The digitization of books has had a tremendous impact on the world. It has been compared to the invention of the printing press and The Gutenberg Bible. Digitization is now possible in almost every medium and allows the whole world to read books if they have an electronic reading device and access to the Net. Many people think that it will seriously hurt the publishing industry as well as the authors, while others believe it will benefit everyone. Recent studies have shown that publishing companies have increased their profits more than the US economy or retail has. To digitize a book requires only the initial cost and basically can be sold or given to anyone for almost nothing. Recently in a lawsuit between Goggle and several large publishing companies, decisions were made to allow Google to digitize out of print books that were still covered by copywrite laws. Google would allow people to read 20% of a book and then offer the rest on the Google Play store. Publishers and Google would then share the revenue made from purchasing the entire book. Publishing companies have been able to save money by not having to predict how many books to print and what books to publish. This leads to fixing a set price and hopefully with e-readers, this price for an electronic book will be much lower. Another benefit from digitization is that smaller, lesser known authors have an opportunity to share their work and well known authors won’t be able to charge such a large fee for theirs. Authors have mixed feelings about the move to digitization. The Authors Guild also filed a lawsuit against Google for lose of their rights. Authors are now receiving $1,000 to $5,000 for promising work whereas before they were getting $50,000 to $100,000 and if the average cost of an e-book is $12.99, 70% goes to the publisher and 25% of that, or $2.27, goes to the author. The authors are losing almost half of their profits when people buy e-books
One question being asked is whether e-readers have increased the amount of reading in the US. A recent survey made by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 19% of people 16 years or older have not even read a book in a year which has increased a great deal since 1978. It found that the average American reads 17 books a year in both English or Spanish and 21% of Americans had read an e-book and owners of e-readers, read about 8 books more a year. Kindle is the most popular e-reader but the survey said that 28% of Americans, 18 or older, own devices to read books other than cell phones or computers. In the study, they found that people who read e-books also read printed books. Although the e-reader market seems to continue to grow, many people prefer the printed pages over 85% of readers. Whether or not libraries and bookstores have been affected by e –readers is difficult to determine. With the cuts in funding, many libraries have been forced to close but the requests for e-books have increased. The publishing companies put limits on how many e-books are allowed to be loaned out. Bookstores, especially small ones, have had a decline in sales. They say they have a difficult time competing with Amazon or Barnes and Nobles, whether it is printed or e-books.
Digitization is a wonderful new technology but it shouldn’t replace printed books or microfilm. There need to be an actual physical copy of books. Whether you use e-books or not, depends on your personal preference but it is a whole new world.