The E-Book Revolution: Evidence of a Decisive Victory

A recent article in the New York Times provided evidence that E-books have won a decisive victory in their war with print media. “E-Book Revolution Upends a Publishing Course” by Julie Bosman focuses on the Columbia Publishing Course, perhaps the most prestigious short introduction to the publishing world. Many of the leaders of the top publishers are graduates of this six-week course, which costs students over $1,000 a week.

This year’s course has been radically reshaped in light of the growth of electronic publishing. Here are a couple of excerpts from the Times article:

So the summer session began with a focus on “The Digital Future.” Students were schooled in “Reinventing the Reading Experience: From Print to Digital” by Nicholas Callaway, the chairman of a company that produces book apps for children. Managers from Penguin Group USA explained how to master “e-marketing,” and a panel of digital experts talked about short-form electronic publishing — not quite a magazine article, not quite a book — which is so new, the genre doesn’t really have a name. . . . .

In the past year, e-books have skyrocketed in popularity, especially in genre fiction like romance and thrillers. For some new releases, the first week has brought more sales of electronic copies than of print copies.

What impressed me as I read this article was a sense of excitement about the potential for electronic publishing. For years, I’ve been listening to publishers bemoan the death of books. But now, it seems, they see a new age of E-books. According to the Times,

“A lot of what we hear is, ‘Is the Internet going to eat book publishing?’ ” said Selby McRae, a petite 22-year-old from Jackson, Miss., who entered the course after graduating from Hamilton College and completing an internship at the University Press of Mississippi. “And then they say, ‘But everything’s better than ever!’ ”

I still enjoy reading a good paper book. But I purchase and read more books today than ever before because I can get them so easily and inexpensively over the Internet. Yes, the publishers and booksellers don’t make as much per book, but they don’t have to spend as much per book either (no printing, no shipping, no stocking, no shortages, etc.). I expect we’ll always have books made of paper. But E-books are proving to be the way of the future.


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