We’ve all heard the conventional wisdom that staring at screens all day is somehow bad for our brains: supposedly it destroys our attention spans, blunts our intelligence, and transforms us into technology-dependent zombies. But is there any truth to such grim speculations? Are screens really changing our brains?
A whole generation of children is learning to read from a screen rather than a book. What could this mean for the future of the publishing industry? For one, it means we can no longer ignore the influence of ereaders, audiobooks, interactive reading apps, and video games on future and current readers.
While we could go around for hours about the costs of an ebook version of a book versus others, there’s another part of the general consumption of ebooks that should be discussed. Perceived value is just as important as actual cost.
Ask someone to close their eyes and place a ring in their hand, and they’ll move the object in their hand to get a sense of its shape. Forbid them from moving their hand, and they’ll have a very difficult time figuring out the shape from touch alone.
Image: Original photograph of a pair of Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons and a copy of 50 Hikes (I can do a version with Classroom Publishing or whatever if that makes more sense).
And yet, Arnaud Nourry, CEO of Hachette Livre, put the debate about the merits of ebooks in the spotlight again. He argued that the number of sales was only going to continue to decline, because “The ebook is a stupid product. It is exactly the same as print, except it’s electronic. There is no creativity, no enhancement, no real digital experience.” According to Nourry, attempts to add other forms of content to ebooks have failed. “We, as publishers, have not done a great job going digital. We’ve tried. We’ve tried enhanced or enriched ebooks—didn’t work. We’ve tried apps, websites with our content—we have one or two successes among a hundred failures.” Though he concludes there is hope for creating new digital forms of reading, he argues that those technologies will come from industries outside of publishing and by “[going] beyond the ebook on digital.”
So now you really can download the app, get a library card and borrow dozens of ebooks all without ever leaving your home.