First of all, writer Richard Parks takes on the eternal issue of e-book pricing. Basically, he believes that “professional” e-books will remain expensive, because publishers have expenses.
Fantasy writer Seanan McGuire addresses an issue that is all too often forgotten in the debate about print versus e-books and the “death of the print book”, namely that e-books and e-readers are inaccessible for most poor people yet print books, whether second hand or via the library, are not.
The MIT’s Technology Review, surely not a tech-skeptical venue, makes a similar point.
This is also part of the reason why the sheer glee with which some e-publishing advocate seem to greet the impending death of print or the impending death of the mass market paperback disturbs me. Because not only do I like print books, we also need print books for poor people in western countries who cannot afford e-readers and for people in developing countries where e-readers might be unaffordable (never mind unavailable) for a large part of the population.
This is also why we need to keep the mass market paperback format. Because mass market paperbacks are the cheapest format and therefore the format most likely to be read by poor people, including kids and teenagers who are strapped for cash.
I don’t come from a poor family – my parents are middle class and comfortably well off. Yet my reading, particularly once I switched to English books, was entirely mass market paperbacks to the point that I did not know there actually were fiction hardcovers in the US. And every single one of those mass market paperbacks was a significant investment for me due to import and exchange rate costs. I could never have afforded hardcovers at the time.
Finally – and this is something else that is easily forgotten – mass market paperbacks are often the only not to mention the cheapest format in which English language books are available outside the USA and UK, because mass market paperbacks are the lightest and cheapest to transport where physical books still have to be shipped. Of course, e-books will eliminate the need to physically ship a book to a distant location (or not, as the Amazon surcharge illustrates). But e-readers are still unaffordable or even complete unavailable in many countries around the world.