I am a lithographer with over forty years of experience in prepress. I have watched and participated in a lot of changes in the printing industry, and I'm here to tell you that printing is dying a slow death. I was recently laid off because of the lack of work in a trade that has supported me comfortably for many years.
As a writer, bookbinder and publisher, I can say that P.O.D. has provided a temporary niche with a very thin promise of work to help me through the transition to the new way of publishing books. However, it is clear that it may not last as long a I would have hoped. Electronic publishing is quickly eclipsing traditional publishing.
The reasons are economic, ecological and most of all timely. For non-fiction books, this is an advantage that cannot be ignored. For time-sensitive information, it is essential. Who wants yesterday's news?
But the argument for holding a good well-printed, quality bound hardback book still holds. It has substance, permanence. A new one smells good. The crisp clean pages feel good as you fan through them, offering a quick preview of the entire contents in a flash. Bookmarked with a slip of paper or a ribbon, occupying a special place on a bookshelf. Ready to be taken down and read next to the fire on a stormy night.
I also hear it said that you can't beat a pocket paperback. Dog-ear the pages, make notes in the margins. Bend the cover around so you can hold it one hand. Read while standing in line or waiting in the doctor's office. Leave it on the dashboard of your car or stashed in your lunchbox. Pass it on.
Still, the way I see it, the traditional book will slowly fade into oblivion, along with vinyl records, film-based photography and the pay phone on the corner. As the young come of age, they will pick up the new tools and journey on, never knowing any different.
I think for now, the ebook has great potential for exposure. Writers can now get copies out for promotional purposes at a tiny fraction of the cost. They can offer free exerpts as samples of their work to generate sales of their hardcopies, while tapping into the additional income stream available from electronic books.
So I say jump on, folks. Ebooks are here to stay. The wise will drop the old paradigms and pick up the new tools. They will look for new opportunities in a rapidly evolving industry.
Paper books are not in as much danger as vinyl records, but they are in worse shape than CDs—at least outside the big cities. In my town there is one B&N, and that's it. The selection there gets more limited every month. I'm being forced, unwillingly, to do all my book searching online. Increasingly, I am finding new books that are available in no other media than ebook. I used to be able to find books at Wally World or Target, but increasingly those venues serve only a smaller and smaller section of the best sellers.
We were late adopters of CD players, but I can see us slowly heading toward digital downloads. We used to buy a lot of VHS, then quite a bit of DVD, but Blue-Ray will only come in downloads. NetFlix is our friend. Kindle has not reached NetFlix's ease of use, yet. But someone will, and it may be Kindle.
There are many people like you who "still love the feel of a book in my hand," as you so aptly described. I have been searching blogs,the literary journals,magazines, and newspapers to find out what the world feels about E-readers and hard-cover books. When I come across a relevant article, I include it on my site: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-BookCase-Project/201733486549165
Take a look at my site. Amid the photos and articles on bookcases are the words of kindred spirits who like the smell and feel of a book in their hands.