Seth Godin is a pretty well known book author in the business market. His books are prolific and most people interested in business have probably heard of him. He has written 12 best-selling books.

Well, he made some waves this week by publicly declaring he would no longer publish books in print format. In his upcoming interview with MediaBistro, he says:

I’ve decided not to publish any more books in the traditional way. 12 for 12 and I’m done. I like the people, but I can’t abide the long wait, the filters, the big push at launch, the nudging to get people to go to a store they don’t usually visit to buy something they don’t usually buy, to get them to pay for an idea in a form that’s hard to spread … I really don’t think the process is worth the effort that it now takes to make it work. I can reach 10 or 50 times as many people electronically. No, it’s not ‘better’, but it’s different. So while I’m not sure what format my writing will take, I’m not planning on it being the 1907 version of hardcover publishing any longer.

This sparked another debate about the future of the dead tree model of publishing. We now live in an age of the Kindle and the Ipad. Buy a book online (which is a lot cheaper than the print version, usually) and have it instantly downloaded to your device. That rocks.

However, many just can’t stomach it. They prefer print books. The feeling of the book in the hands. The ability to highlight it up. The ability to lend it to your friends. The feeling of seeing a big bunch of books on your bookshelf.

While there are still many people out there who prefer a physical book, the truth is that the industry is going to move toward digital whether we like it or not.

Just look at what happened with video stores. Companies like Netflix have completely demolished the old model of the video rental store. My old video store near my house just went out of business recently, and you’re seeing it happen everywhere. How can these old-school companies compete with unlimited, digital delivery? Netflix, for $9/month, gives you unlimited DVD rental (1 disc at a time) and unlimited streaming to any supporting device. That same $9 would get you maybe 2 movies at the video place, which you’d have to return in a couple days or else face fines. Ugh.

I think digital is much better when it comes to books. Here’s why:

  • I no longer have to figure out what to do with the book after I’ve read it. Old books are a HUGE source of taken up space and usually just end up cluttering up closets and attics.
  • In the space of one book, I can store literally hundreds or thousands of them.
  • It saves trees.
  • I’ve got a dictionary built right in, making it super easy to look up a word while reading.
  • I can easily make notes to myself while reading, then view all my notes at once after I’m done with the book.
  • I can highlight stuff in the book, and access it all in one place when I’m done. Makes for an easy way to review all your most important parts of the book.
  • I can pipe my notes/highlights into another format, such as Evernote.
  • I can see what parts of the book OTHER people view as most important.
  • I don’t have to go to a bookstore if I don’t feel like it.
  • I don’t have to pay $30 for a pile of paper. I can usually get the same book for a third that price.

Books might not be dead yet. But, give it another 5 years. I think you’re going to see traditional bookstores following their video counterparts into the dustbin of history. Today, we stream movies rather than buy them. We download music albums rather than buy CDs. The book will follow suit. Eventually. It is all but inevitable.