Guest post by Kathryn Jenkins, Managing Editor, Covenant Communications
In the six years I’ve been managing editor at Covenant, there have been seismic changes in the publishing industry. According to a survey from Pew, in just the six months ending in May 2011, dedicated e-reader ownership doubled. You read that right: it doubled.
You should know this about me: I don’t own a dedicated e-reader. And I don’t think I ever will. For me, an undeniable part of the joy of reading is feeling the heft of the book in my hands. Fanning the pages with my thumb. Nimbly wedging the bookmark—be it the sterling silver beauty I brought back from England or a subscription card that fell out of an old issue of People—at the precise spot where I’ll begin reading again tomorrow.
I love seeing the stack of books on the table next to my comfy reading chair. It reminds me anew of all the adventures awaiting me. It’s a delicious repast where I can browse to my hearts’ content. For me, the brilliant covers and deckled edges and the very slightest scent of ink contribute to the true sensuality of a good book.
I don’t know. To me, there’s just something sick and wrong about curling up in front of the fireplace with a good . . . Nook.
But the elation attached to my burgeoning bookshelves is accompanied by the brooding realization that I may be part of a painfully dying breed. Because while I get my new reads in the brick-and-mortar bookstore down the street, all those e-reader owners simply click a few links online and download the latest bestseller in a few seconds flat.
Not even the thrill of searching for a parking spot.
In case that sounds too fantastic to be true, consider Amazon’s avowed corporate goal: to have “every book, ever published, in any language, in print or out of print, available to be downloaded to one of its Kindle e-readers in less than 60 seconds anywhere in the world.”
See? What did I tell you? A few seconds flat.
And that’s a lot of what’s behind the seismic shift in the publishing industry. Because all those new e-reader owners have gone on a buying spree to load their devices with everything they’ve ever wanted to read—all at a price that staggers the mind. The result? E-books became the number-one selling format in February for the first time in history. And there’s no sign it will slow down any time soon.
The same trend that has escalated e-books to their new spot in the record books has totally hammered print books. While print books in all categories other than religious books have suffered abysmal declines in the last year, e-book growth has exploded by a stunning 160 percent in the same period.
That’s not all. There’s a ripple effect that directly impacts the brick-and-mortar down the street. Both chains and independent bookstores are struggling to keep their heads above water, and many are simply giving up, while online sites offering e-books are enjoying phenomenal growth. But wait—folks aren’t just buying e-books online. They’ve started buying the majority of print books online, too. Which sounds the death knell for the brick-and-mortar.
It hurts my heart. That’s all.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we at Covenant are working hard to convert our sizable library—past and present—to e-book format. We’ve hired a team of technologically adept whiz kids who spend all day inserting the appropriate codes. Our marketing team is hustling with the best of them to get those e-books on the best sites. I support that effort. I truly do. And I rejoice that Covenant is making a keen effort to be on the cutting edge. We owe that to our incredibly talented pool of authors.
That’s my corporate face.
Privately, though, I admit it: I am a dying breed. There’s something so rich about walking through the doors of the bookstore—seeing the racks of the latest magazines, being wrapped in the aroma of baked goods and coffee, checking out the display of this week’s bestsellers, and browsing the shelves while the world rushes by outside. Though I doubt it, I may someday be dragged kicking and screaming to the dark side, turning the pages of my favorite novel with a tap of my finger on a cold screen—but in my mind’s eye I imagine the slack-jawed amazement of my grandchildren as they survey the goods on the shelves lining my walls. My library may become almost a museum of sorts.
Even more, I relish the vision of settling into my comfy reading chair with a thrilling book in my hands and a dark-eyed grandbaby in my lap—letting him experience the glee of turning the pages while I read to him the words that dance so merrily across them.