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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Whither Print Communication?

The following article appeared in the January 2011 MACS Newsletter -- page 10. It is short and worth sharing. Reprinted here with permission from the newsletter and author. Also, Peter suggested that as a postscript, I note the recent news published in many locations that ebook sales have now surpassed paperback book sales. Amazon sold 115 ebooks last year for every 100 paperback books, and 3 times as many ebooks as hardbacks. That is total for the year, not just Q4.


By Dr. Peter Mires
Manager, Delaware Tech, Georgetown Campus

We‘ve been hearing for some time now about the decline and demise of the printed word. Newspaper circulations are dropping to unsustainable levels, e-book sales at Amazon have eclipsed their hardcover list, and even some school libraries, such as Cushing Academy, a private prep school in the Boston area, have gone digital.

Digital delivery makes sense for many reasons, not the least of which is cost. After all, who buys print reference ma-terials such as encyclopedias, atlases, and almanacs anymore? This information is available online. Aside from arguments that Internet sites have issues of ques-tionable authenticity and ―inappropriate‖ sites abound, educators know that excel-lent databases (e.g., Tennessee Elec-tronic Library, EBSCOhost) are out there.

Those of us in the college store industry are aware of this trend. You‘ve proba-bly seen scenarios like online access codes, which used to be considered an-cillary, replace textbooks, or instructors put more material on e-learning plat-forms like Blackboard. Doubtless these and other changes have you wondering about the future of your store and how to adapt.

Allow me to relate a personal experi-ence. I recently published a print-on-demand book (entitled Bayou Built: The Legacy of Louisiana’s Historic Architecture), which is available in both print and digi-tal formats. The digital version is 37 percent less expensive and my royalty is 40 percent greater. The reason is sim-ple: there are no associated printing, shipping, and handling costs.

I confess that I don‘t own an e-reader, like Amazon‘s Kindle or Barnes & No-ble‘s Nook, preferring instead to hold an actual book. Call me old school, Lud-dite, or what have you, but I‘m able to separate trend from tradition. Like it or not, the printed page is for the most part obsolete; it will eventually go the way of my Olympia manual typewriter. I have fond memories of pulling ―all-nighters‖ in college hammering out papers on that durable device, but the writing, so to speak, was on the wall in the early 1980s when personal computers became widely available.

Textbooks, the traditional bread-and-butter of the college bookstore, are go-ing digital. Everyone seems to agree that our bi-annual book rushes will no longer be synonymous with trucks ap-pearing at our loading docks with pallets of boxes. The college bookstore of the foreseeable future is increasingly partici-patory in e-commerce.

It is not without a tinge of sadness or nostalgia that I witness this transition. But, who among us would type when the rest of the world is keyboarding?

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