I have heard a number of people, many of them authors, publishers and writers, saying that eBooks represent the end of publishing as we know it. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and not necessarily true, either.
I always like to remind people about the continued success of the vinyl record industry. Yes, those big round waxy looking discs most people used to listen to their favorite musical artists.
Although most music today is released in a digital version, either via a CD or an MP3, there is still a lucrative and viable market for people who prefer listening to their music on vinyl.
People who prefer vinyl records say the sound quality is more "real" and more enjoyable than digitized version. In fact, 2011 marked the sixth straight year of increased vinyl record sales, with about 3.5 million records delivered in the United States alone. Not bad for a technology that is decades old and threatened by an assortment of other methods for delivering music to fans.
Now compare this to eBooks. Digitized versions of books are proving they have legs; sales of ereaders and tablets (devices used to access eBooks) are exploding, and publishers are clamoring to deliver new releases and convert exiting stock into a digital format.
This does not mean traditional print books are dead. To me it means more people are reading and they need better access to their library of titles. In fact, I myself have an extensive library of print books, am reading three traditional print books at the moment even as I work on my first digital eBook.
I also read eBooks on my smartphone. Especially when i am stuck in an office waiting room, sitting in my car waiting for my kids to get out of school or just lounging around someplace where my print books are not. My smartphone weighs much less than any book I am reading so when I travel that is the tool I reach for.
So, print books, like vinyl records, are not likely to go away any time soon. There will likely always be people like myself who prefer the feel of a real book in their hands; who prefer to know they content they read cannot be digitally altered, taken away or in any way kept from them in the future.
Traditional publishing, however, is a different story. I think eBooks have created a tidal wave of change which has only just begun to sweep across the landscape of traditional publishing. The changes it has already wrought are only beginning to be understood, and more changes are no doubt coming soon.
No, eBooks do not spell the end of traditional print books. They do, however, mean the end of traditional publishing; the end of a few publishers having control over what is made into print, whose words are found worthy of being made available to the masses and ultimately, in its most basic form, what books see print.
And that, I believe, is a good thing.