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Why Print Books Still Matter to Developing & Growth Economies

In Ed's Perspective by Edward Nawotka

Print is still in demand. Maybe not here, but here is not everywhere.

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

As we in the United States, Europe and Asia salivate over the lastest micro advancement in computing technology that makes our tablets faster, flatter and more beautiful — and while callow pundits bellow carelessly about the “death of publishing” — vast tracts of the world are barren of books. Billions of people have likely never even heard of an e-reader, let alone seen one. Some 3 billion people — or close to half the world’s population live on less than $2.50 a day. To these people books are a luxury, time to read is a luxury, learning to read is a luxury.

stack of booksAnd for many, so is reliable electricity. Throughout large parts of Africa, South America, and Asia the power grid is unreliable. And what do you have to do when the grid goes down? Work, cook, talk, maybe even read. But what you’ll be reading isn’t likely to be an e-book — and even if you had one, you’d need a book light to read it at night. You’d be reading print, and most likely by candlelight or a kerosene lantern.

Yes, e-books do offer the promise of extending cheap and even free education and books to a greater number of people on earth than ever before. But that is still not everyone.

While publishers are shifting signifiant resources into e-books and realizing real gains from that activity, many of them are also just as committed to developing their overseas distribution and sales — particularly in education publishing — to serve those communities for whom e-books are still just an idea. There’s a reason you see programs like Ingram’s Global Connect taking off and new POD distributors thriving in places from Brazil to Russia.

Print is still in demand. Maybe not here, but here is not everywhere.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.