Thursday, January 22, 2015

Paper is back: Why ‘real’ books are on the rebound

Image via Shutterstock
Image via Shutterstock
All hail paper, the book reading technology resurgent. Eight years after the first Amazon Kindle and five years since the first Apple iPad, lowly pressed wood pulp is on the rebound.
The consequence looks more like co-existence than conquest. For now.
kindlesmallThe latest numbers for 2014 book sales tell a surprising tale. Nielsen BookScan, which tracks what readers are buying, found the number of paper books sold went up 2.4% last year, including at Amazon and all types of bookstores.
As Publishers Weekly puts it, “the 2014 figures are further evidence that print books are selling better than they have since sales of eBooks exploded in 2010.” The paper tome apparently hit rock bottom in 2012, but has since rallied in categories from children’s books to adult non-fiction, and formats from trade paperback to hardcover.
Students, too, are rediscovering paper. Several studies – including one by tech-centric Hewlett-Packard – find a strong preference for printed textbooks, notably among those in college who have tried both types. In the HP survey, 57% preferred print; only 21% preferred an eTextbook.
At the same time, eBooks have hit a plateau of sorts. Growth in revenues, according to the Association of American Publishers, was a mere 3.8% in 2013 compared to “unprecedented” growth in 2012. The first three quarters of 2014showed another nice, modest uptick of 5.6%.WonderworldScienceinside
Depending on whose stats you believe, eBooks that people actually pay for have settled in to represent slightly more than a quarter (27%) of all U.S. book sales, and perhaps up to a third (self-published author direct sales are harder to measure, and freebies are, well, not paid).
Why the pushback against pixels? It may be a combination of how we’re wired, and where eBooks and their devices still fail to connect with readers.


Multiple studies find that we pitiful humans seem to read differently when given the same text on a screen instead of on a page – and are distracted more easily – so less of what we read sticks. Researchers at James Madison University, for one, suspect that readers skim eBook pages quickly and repeatedly, while eye-tracking software shows paper books are read line-for-line. The result is that grokking the content of eBooks “takes longer and requires more effort to reach the same level of understanding.”
Then add distractions. Lots of eBooks aimed at kids are chock full of animations, games and other digital delights. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop found young kids recall a lot less of the eBook narrative than kids who read print versions of the same story. Another study found young readers frequently skip eBook text, period, and move to the “fun” stuff.
For those of us who are older, there is the Facebook Factor. I know I’m not the only one who discovered that the downside of moving from a dedicated Kindle eReader to a Kindle Fire tablet is I now can be constantly tempted, and pulled away from losing myself in the book, by notifications of incoming email, status updates, direct messages and Words With Friends moves.

Non-intuitive tools

If I were to ask how you’d remember a page or a passage in a paper book, you’d look at me as though I were an idiot. You’d grab a pen or highlighter – two familiar tools that are used for more than reading – and mark the words or scribble in the margins. Or just dog-ear the page, a simple, quick physical motion.
By DBGthekafu [GPL (], via Wikimedia CommonsFor eBooks, you actually have to figure out under which menu the right tool is, how to use it, what its limits are (can I export? save across devices?) and then finally apply it. And, unlike a real thumb or ink pen, how that tool works can vary by platform.
Take the faux sticky note. One study from Ryerson University noted that readers felt they had to “remember to purposely search for the electronic sticky note, in contrast to the easily observable paper sticky note.”
Yes, eBook tools are better than they used to be. But my pen remains mightier than your silicon.

Human factors

I’m not going to soft-pedal this: Some people still like the feel of a book, the heft of a book, even the smell of a book. It has a UI and UX with centuries of refinement. For some types of reading, the physical act of opening a thick cover and listening to the whispered crackle of spine and pages is part of the enjoyment.
There is also brilliant, large cover art and the ever-present reminder that youown a book, not because it shows up in a text list or thumbnail art when you log in to your Kindle inventory, but because it’s in your face, on a shelf, where you and others nearby can bask in it.
Oh. About ownership. Recall Amazon’s ability to modify or remove an eBookwithout a buyer’s permission? The Ryerson study concluded that readers perceived digital content as less permanent. Physical books were under their, not “publishers or IT developers,” control.
Plus, the whole how-backlit-screens-can-interfere-with-sleep thing.
This isn’t to say all is rosy for paper books. The biggest damage in 2014 was the continued slide in mass market paperback sales, down 10.3% during a time period when every other format was going up.
Those palm-sized softcover books are traditionally the domain of adult genre fiction, like romance, fantasy and mystery. Narratives, read front-to-back (and I doubt there’s ever need for a comprehension test afterward). Self-published eBook authors have latched onto genre categories bigtime, too, likely diverting what would have been physical book sales. For that kind of fiction, the years-long paper massacre hasn’t ended.
But as Mark Twain might opine, reports of paper books’ death have been greatly exaggerated. The near-term future won’t be paper-or, but paper-and, pixel. Until the two are indistinguishable in terms of features, factors and feel.
Frank Catalano (@FrankCatalano) is an independent consultant to firms in education and consumer technology, a veteran industry analyst, and a professional speaker and author. His regular GeekWire columns take a practical nerd’s approach to tech.

32 Books That Will Actually Change Your Life... And all you have to do is read them!

Friday, January 16, 2015

This Day in Book History - The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

1991 --  US: BiblioKleptoManiac Stephen Blumberg goes on trial

for stealing $20 million worth of rare books & manuscripts, Iowa.


from Wikipedia:
Stephen Carrie Blumberg (born St. Paul, Minnesota) is best known as a bibliomane who lived in Ottumwa, Iowa. After being arrested for stealing more than 23,600 books worth USD $5.3 million in 1990, he became known as the Book Bandit and was recognized as the most successful book thief in the history of the United States.[1]

Early life[edit]

Blumberg lived on a $72,000 annual family trust fund. His compulsion to collect books developed in childhood when he became interested in many of the beautiful, but run-down Victorian homes in St. Paul he walked past on his way to school. Blumberg began removing doorknobs and stained glass windows from the old houses that were slated for destruction as part of a revitalization project in St. Paul. Blumberg amassed hundreds of these items during the course of his collecting years in addition to the books. His initial interest in Victorian architecture brought him into the rare-books stacks at the University of Minnesota. Blumberg initially took items as a way to create a reference collection for his own use.[1][2]

Arrest and trial[edit]

At 2:00 a.m. on March 20, 1990 Stephen Blumberg was arrested for stealing more than 23,600 rare, valuable and assorted other books from 268 or more universities and museums in 45 states, 2 Canadian provinces along with Washington, D.C. Their value was placed at about $20 million, but was later changed to $5.3 million, the largest book theft in US history. In 1991, Blumberg was found guilty and sentenced to 71 months in prison with a $200,000 fine. On December 29, 1995, he was released from prison. The collection has been referred to as the "Blumberg Collection." The Rare Books and Manuscripts division of the Association of College and Research Libraries as well as Library Security expert William Andrew Moffett helped the Federal Bureau of Investigation to capture and convict Stephen Blumberg and identify the rare items he had stolen.[1][2][3]
Blumberg's arrest came as a result of his "friend" Kenneth J. Rhodes turning him in for a $56,000 bounty he negotiated with the Justice Department. Rhodes and Blumberg had known each other since the mid-1970s. A known criminal, Rhodes accompanied Blumberg on several of his "road trip" collecting sprees.[1][2]
During Blumberg's 1991 trial, Dr. William S. Logan, director of the Law and Psychiatry Department at the Menninger Clinic and a nationally recognized authority on forensic psychiatry, revealed that Stephen had undergone psychiatric treatment for schizophrenic delusions and tendencies. He was hospitalized numerous times during his adolescence where twelve psychiatrists diagnosed him variously as schizophrenicdelusionalparanoid, or compulsive. Dr. Logan also revealed that a history of psychiatric illness was in Blumberg’s family.
Dr. Logan reported during the trial that Blumberg’s thought was to preserve or rescue the materials he stole from what he believed was destruction. Blumberg believed that the government was plotting to keep the ordinary person from having access to rare books and unique materials, and so sought to liberate and release them in an attempt to thwart the government plot. Blumberg admitted that he saw himself as a custodian of the things he took.[1] He said he would never sell them because he thought that would be dishonest. He envisioned the items would be returned to the rightful owners after his death, or at least to another repository that could care for them. Despite these findings, Blumberg was convicted in 1991 as guilty, without reason of insanity. After serving a 4½-year sentence, Blumberg was released and continued his collecting and stealing habits.[1][2]
Upon meeting Blumberg in the FBI's stacks after his arrest, John L. Sharpe III from Duke University's library commented about his brief conversation with Blumberg that,
"What I felt...was that we in libraries have to operate on a trust system every time we bring a book to someone's table. This is what I think is so sinister about the whole thing. This man chose to debase that, to debase that commodity that is so essential in gathering information in an open institution. And I think he betrayed everything that we try to represent in making information available as freely and as uninhibitedly as possible. And I think that’s what really just enraged me, to think that this man took advantage of that kind of access."[1](511)
In 1997, Blumberg was convicted again of burglary of antiques. He was again arrested in July 2003 for burglary of a house in Keokuk, Iowa. He was subsequently convicted in early 2004. He was again arrested in June 2004 for burglary in Knoxville, Illinois. This violated his probation for the 2004 conviction in Keokuk, Iowa for which he was again arrested.


Some of the more precious objects Blumberg stole include a first edition copy of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's CabinA Confession of Faith, the first published book in Connecticut in 1710; 25 boxes of rare materials outlining the early history of Oregon including the Webfoot Diary; and the Bishops' Bible, a 16th-century volume. Blumberg claimed he put together 100 incunabula in three years, including the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle bound in ivory calfskin. He also collected the Zamorano 80, a list of rare books established in 1945 by a group of prominent book collectors in a Los Angeles book club named after Don Augustin Zamorano, California's first printer.[1]