Books still alive and well in digital age

"The Rumors of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated"

Actually, what Mark Twain really said was, "The report of my death is an exaggeration." Either way you quote it, the sentiment is the same. You see, I am a book - a printed, two covers with a bunch of pages in between, honest to goodness book - and I am not dead. In fact, I'm quite alive!

It seems that my electronic counterparts - both the electronic reading device, in all of its manifestations, and the downloadable e-book - have been getting all the attention this past year. If you believe everything you read (ha ha), you'd think that I've been dead and buried for quite a while, destined to be remembered only at library and garage sales. But I'm here to tell you otherwise.

Although the year isn't quite over, 2009 was a very good year for me and my kind. Almost 200,000 new titles have been published this year and overall book sales throughout the country have increased over last year. Obviously, not everyone is watching movies on their cell phones!

The printed page - as opposed to downloaded digital bytes - accounts for over 99 percent of all book sales in the United States in 2009. So, despite the hype, e-books comprise less than 1 percent of the total market. That makes sense - most people still like to read a real, turn-the-page-with-your-finger, book. And, even though more and more electronic readers are coming on the market, the price of these devices remains high.

More importantly, 2009 has seen a net increase in the number of independent bookstores. Not only is this a good indication that people are still reading books and supporting their local community businesses, but also that the consumer is being given a broader selection of books to choose from.

The big box stores are offering fewer and fewer titles. Borders and Barnes & Noble, having put most of their eggs in online marketing, are closing more and more stores. And the big behemoth, Amazon.com, now discounts many bestsellers below cost, thus losing money on each sale.

So on behalf of books and independent bookstores everywhere, but especially in Sedona, I wish you the happiest of holidays. Thank you for your support, and keep reading books!

(Joe Neri is the co-owner of The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona. He can be contacted at (928) 282-2284 or books@wellredcoyote.com.)

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