Friday, September 10, 2010

Question - will the value of collectible books increase with the advent of e-books?

Don't know. My husband and I were pondering this the other day. It seems possible. As fewer hardback books are being printed and sold, and their availability becomes less accessible to people, their value should increase. I am thinking about this from the perspective of a collector. There are some authors and titles that I like to own in hardcover. Partially because of a love that I have for the book, and partially because of the investment in a "first edition". It is true that not all first editions have or gain value over time, but that is part of the fun.

So back to my thoughts. Say Jonathan Franzen's next book isn't published for ten years. At that point, publishers only do an initial print run of say, 5000 hardcovers for the most popular authors. Do those 5000 automatically become collectible? Does the price of a new hardcover increase so much that the cost of a paper edition is so significantly higher than an electronic edition only hardcore fans can afford it?

People always ask me how the store is doing with e-books lapping up a bit more of our sales every year. The store is doing fine. We just expanded so that we can stock more sale books and gift items. We are always evolving to keep ahead of the curve (at least we try). It is not a business anyone gets into for the money. I believe that there will always be a place for brick and mortar stores, just as I believe there will always be a place for technological advancements. E-books are not going away. In some fields, (especially academia), I can appreciate how electronic books mobilize information in a way that increases its accessibility. However, for most casual readers, traditional books are sufficient. The browser's experience in a store influences their purchases, and our job is to make that experience positive and educational. Stores that are able to do this well will thrive. Especially smaller, independent stores that have staff who are experienced and life-long readers. Generally, the big box retailers are not hiring "booksellers", they are hiring bodies. If you can push some buttons on a keyboard and point to a sign in the store and tell the customer "Mysteries are over there", you are hired. Smaller stores often offer more training and almost always offer better customer service; their livelihood depends on it. But I digress.

Some books will never translate well to electronic media. Art monographs, children's picture books, some poetry (I wonder what an e.e.cummings poem looks like on an iPad?). I would be nervous cooking while using a Kindle (plus, you cannot notate the recipes!). So perhaps paper books, or at least hardcover books will become a more collectible item in the future. Maybe in ten years we will all wish we had held onto some "classics" in hardcover. Who knows.



usedbuyer 2.0 said...

The real question on my mind lately: what future nerd will collect the early model Kindles etc? Will there be Kindle loyalists in thirty years time, meeting in Ihop parking lots for Antique Reading Device Shows?

Cokie G. Anderson said...

I wonder if there will be a backlash against e-books as new software and devices aren't compatible with older e-books. I worked on digitization in an academic library for 8 years, and the question of digital preservation and longterm accessibility was one of the biggest problems. While I can acknowledge the convenience and portability of e-books (as someone whose carry-on luggage is always weighed down with reading material) I think it's a mistake to see a e-book as anything but ephemeral, not as something you will be able to re-read for years and pass on to your children.