Will e-books reduce newspapers and paper books?
By Howie Fenton on September 24th, 2010
We have been talking on the Print CEO about the impact of e-books on books and newspapers. But there are rumors flying around fast and furious about a possible Apple announcement that will bring electronic newspaper subscriptions to the iPad – which some sources are saying may be the salvation of magazines and newspapers.
The San Jose Mercury News reported that the plan would be announced soon, and quoted Roger Fidler, head of digital publishing at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute in Columbia, MO, as saying that Apple probably will take a 30 percent cut of all subscriptions sold through the company’s online App Store, and as much as 40 percent of the advertising revenue from publications’ apps.
While there are newspapers available for Kindle users, Apple has never offered a newspaper subscription before even though a number of newspapers have already formatted their content for the Apple tablet, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. But the content has shown some formatting problems, and the papers haven’t necessarily included their most value-added stories in the iPad edition.
In addition, there are other reports that e-books are being tested to replace text books and course packs. The School of Medicine at Stanford University has adopted Apple’s iPad, providing the device to all incoming first year medical students and Master of Medicine students. And UC Irvine School of Medicine’s incoming class of 2014 will find an iPad pre-loaded with everything necessary for the first year of course work in their coat pocket.
Stanford cited four reasons behind the new program, including student readiness, noting that iPad “creates opportunities for efficient, mobile, and innovative learning.” And last week I was talking to people from East Lansing about a study at Michigan State University surveying student’s preference for paper textbooks or e-books.
Will e-books replace newspapers and books and for who?
On one side are those preferring e-books who site less weight and lower costs. When I taught in college and when I managed a quick copy shop and sold course packs, I heard students complain that text books and course packs were breaking their backpacks and backs.
But if you look at the reports about the MSU study and talk to students, you learn that there are many who prefer to read books on paper. Many people talk about the feel of the book, as well as the importance of highlighting, scribbling notes and all the other complaints we heard when PDF was introduced.
I am not sure if there is a clear preference today or if there will ever be a clear dominant form of the book. But I am starting to see a clear separation of paper book and e-book lovers. And I am not sure it has anything to do with age.
For example, looking at me and seeing some grey in my hair you might predict that I prefer paper newspapers, but you would be wrong. Because I travel on planes all the time I much prefer to read the newspaper on my Kindle. My girlfriend, who is my age, is a book lover who is constantly reading 2 or 3 books a week and she loves the Kindle because she can carry it everywhere.
I meet paper book and e-book lovers on airplanes all the time and each can make a passionate case for their preference. Some are younger and others are older but I do not see a connection between age and preference. Which do you prefer paper or pixels? And are you seeing a clear preference of one type of book over another or a connection between age and preference?
Howard Fenton is a Senior Consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers, in-plants, and manufacturers on workflow management, operations, digital services, and customer research.