Saturday Smorgasbord: Why Digital Books Haven’t Been More Like The Printing Press

By: Christopher Bartlett

Some will see this title and wonder why anyone would ever compare digital books to the printing press. But think about one of the complaints modern bookworms have in that we can never carry as many books with us as we want to. Digital books make it so that we can without breaking our backs or in my case strangling myself with my messenger bag.

With digital books being around since before the millennium changed, one would wonder then why there is still debate between print and digital mediums. Part of that has to do with the fact that devices are still upwards of a hundred dollars or more for tablets to read on. Though, even with that, the digital book market has been seeing just a little under a third in growth each year this decade alone.

Certain formats are kept to just one company and there is no used book market for digital books because of how they program them. They could just as easily secure the data while making printing runs like with print media, while allowing for a used digital book market. They have proved it is possible with libraries.

Part of the reason the printing press was heralded was because of how easy it was to share books among families and neighbors. It hasn’t been that way with digital books despite them being marketed as easy to share. Making them easy to share, as well as more individualized, would have made them more collectible and increased sales overall up to the present.

It also doesn’t mean this is a change that can’t happen going forward either. Just like authors could create playlists for digital books like movies have that could be sold with the digital books or separately. But that is another idea for another Saturday.

For right now, just imagine a world with a used digital book market on top of them being shared in libraries. As well as some being more collectible than others. To me, it seems a lot like print books now along with adding another depth to it. It is a future I hope to see and what I leave you to think about this Saturday.

*Tips his hat and turns towards the soda bar.*

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