Five reasons eBooks will continue to grow

On December 29, 2011, Lulu.com released a press release with five reasons why eBooks will continue to grow. From the tone of voice of the release, it looks like the company is saying goodbye to printed books. “There will always be a place in our hearts for traditional paper books,” the release reads. “But as people learn about the advantages that eBooks bring to the table, this new format will continue to see steady sales growth in the future.” Even I could have made that prediction.

Lulu.com was founded in 2002. It is a company that specializes in open or so-called self publishing. The company has 1.1 million creators and has 20,000 titles added to their collection each month. They offer their free service to authors in exchange for a percentage of profits from each sale. Lulu provides anyone with the ability to publish books, eBooks, mini-books, photo books, calendars, cookbooks, and travel books.

With eBook sales growing each year, with no signs of slowing down, many people are becoming curious about the benefits of eBooks. Here are five reasons why Lulu.com believes that eBooks will continue to grow more popular in the future:

  1. Storage. A bookshelf can usually only hold a small number of books, and most people don’t have big home libraries. By contrast, e-readers and computers can store many more books in much less space, allowing people to maintain a larger personal library.
  2. Convenience. When it comes to buying books, as well as carrying them around, digital ones are very convenient. The e-reader is compact and lightweight, making it possible for people to take hundreds or thousands of books with them, no matter where they go. It also provides a convenient buying experience, as eBooks can usually be purchased through any Internet or WiFi connection.
  3. Tech savvy. While past generations hold onto the idea of print books because it is what they know, the next generation is growing up with eBooks. They will be used to them and comfortable using this new format, further increasing its popularity.
  4. Savings. Purchasing eBooks is usually cheaper. Several factors lead to this, including it being cheaper to produce and store them, and the absence of shipping fees for eBooks.
  5. Capabilities. There are things that can be done with eBooks that cannot be done with traditional print books, include doing searches, taking electronic notes, having a built-in dictionary, and quoting passages that can later easily be accessed.

My take on the five points above is mildly different than Lulu.com’s. Here’s my view:

  1. Storage. One of the major reasons why people don’t have a large home library is because they don’t read the sort of books that justifies the expense of buying one. Or would you think the complete works of Barbara Cartland are an investment in intelligence and emotional maturity? But admittedly, e-readers will make it easier to store loads of written crap.
  2. Convenience. I don’t believe there are many people who need to carry thousands of books around. Exceptions could be legal professionals, scientists, and ‘book freaks’. Convenience is always mentioned as a reason to go digital books all the way, but to a bibliophile this argument is moot. To the average person, the argument has a ring to it, though.
  3. Tech savvy. This argument makes it sound as if anyone above twelve is beyond his/her expiration date. Let’s hope the tech savvy youngsters are smart enough to recognize that a printed book is still easier on the eyes at 300 lpi than a screen that is at least ten (10) times less sharp. It won’t ruin your eyes, but will add to eye fatigue quicker.
  4. Savings. This depends on the business model and greed of the publisher, distributor, book dealer, and everyone else in the supply chain. Printed books can actually be quite cheap, but I admit never as cheap as an electronic download. On the other hand, a printed book is mine and mine alone. With a digital version I am at the mercy of the supply chain parties, and when they decide I cannot read my copy any longer because of some obscure reason, there’s little I can do about that — except for taking legal action.
  5. Capabilities. All true, but all only really useful when using an e-reader for scientific purposes, or as a student.

Are Lulu.com’s benefits real benefits? To some people, they undoubtedly are. To most, it’s gadget envy that will drive them towards buying e-readers. Given the fact that an iPad is as good an eBook reader as the dedicated devices, I forecast a steady growth of iPad sales. The benefits of an iPad are many times those of an e-reader. And it’s the gadget of gadgets, of course.

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