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(From Orange Penguin paperbacks covers like the one at left (with the older Penguin logo) mean literature; green means detective stories. Blue means science. Try doing that, e-books!
Friday, June 21, 2013

Will e-books destroy paperback books? Jeez, I hope not

For a couple of years I have been weeding out the several thousands books in my house, augmented by a thousand or more from my Dad when he moved into a retirement home. This means I have been reading or re-reading a lot of paperbacks, choosing between keep and discard. (Currently I'm on a copy of Somerset Maughan's charming "Theater" printed when I was six.)

I like paperbacks, and always have, even though they can fall apart and turn yellow and sometimes aren't printed well (a problem as my eyesight fades). You can hold them in one hand and they're nicely portable and they're cheap, and they're easy to buy second-hand.

One of the earliest non-news stories I jad published in a newspaper, in fact, was an ode to cheap second-hand paperbacks, and my pulse still speeds up a little bit when I see orange Penguin paperback spines in the shelves at a used-book store.

But will paperbacks be killed off by e-books, which seem to fill their "cheaper and easier" niche? As this good Salon piece says, many people think they will die (including Stephen King, lord of the paperback realm). "E-book sales have grown 45 percent since 2011 and now constitute 20% of the trade market. Meanwhile, according to Publishers Weekly, between 2011 and 2012 the number of trade paperbacks sold fell by 8.6 percent, and total mass-market paperback sales fell by a whopping 20.5 percent."

Not everybody is convinced, however. The article notes that e-books fail in one thing where paperbacks shine: You can't resell them.

I certainly hope note. How would I decorate the walls of my house without too many books to count?

If you want to learn more about Penguin books, which launched in 1935 and revolutionized publishing, here's a good article.