IS PRINT DEAD?
by J.A. Konrath
Author of Jack Daniels thriller series
Moderator: Welcome to Obsolete Anonymous! I’ve gathered you all here to welcome our latest member, the Print Industry.
Print Industry: Hello, everyone. But there’s been a mistake. I don’t belong here.
(chuckles all around)
Print Industry: I’m serious. I’m not obsolete. I’m relevant. Print books have been around for hundreds of years. They’re never going to be replaced.
VHS Tapes: Yeah, we all thought like that once.
LP Records: It’s called denial. It’s tough to deal with at first.
Print Industry: Look, everyone, I assume you all think that ebooks are going to put me out of business. But that won’t happen.
Phone Company: I remember when you couldn’t walk twenty yards in a city without seeing a pay phone. Then those gosh darn cell phones came along. Do you know some people don’t even have land lines anymore?
(Phone Company begins to cry. Print Phonebooks joins in. So does Dial Up Modems. Encyclopedia Set, wearing an I Hate Wikipedia T-Shirt, pops a few Prozac. A group hug ensues.)
Video Rental Store: What Phone Company is trying to say is that when a technology comes along that’s faster, easier, and cheaper, the old technology–and all the companies that supported it–tends to fade away.
Print Industry: Why are you here, Video Rental Store? There are a lot of you around.
CDs: There were record stores everywhere once.
Cassette Tapes: Hell yeah! They sold cassettes, too! Someone give me a high five!
(no one gives Cassette Tapes a high five)
Video Rental Store: Things looked good for a while. I had a decent run. Then I got hit by all sides. Netflix. On Demand. Tivo. YouTube. But the nail in the coffin came in the past two years. Hulu. Roku–which allows subscribers to stream video instantly. iTunes and Amazon offering movie downloads. Red Box, which rents DVDs for 99 cents and takes up no more space than a candy machine…
Print Industry: But ebooks are just a tiny percentage of the market. People have been reading print since Gutenberg. They won’t adapt to change that easily.
SLR Cameras: You’re correct. It takes a few years for people to fully embrace new technology. Some never do. Instant Cameras never replaced me.
Instant Cameras: Shut up, SLR. We both got our butts kicked by digital. How much film did you sell last year?
TV Antennas: I’m still big in some third world countries!
Typewriter: The bottom line is; when technology improves, it becomes widely adopted. Me and Carbon Paper used to have a groovy thing going. I’d make the words, he would make the duplicates. Then Copy Machine got into the act, but he’s not doing well now either.
Copy Machine: Effing computers.
Dot Matrix Printer: Effing laser and inkjet. Doesn’t anyone else miss tearing off the perforated hole punches on the side of paper? Don’t they miss the feel and smell of that?
Fold-Out Paper Maps: I agree! Isn’t it fun to open up a big map while you’re driving, in hopes of figuring out where you are? Don’t you miss the old days before cars came equipped with GPS and no one ever used that upstart, MapQuest?
CDs: Effing internet. That’s the problem. Instant access to information and entertainment for the whole world. You guys want to talk about pirating and illegal downloads?
(everyone shouts out “no!”)
Moderator: We all read on JA Konrath’s blog that the way to fight piracy is with cost and convenience. Print Industry, are you lowering your prices and making it easier for customers to download your books?
Print Industry: Actually, we just raised prices on our ebooks.
(all-around sighs and head shaking)
Moderator: Well, far be it for you to learn from any of our mistakes. Are you making it easier at least?
Print Industry: Well, we’ve begun windowing titles, releasing them months after the hardcover comes out.
(collective head slapping)
Music Industry: Have you at least tried selling from your own site? I wish I’d done that. But then Apple came along…
Print Industry: Uh… no. We haven’t tried that. In fact, some ebooks–we’ll use JA Konrath as an example since he was mentioned–aren’t even available on all platforms and in all territories.
Moderator: What do you mean? Konrath’s ebooks are available all over the place.
Print Industry: Those are the ones he uploads himself. The ones of his that we sell are missing from several key markets, and have been for years. But it’s okay. We’re paying him much smaller royalties and jacking the prices up high so we can still make a profit. Besides, ebooks are a niche market. Ereading devices are dedicated and expensive.
Arcades: I used to be a thriving industry. Kids dropped millions of quarters in my thousands of locations. But then Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft made home arcade machines, and now people play their videogames on dedicated devices. It’s a multi-billion dollar business now, and I can only compete if I sell pizza and give out plastic trinkets to kids with the most foosball tickets. If people want the media, they buy the expensive device. Period.
Print Industry: None of you are listening to me. Print will always be around.
Newspaper Industry: Yeah! What he said!
Print Industry: Let’s not compare ourselves, okay Newspaper Industry? No offense.
Newspaper Industry: None taken. Hey, maybe we can help each other. I’m selling advertising space for dirt cheap these days, and…
Print Industry: No thanks. No one reads you anymore. People get their news elsewhere.
Moderator: So why won’t people get their novels elsewhere as well?
(Print Industry stands up, pointing a finger around the room.)
Print Industry: Look, this isn’t about me. All of you guys have become irrelevant. Technology marched on, and you didn’t march with it. But that WILL NOT happen to me. There will always be bookstores, and dead tree books. We’ll continue to sell hardcovers at luxury prices, and pay artists 6% to 15% royalties on whatever list price WE deem appropriate. And the masses will buy our books BECAUSE WE SAID SO! WE SHALL NEVER BECOME OBSOLETE!!!
Buggy Whip Industry: Amen, brother! That’s what I keep trying to tell these people!
CDs: (whispering to LPs) I give him six years, tops.