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Must it be ebook OR paper?

July 21, 2016

ebook or paper

Are the only options for a new technology that it must either wipe out its predecessors or politely disappear from the face of the earth? I don’t think so. A third path is that the old continues alongside the new.

The new way often does replace the old, particularly when it’s significantly cheaper, more available, safer, more durable, or easier to use. But technology adoption is not a simple matter of survival of the fittest; the old way often continues on a smaller scale. Consider pencils, radios, bicycles, and board games. In other instances a new idea gains a slice of the market but does not dominate; think of Velcro, helicopters, and electric carving knives.

The jury is still out in the case of ebooks. I’m not convinced that they will eventually push paper books entirely out of the marketplace. In 2015 ebook sales actually dropped 12%, while printed book sales rose 3%. Local bookstores also appear to be making something of a comeback.

Personally, I read ebooks and paper books. I believe that eventually they will coexist peacefully. Dan Cohen has a couple of excellent articles related to this: What’s the matter with ebooks and What’s the Matter with Ebooks: An Update.

[image credit: Paperback Book vs. Amazon Kindle by Megan Trace]
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