At one time I used to make most of my income through printed books. Back then, companies like Microsoft updated their software every few years, which meant you could write a book on Microsoft Office 2000 and have it sell for several years before you’d need to update it for another version. For authors who wrote about Windows XP, they had several years before they needed to update their books. In the meantime, they collected royalties each year.
Nowadays software gets updated rapidly, often yearly in the case of OS X and iOS. Books on Windows 8 were obsolete about a year later and needed to be updated for Windows 8.1. In the meantime, sales of Windows 8 books were dismal because the world no longer needs to rely exclusively on Windows. Even worse for computer books, in the old days people needed books to find information about software problems. Today, you can just search for answers to common software problems using Google or your favorite search engine. That means computer books are not only obsolete, but they often don’t sell enough before they need to be updated once more.
That ultimately means computer books, in printed form, are a dying breed because they can’t adapt fast enough and their shelf life is too short to make much of a profit. Ultimately, computer books are more successful as web pages and video tutorials than printed instructions that go out of date so rapidly. Just browse through any library shelf to look at computer books covering topics like Office 2000 or Turbo Pascal. Most likely few people will bother checking out such obsolete computer books, yet they take up valuable shelf space.
If computer books are dying, what’s next? Harlequin romance novels sell mostly in e-book form because romance novels are throwaway books that people read once and never bother reading again. So there’s no need to waste paper printing them. That’s why Harlequin romance novels are selling in better as e-books because it’s profitable for the publisher and convenient for the reader. Readers can also comfortable read e-books on their smartphones or tablets without advertising what they’re reading from the lurid romance covers that depict muscle bound men without their shirts on clinging to beautiful women.
If you look at all types of books, you’ll see that very few have a reason to appear in printed form. People still appreciate printed copies of books, but there’s less and less of a reason for most books to appear on paper any more. People want printed books out of convenience, not necessity.
Bookstores are still popular but Borders Books is gone for good and Barnes & Nobles is never going to do anything more than struggle to stay alive. There’s no growth in the book retailing business, even though Amazon recently plans to open a bookstore in Seattle.
Books will always remain popular just as horses are still popular. It’s just that horses aren’t used for everyday travel any more and tomorrow, printed books won’t be used for everyday reading either. Printed books aren’t going away completely, but they will fade away into irrelevance, and the trend will only continue to increase over time.