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Factors of Decline of Printed Books

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Will the Growth of the Web Hasten the Decline of the Printed Book? Analyse the Interaction of Technical and Social Factors in Reaching your Conclusion.

The planet has seen a rapid growth in the numbers of websites in just a few years. Moreover, today’s industrialized industrial nations are led by CD-ROMs and other digital electronic media. Paper-printed book media are diminishing in comparison to the rapid development of these new media (What’s the Future, 1998). Printed books, however, remain the most sturdy, useful, and universal technologies ever invented. It consists of a package of resources — alphabets, type, codices, indices, paper, printing, and distribution. The last three developments run up against the planet’s resource constraints: even if an appropriate organic paper replacement could be found, arable land would never get cheaper. The cost of printing ink on paper (as compared to the cost of viewing electrons on a screen) and the increasing cost of using oil and other energy sources to another limiting factor is the movement of bundles of paper around the world (Rheingold 1998).

Industry officials and e-text advocates say the reading will revolutionize the web and electronic books. We link this invention to the way that more than 500 years ago, Gutenberg’s mobile style advanced print books. E-books are becoming increasingly popular among certain publics (Bhermann and Mason 2001). Reasons for this vary but their advocates say that e-books are portable, supposedly long-lasting, and increasingly offer useful computerized features that go beyond just giving words. Such features may be particularly promising to help students improve their educational outcomes, as they can be used to support, scaffold or speed up learning when trained teachers manage e-books as part of a carefully designed training program (Bhermann and Mason 2001).

Factors of Decline of Printed Books

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Given the benefits of e-books, however, the public is still not ready to make a transition from print to electronic documents. Some industry officials, acknowledging that there is a lack of public interest, dismiss earlier estimates, stating that it seems impossible that digital books will be responsible for this by 2005 10 percent of all book sales. However, not all business has been overly optimistic. Microsoft’s Technology Development Vice President, Dick Brass, said it would take e-books 8 to 10 years to equal printed text (Bhermann and Mason 2001).

Over decades, and perhaps centuries, the user interface of a printed book is unlikely to be exceeded in an inexpensive way. Printed books can be transported easily. More than being able to drop a printed book without injury, printed books have the exclusive “random access” feature. Random access allows the reader to search Through the different pages of the book he prefers in a manner without needing to do so in sequence of page number. Printed book pages can be access easily and margins can be done. Most websites and e-books cannot be access randomly. In addition, printed books, in comparison to electronic equipment, can withstand a drop of water while a single drop of liquid could damage computers and e-books (Rheingold 1998).

However, computer and network storage and information delivery have several advantages, including the ability to keep a text in worldwide circulation much longer than economics of the book industry allow. The global ubiquity of access, the ability to search, copy, and re-transmit information stored in digital form poses great opportunities and perplexing problems (what happens to our old notions of intellectual property, to cite one crucial example). Nevertheless, in several important respects computers and networks are not actually equivalent to the book (Rheingold 1998). On the other hand, current users, authors, and e-book publishers argue that reading electronically can be a satisfying experience and will become more enjoyable as technology improves. They foresee increasing sales bolstered by the crop of new young readers of the computer generation who are in the habit of reading computer screens (Bhermann and Mason 2001).

A nation’s reading habits have a powerful effect on the popularity of electronic books. China, for example, retains a strong attachment to and trust in books on paper. Consequently, the Chinese show a great deal of resistance to “reading” text on a computer screen. That resistance has impeded any widespread embrace of electronic books (Liu 1998).

Other Industry officials are suggesting that one reason for the slow response is that the available technology has not kept pace with the innovation, partly due to copyright restrictions. Publishers, mindful of the problems faced by the music industry, have insisted that safeguards be built into electronic books. As a result, most hand-held computers cannot display most publishers’ books (Bhermann and Mason 2001). The situation is changing however; young people spend more time using personal computers than they do reading books. According to a survey, 90% of Internet users are under 35. For them, reading a book on the computer is a perfectly natural act. As time passes, reading habits and perceptions of books will evolve. From this evolution, the social foundation for the acceptance of electronic books will expand greatly (Liu 1998).

Experts are beginning to compare and contrast electronic books with their print counterparts. Some, such as William Gass, the David May Distinguished University Professor in the Humanities and director of the International Writers Center at Washington University in St. Louis, believe that electronic books should distinguish themselves from printed books. Computerized features should enhance the reading experience and not pretend that they are doing what print books do (Bhermann and Mason 2001).

Another facet of the burgeoning electronic book industry is text-on-demand. In this case, books are stored in a digitized format. They are printed and bound using high-speed equipment. The contents look almost identical to standard printed books, except that they lack fancy covers in this format (Bhermann and Mason 2001). The concept mimics Dell Computer’s marketing strategy that calls for a computer to be assembled only after it is ordered. In the text-on-demand case, as soon as someone buys it, e-text becomes a book. This process is currently expensive because the equipment runs about $35,000. However, there is rising consumer demand for such a service (Bhermann and Mason 2001).

There will be a slight decline in printed books based on reference and academic materials moving to electronic media either Web-based or via so-called e-books. The major trend with printed books will be on-demand printing literally one at a time. E-books will not pose a significant challenge until after 2020 and more people will create more books and promote them on the Web, which will be printed out as needed, probably in bookstores. Industry experts have these thoughts on the matter (Romano 2005):

  1.  The need to reduce the cost and other inefficiencies of unsold books accelerates new forms of book production, distribution and selling.
  1.  E-books will become a threat to the traditional books as e-book reading appliances improve. Reference works will be the first to convert to electronic forms.
  1.  Book printing will move from centralized manufacturing to points closer to the customer. ATMs for book printing will evolve.
  1.  Elementary and secondary schools will employ computers and use electronic media, which will reduce demand for textbooks.
  1.  Self-publishing will be a major market by 2020. Families will routinely publish personal newsletters, journals, vacation, and other materials.
  1.  Bookstores will continue to carry books, but will also be on-demand printout and downloading centers.
  1.  New editorial, support, and marketing services will evolve to support independent author/publishers (Romano 2005).

After 2020, printed books are expected to begin a decline through the turn of the next century when it will represent a fraction of its volume in 2000.  Most changes are invisible as the underlying print media infrastructure continues to evolve. All the pieces are in either place or coming into place to challenge print. Over the next 20 years print will see some growth overall made up of some print products doing very well and some not so well (Romano 2005).  Printed books will still grow until 2040-2050 and then sees a gradual decline, it will not die however. Over this period, ink will yield volume to toner and inkjet, as the digital printer takes volume away from the analog printing press. This will be caused by significant growth in print on demand and short runs (Romano 2005).

However, only the ‘divine’ can foresee the future, but the desire to envision the unknown future is always too tempting for human beings, particularly those species called scholars and fortune-tellers. The idea of ‘future’ is based on the unilinear concept of time (Wongyannava 1998). This linear way of thinking undoubtedly constitutes the writing system of a book. A book is structured like a pyramid of ideas, consisting of a hierarchy of thoughts, a dominant logical point of sequence: topics, subtopics, sub-subtopics, all of which culminate into the supremacy of a singular idea, like God. This is very much the writing culture, which has been strongly developed in the West (Wongyannava 1998).  Just as with television revolution, where people thought it will cause the end of newspapers and printed books, things have not turned out quite that way. While television may appear to dominate the airwaves, radio still commands a place. Despite the proliferation of comics, animation, and video, people continue to read novels and short stories. The modern custom of keeping the radio on in the background has provided radio with a niche of its own, distinct from television. Radio is a godsend to the workplace, to cabbies and long-distance drivers, to the young and old alike who have trouble sleeping at night (Chizuko 1998).

In addition to ‘random access’ advantage of the printed books, e-books and web-based books are still years away from production capacity, and decades away from book-level affordability, of screens capable of displaying the best of old fashioned letterforms. Today’s printed type is an extraordinary technology — a tool for enabling human eyes to input visually encoded information to human brains, with maximum fidelity and optimum speed. Serifs help eyes track across a line. The relative size of letterforms gutters (the white space in the centerfold of a book) and margins have all evolved over centuries of use (Rheingold 1998).

Reference List
  • Behrmann, June and Christine Mason. (2001), “Gaining Consensus:Electronic Books & Reading in the Future”, Consensus Partner Report, The National Center for Accessing the General Curriculum., Council for Exceptional Children.
  • Chizuko,  Ueno. (1998), “Text Makes a Comeback: The Power of Words”, The Book and the Computer, Japanese Quarterly Print Magazine, available from:<http://www.honco.net/ 9809/roundtable.html>. [06 Nov. 2005].
  • Liu, Zhiming. (1998), “Electronic Books and Reading”, the Book and the Computer, Japanese Quarterly Print Magazine, available from:<http://www.honco.net/ 9809/roundtable.html>. [06 Nov. 2005].
  • Rheingold, Howard. (1998), “The New Online Book Community”, the Book and the Computer, Japanese Quarterly Print Magazine, available from:<http://www.honco.net/ 9809/roundtable.html>. [06 Nov. 2005].
  • Romano, Frank. J. (2005), “Printing & Publishing? What’s On the Horizon?” IPA Bulletin, IPA, available from: <http://www.ipa.org/bulletin/articles/on_the_horizon.php3>.
  • “What is the Future of the Book in the Digital Era?” (1998), The Book and the Computer, Japanese Quarterly Print Magazine, available from:<http://www.honco.net/ 9809/roundtable.html>. [06 Nov. 2005].
  • Wongyannava, Thanes. (1998), “The Oral Tradition in the Digital Age”, the Book and the Computer, Japanese Quarterly Print Magazine, available from:<http://www.honco.net/ 9809/roundtable.html>. [06 Nov. 2005].
Bibliography
  • Behrmann, June and Christine Mason. (2001), “Gaining Consensus: Electronic Books & Reading in the Future”, Consensus Partner Report, The National Center for Accessing The General Curriculum. Council for Exceptional Children.
  • Chizuko,  Ueno. (1998), “Text Makes a Comeback: The Power of Words”, The Book and the Computer, Japanese Quarterly Print Magazine, available from:<http://www.honco.net/ 9809/roundtable.html>. [06 Nov. 2005].
  • Liu, Zhiming. (1998), “Electronic Books and Reading”, The Book and the Computer, Japanese Quarterly Print Magazine, available from:<http://www.honco.net/ 9809/roundtable.html>. [06 Nov. 2005].
  • Rheingold, Howard. (1998), “The New Online Book Community”, The Book and the Computer, Japanese Quarterly Print Magazine, available from:<http://www.honco.net/ 9809/roundtable.html>. [06 Nov. 2005].
  • Romano, Frank. J. (2005), “Printing & Publishing? What’s On the Horizon?” IPA Bulletin, IPA, available from: <http://www.ipa.org/bulletin/articles/on_the_horizon.php3>.
  • “What is the Future of the Book in the Digital Era?” (1998), The Book and the Computer, Japanese Quarterly Print Magazine, available from:<http://www.honco.net/ 9809/roundtable.html>. [06 Nov. 2005].
  • Wongyannava, Thanes. (1998), “The Oral Tradition in the Digital Age”, The Book and the Computer, Japanese Quarterly Print Magazine, available from:<http://www.honco.net/  9809/roundtable.html>. [06 Nov. 2005].

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