Walt Shiel, author, pilot and publisher is feeling sad. This week he shared sales volumes for the past seven quarters for his publishing company, Slipdown Mountain Publications LLC/Jacobsville Books. The data shows that total sales increased by 450% over that short period. That is the kind of percentage increase that would have me dancing a jubilant tarantella in the main street of Collingwood. So why is Walt feeling sad?
In his latest post, One Micro-Publisher’s Book Sales, Shiel says, “I have to admit that I am somewhat saddened by the tremendous increase in sales of eBooks while, at the same time, encouraged by the heady jump in total books sold.”
He goes on to say, “Personally, I am not a big fan of eBooks in any format, although I do read them occasionally. Somehow, I think we are losing something as a culture if eBook sales continue to increase the way they have over the past couple of years.”
Don’t be sad, Walt. Dead tree books won’t go out of fashion in our life time. (I think ?) It sounds like you are going through the same kind of anxieties that poor old Socrates, the Greek philosopher and logician went through, back in the day, when “writing” first came into vogue.
In an excerpt from the The Phaedrus, Socrates, makes his case against writing.
“[Writing] will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves.”
Socrates may have been against writing but imagine the world today if Socrates had email !
Just as the invention of the Gutenberg press in the 15th century attracted a lot of resistance (after all, it threatened the very authority of the Church and took away the gainful employment of monks as scribes) it ultimately had a profound effect on civilization economically, intellectually, socially, and religiously; so too the advent of eBooks will have a profound effect on civilization. OK, that may sound melodramatic but at least we can safely say that today, more people are reading content than ever before, whether it be dead tree books or digital books. That has to be good news, for publishers and authors alike….so don’t be sad, Walt.