As the world continues to transition into a digital world, paper books and other print materials are getting fewer and fewer. Most newspapers have now gone completely digital and magazines too. Books are being converted into ebooks or audio books, and smartphones/tablets, other devices can now be used to read almost anything you want.
So will the price of books actually go up and become more valuable because less of it is in print or will be? This question also applies to used books.
I remember when I was a kid, books could be bought for a quarter or even less at the library, flea markets, garage sales etc. It seems now, used books are pretty pricey.
I was looking around for some used books to buy off ebay or amazon and surprised to see that a brand new book valued at around $11 or $12 was still selling for like $7 or 8 used. I was thinking I could get it for much cheaper than that…I might as well just buy it new.
I think one of the biggest reasons is due to the internet and people would buy cheaply priced books just to resell it online and that’s what drove all the used book prices up.
Records have been out of date for a long time and I can buy them for $1 at the thrift shop. VHS tapes too.
I don’t think demand for VHS tapes or cassette tapes is ever coming back. Hell even DVDs are dropping in sales, I think DVD and blu ray sales combined are around 80% lower now than they were around the late aughts.
I don’t think there will be a demand for paper books. It’ll be like LPs, there is some demand due to nostalgia but not really enough to keep the market alive. I think they’ll eventually end up like cassette tapes and you have trouble giving them away.
One reason used books have gone up in price is the supply is probably much lower now. People aren’t buying books, reading them, then reselling them like they used to. So the supply has gone down. But overall I assume books will end up like cassette tapes.
Personally, 20 years ago I used to buy tons of used books. Now its very rare for me to buy a paper book. Some of my old books I’d donate so they could be resold (or I’d resell them myself). Now I don’t do that anymore.
I think there will always be a demand for paper books. As I understand it, a substantial number of people (including young people) prefer the reading experience of a paper book to an e-book. And some people like to collect them.
Vinyl still has fans among collectors and audiophiles, and there are still bands/artists releasing new albums and re-releasing old ones on vinyl. But it’s a niche market, and not for people looking to buy or sell cheap. Something similar could be what happens to printed books.
I will also note that books are a plateau technology. I have books that I’ve owned for forty years and they still work exactly as they did back when I purchased them. I don’t have any forty year old software.
I realize the viewpoint of seeing possessions as something ephemeral is more common than it used to be. But I think the pendulum will swing back and people will begin wanting things in their life that are permanent.
While digital books have their advantages, such as low storage space requirements, for anything with graphics and artwork I much prefer paper books. I’ve tried reading them on my kindle, and find the screen too small to provide a decent image.
I love having a physical book…there’s something about holding it and turning pages…even the smell of it…makes the experience of reading so much more powerful. I really hate reading anything on digital devices unless it’s relatively short material (like forums/chatting too). But to read an actual book…sometimes you just want to go somewhere peaceful and read without the use of electronic media. One of my dreams is still to have a giant ass library in my house where I can store thousands of books…Yes, I know I could put all those books inside a microchip the size of my finger nail, but there’s something about having a giant ass room/library filled with books!
Reading on a device like a Kindle is a bit different. There aren’t the usual digital distractions, I’m not going to get Twitter notifications or texts or emails.
I do like physical books as well, but I’m trying to limit my purchases of them. Physical storage space is a pain, not to mention moving. Plus, I have to realize that I’ll likely only reread a small percentage of them.
As far as the OP, I have noticed absolutely no correlation between the prices of kindle books and physical books. Sometimes there’s a huge disparity for no apparent reason.
You can still buy books for $0.25 at the library or at flea markets. But you get whatever the library or flea market has on hand. The difference is that there’s now a very liquid marketplace in the internet for the books people actually want. Remember, the library isn’t selling books that people check out and read. They’re selling the ones that sit on the shelf ignored and aren’t worth keeping.
When I look at the used vs new prices you metioned, I think “Why would I pay $4 just to have a copy of a book that no one else has read? The used book is just as good!”
The physical cost of printing a book is small compared to the cost of distribution, marketing, writing, typesetting, editing, etc. I don’t think the cost of books is going to be substantially affected by print run sizes unless they shrink drastically.
This. I’ve been indexing books and magazines which I bought over 50 years ago, some of which were 10 years old then. They are sitting on my shelf, just as good as ever. I’ve also got books from the 19th century. Some you can get today but who but me wants full Mr. Dooley collections?
Nowadays amazon does print-on-demand, so apparently they consider it profitable to do print runs with a size of one.
As for cost, my book costs more than a trade paperback, but it’s also larger than a trade paperback. Of course it’s possible that the difference in price is driven by costs that are independent of the book’s size/thickness.
No one seems to publish the traditional “pocket book” (roughly 7" x 4.25") any more. At some point they stopped (1980’s?), and made them slightly bigger (and doubled the price). No longer can you stuff a book in your pocket - unless (like me), you’re a frequent attendee at church bazaars and flea markets.