Book or no Book, will that always be the question?

Sitting here on the other side of the planet and reading about the opening of a Book Store in Seattle is amazing alone. Especially when you think about the fact that you can read any media you want about the topic, from Huffington Post, USA Today and even Seattle Local Newspapers alone, if they are on the internet. For someone who was born in 1974 and grew up with the stone age of information distribution this is till amazing.

So, let me get things right – we are astonished by the fact that a company – in this case Amazon – opens a Book Store. This wouldn’t be that amazing if this company didn’t became famous for working hard on supporting their own device – Kindle – in making the customers buy more ebooks. In this very special case it gets the media attention it earns.

Due to the fact that I am quite a long distance away from this hotspot some words in advance I will and cannot make any comment on the actual store, but the idea alone and the things that are written on the Amazon Website. I put the links of different publishers below this article and I am going to read them afterwards – but not now. Now I want to focus on the very idea and on my thoughts about this topic alone.

As mentioned above I grew up in an age where you have to get to the library to get any information. In case you wanted actual news and happen to be a critical person you have to buy a lot of different newspapers, listen to the radio and watch some news on TV. Nowadays it’s much easier – the question if it became better or worse will be discussed in another form.

Google can bring you back 100.000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.
– Neil Gaiman

The same happened to be if you wanted a specific book, in my case you’ve either waited for the translated version or drove to a small book store in the nearest biggest city and asked for it. In my case this was Vienna – and believe me or not – many books were not available on the day I went there. So, those were quite some trips I had to make when I heard about a new book or even a book that was recommended by friends. It sounds difficult but it didn’t felt that way – in the end you enjoyed it very much and each new book was like the door to a new universe. On the other hand – if it wasn’t meeting your expectation the feeling was also very emotional.

It all became better – more book stores appeared, especially big players started to rise and shine, by filling many floors and uncountable shelves with books and cards, magazines and more. They just wanted to make the customers happy and fill their bank accounts with money in return. They were said to destroy the book world or change it in a cruel way. For me – it didn’t matter, books became more available, the original versions even better. It was quite a funny feeling when I entered a book store from a chain and I found myself standing an area filled with a lot of english books. Wonderful – I can tell you. Still, the small book stores and many customers didn’t like it, they believed that they will not survive this. I went to both – the big chains and the small book stores and in the end both had their troubles and had to change their business to survive. The big chains had to give up room for coffee shops and gift shops and the small shops had to extent their services by offering service and support. In the end – for those who survived – it worked.

Then the ebook format appeared on the scenery – like the MP3 before it was a quiet and slow entrance. Nobody really cared because reading on a Computer Monitor or a Laptop Screen was not interesting enough. Furthermore PDF was much more interesting, it can be read on any system and was quite valued within the society. That situation kinda changed when the big players – Amazon and Apple – decided to produce their “tablets/reader” and open up stores in the internet. So, now everybody was curious again.

In the summer of 2012 I got a Kindle Reader as a present from my colleagues in the office. It happened at a perfect time, I quit and went for some weeks to visit my cousin in China, therefore instead of carrying a bunch of books with me I had this device and I was very happy. I immediately saw it’s advantage – you can have a lot of books right the moment you decide you want it. So going back to the very beginning of this blog entry – can you even imagine what it meant to me? Possibly, but let’s continue. I bought a lot of books in the first few weeks, I started to love reading again – in a way it got a bit lost for me. Having a library in your pocket kinda changes a lot – it continued and I watched out for magazines, newspapers and so on. That lasted for quite some time, over the years it got normal and I also started to walk into book stores and look out for the physical, the real book. But I changed, I became another person – I looked at the book, sometimes when it got my curiosity immediately I bought it, but most of the time I took out my Kindle and looked if the book maybe cheaper on Amazon. This habit stayed until today – now I love both sides of the world, the digital opportunity and and the analog, the real product.

There was once the moment when I got a book as a present I was happy because of two things connected to this present. For one thing it was a book I never heard about and it me curious because of the author and the story and it contained a download code. This book was also available as an ebook and you didn’t have to pay extra money for that. This made me smile because I knew it already fro the music industry where Vinyl and MP3 collaborate in this  way and nowadays in every second album that I buy there is a download code. My hopes were high that this may also happen in the book industry – unfortunately not. From my humble point of view – this is the only answer for the book industry. Sell your books, make the look better, make it shiny, make it special because people love it – they really do – but give them the opportunity to consume it “mobile”.

Apart from the availability I want to stress out one very important advantage – because I love reading books in a language that is not the I grew up with – on an ebook reader you have a dictionary, and by pushing a word you get a translation and/or a different meaning. This is amazing for me – especially when you love to read when you travel and don’t want to have a dictionary with you the whole time.

In the end I believe that the book will survive, the book stores – unfortunately – have to change their business, work hard on ideas on how to stay alive. I wish everyone the best, I think that the market is big enough for all of us, maybe stop being so greedy and just deliver what the customer wants, a good book, a story to love and the support and service they need.

Ebook vs Book / Amazon Books

Huffington Post Article

Vox The Latest Article

Fortune Article

The Guardian Article

USA Today Article

Engadget Article

Wired Article

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