Digital Killed The Paperback Star

Why are big bookselling chains like Dymocks and Whitcoulls falling over? Why is it starting to look like the book superstore is going the way of the dinosaur?

Beautiful apps like and Strange Rain and . The Pedlar Lady of Gushing Cross That is the storytelling power of the iPad app right there in the Pedlar Lady.

Why buy a flimsy printed-in-China paperback kids book when you can have the illustrations animated with engaging genius, the story read to you buy professional Irish voice talent, be able to record your own voice, or record the voice of a beloved but fleeting relative for your children to listen to. And all for a meagre six bucks as well.

And there is no traffic. No sixteen dollars an hour central city parking. No shopping exhaustion headache. No disinterested minimum wage retail zombie unable to even wish you a nice day.

I do not buy magazines any more. I read them on Zinio. I do not buy paperbacksI read them as e-books or as audio books downloaded from Audible. And this from a bookophile from way back. A kid whose favourite outing off the sheep farm was to the library, some thirty odd kilometres away.

Now, do not judge me as a turncoat book burner just yet. I do still buy books.

I have a library. But now I buy beautiful hardback books for purely emotional reasons, as souvenirs, as art pieces. And I hardly ever buy anything that I have not consumed one way or the other first, in digital form. Oh yeah, and I don’t go to the oversized bookstore for said literary artefacts. I go to Amazon or GoodBooks, or two my local boutique bookshop where the owners and passionate staff make me feel personally welcome and valued as a customer, and who make a point of stocking GREAT STUFF, thus dispensing with all of the bestseller instant paper recycling crap.

So is the iPad and Kindle destroying the big chain bookstore, one shelf at a time? Not exclusively, but they are certainly putting in a good boot or two along the evolutionary way.

Sure, there is a big freak-out happening. The end-of-the-literary-worldists are crying that no-one reads books anymore. Well, they are not watching more TV. They are viewing iWatch and VLC Steamer. That is why the big TV networks have stopped taking people out for $150 lunches and are now hungrily eyeing up the moths in their empty coffers as potential sandwich filler.

No, people are not reading less. They are reading differently. They are reading digitally. They are reading smarterone in one trees agrees with me on this one.

And what are they getting in return? Value for money. A five dollar read. That is second hand bookshop prices. And should they fall in love with the story, as many do and should? Boutique hardback time.

So what we are seeing is a magical, unintended (for most) partnership between the digital storytelling world and the realm of boutique, quality publishing. The blockbuster paperback star seller has had its dayreplaced by the singing, dancing and interactively grabbing story app, and the lovingly crafted literary souvenir.

Am I sad to see Whitcoulls and other ‘Macdonalds of the page’ go?


They are being overtaken by something far cooler… a match made in heaven.