In an e-book world, there's still a place for paper books

'E-books will become the equivalent of the paperbacks of the past.'

Even when industries are shattered by new competition or new technology, enterprising individuals still find new ways to repurpose the "old" way of doing things. As television became the primary medium for at-home entertainment programming, radio evolved to music and all-news or all-talk formats. Freight railroads adopted inter-modal containers that could easily be transferred between trains to ships and trucks. The passenger ship industry converted from basic Point-A-to-Point-B transportation to serving as floating resorts for vacationers.

There may even be a new type of role for paper books, which many pundits have written off as going the way of the buggy whip. (Which didn't get repurposed too well in the transition from horses to cars, by the way). That is, to high-end, high-quality items suitable as gifts, collections, and coffee-table reading.

Book publishing veteran Alberto Vitalis bullish on the prospects digital books provide for publishers and authors alike, but still sees an important role for paper books. In a recent interview with Knowledge@Wharton, he explains why paper books will be around for a long time too come:

"Digital technology has brought to publishers the ability to develop a new business. That doesn't mean that the book business will disappear. Actually, paper books will be with us for a very long time to come, if not forever ... except that they will evolve into much more precious products. [They will be] better-printed, better-bound, better-produced and better-marketed, even at much higher prices. E-books will turn out to be the equivalent -- not the same thing -- as the paperbacks of the past."

In the meantime, Vitale predicts that these higher-quality editions will likely double in price. "The prices of hard cover books are now still $27.95, $26.95, which I find ridiculous. They cannot possibly make ends meet with those prices." Incidentally, Amazon recognizes the continuing value of paper books, and has even just opened up its 52nd distribution center.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com