publisher has done precisely. Even after the one-day lower price offer, many people are still looking to buy the book. Thus, it is not just piracy that could potentially destroy traditional publishing but because of lowered prices for eBooks. Hence, this is another reference that gives additional credence to my thesis why the government should promote the use of printed books given that it is the content of the book that matters the most. Likewise, printed books should be as competitive as eBooks, not just in prices and face value, but more on their emotional and intellectual attachment to people.
C. Revisiting the Relevant Questions
There are a few questions that I have created after listing all the preceding subsections. The first question is: how printed books can survive in the future given all the advantages of eBooks? It is apparent in today’s technology that eBooks are the way to go. People, specifically, the generations of today and the next, only have to accustom themselves in the use of digital books. If all have already been said and done, such that eBooks have the extra features of being smelled, what significant difference has it over physical books? If eReaders of today have features of having an eBook’s pages flipped from cover to cover, what else it cannot mimic just like in traditional books? If an eBook reader can be turned like a whole-sized printed book, what is it not to be likened into except that it would then be as any other traditional books? In short, what a physical book cannot do, eBooks can, and vice versa. But why should printed books be promoted by our government to make them sustainable in the coming future? The answer to this first relevant question will be resolved later on this research paper as I make extra deep reflections based on the materials that I had already collected so far.
The second question is: what changes the printed books can make in order to attract more publishers? Good publishers only want to publish quality digital books. However, because even self-publishers can have their work published online on their own, quality contents are sometimes sacrificed in the name of money and self-interest. Hence, the question: What changes should be made to attract presses to publish more printed books in the coming years? Again, this second major question will be dealt with below given the materials already cited above, as well as, using my own understanding and insight about this issue.
The third question is: what can the government do in order to keep the printed book survived? It is not enough that only the public and private sectors who should advocate for the survival of printed books. Every print book lover should direct the same question to himself or herself. Collectively, they have to participate actively in involving the government to provide subsidy to this critical matter.
D. Making Extra Deep Reflections: My General Answers to the Three Questions Above
After all my preliminary research, I have chosen to focus on the question how printed books can survive in the future after all the advantages of eBooks. The potential answers include promoting the physical beauty of printed books. As a medium, eBooks are still new and designers have yet to fully realize their potential. However for physical books, the book cover evolves as a marketing tool. The best designed covers are often beautiful art pieces and it can grab prospective readers’ attention. Promoting beautiful printed book covers will attract more people to buy them without sacrificing high-quality contents.
Moreover, in case there are issues about adversely affecting the environment because trees are used for printed books, there should have already been innovations to this old-aged problem. Why not use other environmentally-friendly materials for physical books? Scientific research and technological discoveries can help. Just think how we can produce a much greater copies of printed books using indigenous or other local materials. We can even help conserve resources and protect our environment in the process. The government has much to say about this because it has the resources at its disposal. It can mobilize people of various ages, preferences, etc. through advocacy, science discovery competitions, and other sponsorships from its agencies.
Further, the love for learning through reading will continue as more and more people find time to read using high quality yet cheaply bought or borrowed printed books. The time is high and is now for people and the government to work hand-in-hand so that printed books will remain sustainable in the future. It is everybody’s responsibility to make our society and the world a place inhabited by book lovers. It is through reading that the future is shaped and reshaped. We just cannot leave printed books behind because they had been a part of our past and present, more so, of the future.
2. My Specific Answers to the Three Questions
In the preceding subsection, I have presented a general overview on how to make printed book publishing sustainable with the help of our government. I want to offer other concise yet potent alternative resolutions.
My first question is: How printed books can survive in the future given all the advantages of eBooks? One possible answer is to turn some, if not most, of the disadvantages of printed books surpassed most of the disadvantages of eBooks. In case of bulkiness, publishers should use lighter, cheaper, and eco-friendly materials. Another is, since physical books do not consume electricity, it is an advantage that should continue to be so.
My second question is: what changes the printed books can make in order to attract more publishers? Publishers that print physical books should be given subsidy. Publication taxes should be waived depending on volumes of sales. When no sale has been made, no tax should be collected. Even when there is a great number of purchases, publishers should be given other incentives to continue publishing more and more high quality physical books.
My third question: What can the government do in order to keep the printed book survived? Some solutions, though not limited to the following, include: the government should work to promote reading printed books. First, it can reduce the sales tax on printed books in order to keep printed books competitive in the world market. Second, the government can increase sales tax on eBooks so people will choose to buy printed books because of their cheaper prices. Third, the government can restrict all the public schools to use printed textbooks only.
With the answers or resolutions mentioned above, people will definitely read more printed books. These reasons lead me to answer my research thesis: To avoid the extinction of printed books in the future, the government should become actively involved – and so do other concerned individuals, groups and/or non-government organizations.
I have argued above that to avoid the extinction of printed books in the future, the government should become actively involved. Even when eBooks are better than physical books in many ways, the government should act on this pertinent issue.
Before I answer the general question: Can the printed books will most likely be sustainable in the future or will they become extinct in the future? I have explored, examined and analyzed various literature related to the research question and focus. I found out that both traditional and digital books have their own advantages and disadvantages. Some pros or cons are more pronounced that others, whether they be physical or electronic books. Moreover, after I considered the evidences, facts and statistics, I have come to the understanding, inference, and insight that the government has the most number of solutions to help printed books survive. Without assistance or intervention by the government, there will come a time that the next generations will view physical books differently and may not suvive.
I strongly believe that, as an individual, whether I prefer eBooks or printed books, what matters is our love for reflective and thoughtful reading. We cannot go wrong as we are properly guided by our passion for reading, discovery, fun, and enthusiasm for learning. Whether what we come to know, understand and cherish are derived from one medium over the other (or vice versa or both), at the end of the day, we have to question ourselves: Did we learn something valuable or meaningful today? Is it worth the future? If yes, great! If not, we have to rethink our preferences. But always remember to look back and be proud of what we had become because of our past – just like when we used to read physical books that made our day meaningful.
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