Michael Hyatt wrote Platform in 2012, a book that we presented at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.
He also is a former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, for which he aggressively launched an e-Book and digital business. He now works with online content services.
Despite his history, in a recent post, he gives four scientific-based reasons that reading on paper is superior to reading on a screen. They deal with:
You can click here to read the entire article, including his rationale for each point.
I won’t repeat my arguments about e-Books. They are all available in my blog posts at www.firstfridaybooksynopsis.com.
But, it’s good to see someone who has lived on the digital side give reasons why the paper side is superior.
I have never been on board with electronic books. I am not excited about any of the devices such as Kindle, Nook, or iPads. I like a book. I like to hold it, carry it, display it, and engage in conversations about it when others see what I am reading.
I thought it was interesting in the Wall Street Journal on May 9, 2011, when Penguin Books CEO John Makinson claimed there is still a future for physical books. The article is entitled “Penguin CEO Adjusts to E-Books but Sees Room for the Old” (p. B9). The link to the full article appears below, authored by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg.
Notice that he says that physical books will always be published. “As we add value to the physical product, particularly the trade paperback and hardcover, the consumer will pay a little more for the better experience. I looked the other day into the sales of public-domain classics in 2009, when all those books were available for free. What I found was that our sales had risen by 30% that year. The reason is that we were starting to sell hardcover editions—more expensive editions—that people were prepared to pay for. There will always be a market for physical books, just as I think there will always be bookstores.”
And, even with the closing of Borders’ bookstores, he finds a strong future for such retail outlets. “There is a future in book retailing. A lot of the issue is not just that there are too many bookstores, but that they are too big. How do you diversify the offerings to consumers in order to make productive use of space without losing the experience of being in a bookstore?”
Finally, as I have stressed in other posts on this blog, there is a strong emotional link that book owners experience that goes beyond mere content. Makinson notes that “When you look at the structural competitive advantages Amazon.com has over any physical bookstore, it is overwhelming. But people will willingly pay a higher price in an independent bookshop knowing they can buy [the same book] for less down the road. That’s because consumers feel an emotional engagement with the bookstore and feel that bookstores are providing a public service as well as a commercial service. I see no evidence that independent bookstores will become obsolete.”
I am excited and energized by the fact that a leading, credible authority in the business remains in the physical book arena. While he reads manuscripts in digital devices, he reads physical books as well.
What do you think? Let’s discuss this really soon!
“It turns out, in the age of super-speed broadband we need dead trees to have living minds.”
I have written earlier about my new found love of my iPad. It has exceeded my greatest expectations. I am reading many, many “samples” of books on both iBooks and Kindle apps. This practice, so very easy on my iPad, has become invaluable! And, I have now read my first full novel this way – Carte Blanche, the new James Bond.
But, I still read most of my nonfiction, and especially business, books the old fashioned way – with a physical book open and pen in hand. I underline, I write myself notes – sometimes, lots of notes!
(Yes, you can “write” a note and highlight passages on these apps – but it is not quite the same. I don’t remember what the e-book page looks like after I have marked it up – a life-long practice of mine).
But why do I so love the experience of reading a book? This article captures my feelings, and says it better than I could. This is a pretty long series of excerpts – but I still encourage you to click though and read the entire article. It is a terrific read. Now, don’t get distracted and check your e-mail half way through reading it. (Andrew Sullivan posted a brief excerpt; it is on Huffington Post here, and on Hari’s own site here).
Excerpts from In the age of distraction, we will need books more than ever by Johann Hari:
The book — the physical paper book — is being circled by a shoal of sharks, with sales down 9 percent this year alone. It’s being chewed by the e-book. It’s being gored by the death of the bookshop and the library. And most importantly, the mental space it occupied is being eroded by the thousand Weapons of Mass Distraction that surround us all. It’s hard to admit, but we all sense it: it is becoming almost physically harder to read books. I think we should start there — because it shows why we need the physical book to survive, and hints at what we need to do to make sure it does.
In his gorgeous little book The Lost Art of Reading — Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time, the critic David Ulin admits to a strange feeling. All his life, he had taken reading as for granted as eating — but then, a few years ago, he “became aware, in an apartment full of books, that I could no longer find within myself the quiet necessary to read.” He would sit down to do it at night, as he always had, and read a few paragraphs, then find his mind was wandering, imploring him to check his email, or Twitter, or Facebook. “What I’m struggling with,” he writes, “is the encroachment of the buzz, the sense that there’s something out there that merits my attention, when in fact it’s mostly a series of disconnected riffs, quick takes and fragments, that add up to the anxiety of the age.”
…To read, you need to slow down. You need mental silence except for the words. That’s getting harder to find.
And here’s the function that the book — the paper book that doesn’t beep or flash or link or let you watch a thousand videos all at once — does for you that nothing else will. It gives you the capacity for deep, linear concentration. As Ulin puts it: “Reading is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction… It requires us to pace ourselves. It returns us to a reckoning with time. In the midst of a book, we have no choice but to be patient, to take each thing in its moment, to let the narrative prevail. We regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little, by stepping back from the noise.”
Most humans don’t just want mental snacks forever; they also want meals. The twenty hours it takes to read a book require a sustained concentration it’s hard to get anywhere else. Sure, you can do that with a DVD boxset too — but your relationship to TV will always ultimately be that of a passive spectator. With any book, you are the co-creator, imagining it as you go. As Kurt Vonnegut put it, literature is the only art form in which the audience plays the score.
The idea of keeping yourself on a digital diet will, I suspect, become mainstream soon. Just as I’ve learned not to stock my fridge with tempting carbs, I’ve learned to limit my exposure to the web — and to love it in the limited window I allow myself.
I suspect I will continue to read both ways. I did successfully read the James Bond novel with focused discipline, so it is possible. But I fully agree with Hari – you need undistracted focus, in the “mental silence of nothing but the words” on the page (or screen).
Reading is such a pleasure!
“It turns out, in the age of super-speed broadband we need dead trees to have living minds.”
Last night, I curled up in bed, and read three sample downloads of books on my iPad. Two of them were business books: Little Things and The Corner Office. The music was playing, I learned a lot, and I loved the experience.
I’m ready to weigh in… The iPad is the way to go for book lovers.
First, this caveat… I do very little reading outdoors. (make that none…) Yes, I’ve read that the iPad does not work as well as the Kindle for outdoor reading, but to me, that is a non-issue.
So, let me tell you how I am using the iPad to read books. To start, let me remind you of what I have written before. If you want to know what is in a book, read the book. That is the first, preferable approach. (I have never jumped on the audio books train, but to some, that may be as good an approach). But, to read the book, carefully, thoroughly, is the best way to glean the wisdom in a book. Everything else is “lesser.”
If you don’t have time to read the book, then download one of our 15minutebusinessbooks synopses for books we have presented (recorded at our live presentations at the First Friday Book Synopsis). You receive the audio of our synopses, plus the multi-page handout.
If you don’t have time to do that, then read the reviews of the book, and the best reviewer I know is Bob Morris, who shares his excellent reviews on our blog, among other places. Has he reviewed the book you are interested in? A good/quick way to find out is to simply google the title of the book, like this: Enchantment Bob Morris First Friday. It will take you right to his review (click here) of the new Guy Kawasaki book, Enchantment.
It is after this step that the iPad has become a wonder. When I read a review by Bob, and think “I really want to know more about that book,” I now immediately go to iBooks in my iPad and download the sample. It is a long enough excerpt that it really does give me a major taste of the book itself. I then can decide whether or not to read the entire book.
Here are a few observations from my experience, so far:
#1 – Of the two apps, iBooks is better than Kindle. Yes, you can use both the Amazon Kindle app, or the native to the iPad iBooks app, on the iPad. I have read books, and downloaded samples of books, on both. To me, the more readable/usable format is the iBooks. (Of course – that is what Apple is so good at).
In both formats, I like to hold the iPad in the landscape position, with two columns of text – practically like holding a book open. I make the print plenty large, so there are more “pages” in the book, but it facilitates a really fast reading pace. And I prefer the sepia background – just easier on the eyes, to me.
The highlight/note feature is easy to use on iBooks. Kindle has the highlight feature, but I do not find it as easy to use. (Maybe I am just a klutz).
#2 – With apology to Karl Krayer, my colleague who has weighed in heavily on this blog against e-books, and with apology to myself (I have written before about my love of actual, physical books), I hate to say this, but… reading a book on the iPad is actually every bit as fulfilling an experience as reading a physical book is. And, it is easier. The book is never too heavy, too big, the pages never flop closed. I hate to say it, but it may simply be a better experience.
Now, I know the worries – I share them. What will happen to the book business, to bookstores? And, yes, browsing in a bookstore, picking up volume after volume to flip through, is still superior to the iBooks and Kindle experience. But, once you’ve decided to read the book, I am really liking the iPad.
#3 – And, of course, the iPad beats the Kindle because of eveything else you can do. With a tap on the screen, I can turn my music on. I can, in a flash, check my e-mail or check a web site – and then, go right back to reading the book.
I don’t remember who first said it (it might have been Farhad Manjoo of Slate.com), but the iPad is the perfect device for “input.” It is not as good as a desktop or laptop for “output” work, but for input, like reading a book, it is a marvel.
Now, don’t take me wrong. I will still buy, and read and use, physical books. (For the First Friday Book Synopsis, I will have to – we give the books away at the end of each session). And I will still be adding to my physical books library.
But it is not an either-or proposition — it is a both-and proposition. And the iPad has become the “and” that I am really enjoying.
In Of Two Minds About Books, Matt Richtel and Claire Cain Miller of the NY Times weigh in on the changing book landscape. (It is one of the “most e-mailed” articles at the moment). The question of the day: physical books, or e-books? There are now enough couples who read both types that they are now choosing sides.
The article begins this way:
Auriane and Sebastien de Halleux are at sharp odds over “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” but not about the plot. The problem is that she prefers the book version, while he reads it on his iPad. And in this literary dispute, the couple says, it’s ne’er the twain shall meet.
Already, publishers are moving toward “if you buy the physical book, you get the e-book free” packaging:
A few publishers and bookstores are testing the bundling of print books with e-books at a discount. Barnes & Noble started offering bundles in June at about 50 stores and plans to expand the program in the fall, said Mary Ellen Keating, a Barnes & Noble spokeswoman.
Thomas Nelson, a publisher of religious books, offers free e-books with a print book for some titles. It is particularly good for readers who want to share books with family or friends who read in different formats, said Tod Shuttleworth, senior vice president and group publisher at Thomas Nelson. The bundles have sold well, and Thomas Nelson is considering adding more for the holiday shopping season.
As I have said often, I think the day of the e-book as dominant is right around the corner. It seems and feels inevitable. There are too many articles describing the problem, and hinting at the ultimate outcome.
And this has nothing to do with my preference. I like the smell of musty pages, and the sound of pages turning.
It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.
I wrote about this in a comment on my post, “What Three Books Should I Load On My Kindle For My Cruise?,” but let me add to that comment.
I think that it is inevitable that e-books will drastically impact the sale of physical books. But, for now, I think that maybe there are simply more total books being sold overall because of e-books.
The article that has generated this round of conversation is this one, from the N Y Times, E-Books Top Hardcovers at Amazon by Claire Cain Miller:
Book lovers mourning the demise of hardcover books with their heft and their musty smell need a reality check, said Mike Shatzkin, founder and chief executive of the Idea Logical Company, which advises book publishers on digital change. “This was a day that was going to come, a day that had to come,” he said. He predicts that within a decade, fewer than 25 percent of all books sold will be print versions.
The shift at Amazon is “astonishing when you consider that we’ve been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months,” the chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, said in a statement.
Still, the hardcover book is far from extinct. Industrywide sales are up 22 percent this year, according to the American Publishers Association.
Amazon is being helped by an explosion in e-book sales across the board. According to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales have quadrupled this year through May.
The numbers are undeniable. The sale of e-books are rising faster than many could have expected. Notice that key phrase: Still, the hardcover book is far from extinct. Industry wide sales are up 22 percent this year… It appears that e-books are booming, but physical book sales are also quite healthy at the moment.
So what will happen? Remembering Yogi Berra’s warning (see above), here’s my two cents worth: physical books will be around a long while, maybe forever. But ultimately, the overall sales will significantly tilt toward the e-books. I think it is inevitable. And the accelerated pace is evidence that such sales are ramping up very, very quickly.