Is this the end of books? Are books dead – can authors survive?

The digital revolution will bring the end of paper books eventually.

The e-books and e-publishing industry will change the writing profession. It will cut off the era of creativity. The writers that offer up their work will be given next to nothing in return. Writing as a full-time profession will change and no longer exist.

It seems misleading and ambiguous for someone to say books will no longer exist. Although across the years, everything is always reinventing itself. Back in 1939 they said that Penguin paperbacks would destroy the printing industry or that DVD’s would destroy the cinema industry.

E-books and texts have been available for some time in particular public domain titles, but recently there has been a change that has seen e-books marketed and obtainable commercially. E-books allow users to carry a number of different titles with them at once, building a personal library.  Although software and hardware developments are regularly changing to keep up with e-Book technological demands, as well as the consumer demands.

Brewster Kahle is a digital librarian who has suggested the concept of a free digital library. Kahle expanded on media convergence with regards to e-books, believing that society is on the cusp of accessing every book that has ever been published for free. The widespread knowledge will be readily available to all individuals at a simple click of a button.

Implications of such digital libraries technologies are what will it mean when individuals will have access to information everywhere, it removes the bounds of access, and introduces a cascading set of issues being trust, ownership, communication, human relationships and socio-technical association.

The role of publishers and libraries will also change majorly. Through the introduction of digital libraries the roles of publishers and libraries will differ. There has always been an existent relationship between publishers and libraries. Libraries have been one of the most frequent customers of publishing companies. Through it remains unclear if the introduction of digital libraries will affect such relationships.

The main function a publisher serves is to manufacture physical artifacts and ship those artifacts around. With the way digital libraries will function, there will no longer be the need for publishers. Publishers act as the intermediary, whereas the Internet has now replaced that job.

Libraries and publishers are facing realities for which policy-makers, authors and the consuming public must contend. The creators of digital libraries must believe that such a technology will have continuing and new value to society.

Although some of the challenges that may emerge will be the issue of the Intellectual Property Act and the Hybrid library system. If author’s works are placed online who will then own the works and if so will licensing fees come into creation? The Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Act 2003 was an act created to amend the legislation relating to intellectual property, and for related purposes.

The new-age digital library can also give authors who aren’t associated with publishers a chance to get their work published. There is a myth that in order to get published, authors need a publisher. With the growing popularity of e-Books, people are able to able to automatically get the authors work directly. Publishers print books. Authors sell books. Authors simply need to be put into an online catalogue and be listed in a few places to generate interest, enough to sell books. Authors could be listed in a digital library database or catalogue to generate their circulation numbers.

I am still one to go to the library and borrow a book. The physical act of reading a book, not scrolling through pages on a tiny screen is enjoyable. I understand that there are both benefits and negative effects that the e-book breakthrough will have on the industry. Although it can’t be said what will happen in the future. Will writer’s be able to live on a full-time writing wage? Will the writing industry be affected or strengthened?

Hi I'm Britt :) Just finished second year of media and communications at Swinburne at Hawthorn. Just discovered the wonders of Twitter, and have become addicted. Avid Collingwood supporter; yet I still do have all my teeth.


  1. Tom

    04/11/2012 at 8:11 pm

    Hi Brittany, very informative article!
    I just watched an interview (I think it was on Australian story) with a veteran Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) journalist on ABC 24- they discussed the effects of digital media on newspapers. I think you’re right about digital publishing being less of a threat than many predict but more of an opportunity for traditional publication to evolve in new markets. Unfortunately for SMH, they seem to have taken too long to get on board with new technologies and market preferences, which has lead to job losses. One of the journalists interviewed confessed they even considered volunteering with the company rather than lose their job.
    A warning to other organisations: keep an eye on tech trends.

  2. Luan Morley

    11/11/2012 at 4:29 pm

    I have to admit, I love these types of discussions!

    You’re right that digital books will certainly cause the publishing industry to have a rethink but don’t forget that often major Houses publish e-books, books apps and the like. The publishing industry is vast, not limited to just being a ‘middle-man’ – taking what an author has written and selling it to the highest bidder. Too, there is a lot of intrinsic (or is it extrinsic? I forget which is which) value given to ‘published’ books rather than self-published works.

    Because having a book published is such a costly and risky endeavor the publishers must first have some faith that the books will be successful. This ‘act of faith’ is somewhat understood by the public at large. After all, why would a business sink all their money into a project if it was crap (’50 Shades of Grey’ notwithstanding)?

    This is where I think the self-published books fall down – an author may have a genius idea or ability to write, but often it’s a raw talent that needs to be ‘polished’ before going out to the public. Simple things like bad grammar and sentence structure can ruin a story and instantly stop people from continuing. Even the ‘greats’ needed a good publisher – Hemingway was rather famous for dumping a suitcase of notes into his editors’ laps and having them fix it up.

    There are thousands of authors out there publishing (and self-publishing) their works – it’s natural that people would turn to the major payers in the industry to help narrow their choices and it will be a hard habit to break. I think people also underestimate how much value is given to printed books, especially those fun, glossy hard-back ones that we eagerly display on our shelves. There is a little bit of self-identity linked in to what we read, and how we display it. Could you image walking into your professor’s office and his shelves being bare of books? Or a judge not being surrounded by thick, heavy tomes?

    I think too, while e-book sales having increased dramatically, they still only represent a tiny portion (as in 10% or less) of the book market. Not to say this won’t change in the coming decades, but for the moment I think the paperback is a long way off from becoming obsolete.

  3. Brittany Grimble

    03/12/2012 at 11:22 am

    I believe at one point in the near future the paperback will become obsolete. I know myself with university I vary rarely actually purchase a textbook for my subjects. All texts are online. I understands your thoughts of publishers must have some faith that the books will be successful, although I believe this depends on social trends and the differing demographics which will purchase such texts.

  4. Pingback: The End of Books? | Silent Observer

  5. Linh

    21/03/2013 at 12:22 pm

    I have to say I’m into a physical touch on a book and flicking its pages with the smell of paper. There is nothing compared to that feeling! Changes in publication industry is reasonable sue to the development of technology, I admit. However, at the same time, I believe the book market will be getting smaller, not vanish in the thin air yet as long as there are still paperback book worms out there.
    Frankly speaking, I’m afraid of future generations will not have a privilege of holding a paper book in hands anymore.

  6. Brittany Grimble

    22/03/2013 at 10:36 am

    I Know Lihn I agree, I am a big fan of reading hardcopy books. Holding them when reading. Especially the smell of older books, which I agree future generations will miss out on 🙁

  7. Andrew

    15/05/2013 at 9:51 am

    Hey Brittany,

    I don’t think the hardcopy books will go out in the future, but there will definitely be less venues on to grab hold of these books.

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