Dirk Knemeyer

The future of eBooks and book publishing

The future of eBooks and book publishing, November 27, 2014

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

A couple of things: First of all, for my own personal use, what I have found is that I’ll buy novels as e-books and nonfiction as physical books. When it’s not for leisure, when it’s for a thinking purpose, I go for the more high-fidelity means of communication. The convenience of the e-book is great when it’s not something that’s important to me in a certain way, but when it is, when my mind, and body and self need to be engaged in ways that I think matter and are meaningful, then it’s always still a physical book. I don’t see that changing. To the bigger point, sometime within the last month, I was sent a link to an article from Louis Rosenfeld who has a book publishing company, publishes both normal and e-books.

This article was very interesting in going over the history of the e-book, and showing a couple things. First of all, the growth has totally flattened. Whereas five, or I don’t know the number, but years ago, people were saying oh yeah, the physical book, it’s done. It’s not if, it’s when. That doesn’t seem to be the case. There’s been a real flattening there. The other thing that the article pointed out, which was very interesting was that in many leading countries, e-book adoption is near zero. The one I’m remembering off the top of my head that’s not the only one was Germany. The proportion of e-books to physical books was very, very tiny. I actually think the thesis in which you read may be flawed, may not have full information.

While e-books will continue to grow, particularly in certain formats, to my way of thinking all of the data indicates that it’s a matter of having more types of media, more ways to consume the media, as opposed to one form replacing the other.


I think it’s going to require more technology. For me to go from physical to digital voluntarily with books, it’s going to take a huge difference in the tech stack. Let me give you an example. I recently bought a book on great maps in the history of the world. Looking at that map is just a really important watermark as you go through the progress of western civilization. For me to be even open to buying that in a digital format, I would need to have a computing environment like Minority Report. I would need to have that thing be able to get it massively on a screen on the wall, or virtually projected even beyond what’s on my 30-inch monitor here. The way I want to consume that is very specific and very high-fidelity.

For those kinds of use cases, there’s a huge gap that is yet to be traversed, and I don’t see that technology existing in 2018.