Digital Vs. Print: The Book Battle Rages On September 18, 2015 – Posted in: Blog – Tags: , , , ,

In 2012, digital book sales for the first time surpassed the number of traditional print sales in the US. And while it’s safe to say that eBooks have revolutionized the way we read, is it advisable for writers to completely neglect the print market?

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As the holiday season approaches, it will be interesting to watch people buying books. Many a wish list has everything from the latest novel by Stephen King to an Amazon Gift Card (an actual card or via email) to a new e-reader device. Yet the battle for which is more popular, print or ebook, is truly running neck and neck.

No matter who you ask, the answer is always different, and usually very passionate. The store manager rom Barnes & Noble in Torrance, California says, “I love my Kindle! I can have anything I want at my fingertips! The store is always open, no matter what my mood.”

Essentially, she’s right. The internet is always open, and you can go to any site that sells digital books, pick what you want, pay and within seconds the book of your choice is downloaded onto whatever device you use, allowing you to start reading ASAP instead of waiting for the book of your choice to arrive in the mail. This is a definite plus if you ask me, even if many companies offer one day shipping.

Yet others will say, “But I love the feel/look/smell of a book in my hands, on the shelf and in a book store.” Another popular comment of the print book proponents is that “there’s nothing quite like flipping through the pages of a book”. I couldn’t agree more, as clicking a button simply doesn’t seem to compete.

Personally, I’ve been collecting books for years. When we bought our current home, it had a dedicated home office space. I was excited because I knew immediately that my home office would be the library and it would house the hundreds of books that I own, in addition to my countless CDs (I’m a huge music lover and have been writing about music for years).

However, those shelves filled up so fast, books and CDs started to spread. There are books behind the books on the shelves, on top of books and there are CDs in piles on surfaces everywhere; books and music even spread over in the living room. It takes forever to dust them and, more often than not, I can’t even find what I’m looking for.

The Love of Digital

eReadersAlthough I knew it would make getting organized so much easier, I didn’t want to buy an eReader or ipod. So I bought a Kindle for my husband and started using it. That was a few years back. It was a first generation Kindle, black and white, no color. Still, it wasn’t a book.

But after my first trip I had to admit that it made my luggage so much lighter. One small device instead of a stack of books: I’ve found a way to take 500+ books on a two week vacation, instead of lugging two or three and praying I don’t finish them before the flight is over. And I could read at the pool. No glare. I wouldn’t want to say that I’m ready to give up on my books, but I do see the advantages of eReaders ever since I went on my first vacation with my Kindle.

A book lover in Atlanta recently told me that she prefers print books, but that the often free eBooks are a great way to try out a new author. And that’s what you should keep in mind when you are writing or an author promoting your books. I’ve discovered dozens of new authors that I never would have paid $7.99 for at Barnes & Noble thanks to free book promotions for eReaders. That’s why I can only recommend every author running such a promotion or a Kindle countdown deal, as it’s called with Amazon.

Which leads to the discussion of price. Although it may not apply to top authors like James Patterson or Steven King, but, for the most part, eBooks are cheaper than print books. The fact that sales taxes have been introduced for digital items in the recent past doesn’t change that. There are no printing and no shipping costs. It’s rare that you have to pay more than $6.99 for an eBook. And once you’ve been sucked in to a series by reading a free copy of Book One, there is no way you’re not going to pay a couple of bucks for Book Two.

My physical library is still stuffed to the gills. We’ve got the Harry Potter collection, a handful of books signed by their authors, Goethe, Hemingway and lots of other classics, but the mindless romances and the “read it once and never thought about it again” books are all gone now or should I say that they will live on in digital utopia?

The Love of Print

Traditional Newspaper And Cup of CoffeeFor those who refuse to go digital, I get it. I really do. There is something about wandering around a bookstore. If you are lucky to still have one in your area, please go and take advantage it. It’s fun to randomly take books off the shelves to look at, and then leaving the store with a bag full of something tangible.

Ebooks are, in a lot if ways, not real. You push a button or two, and then it’s on your device. Easy? Yes. Fun? Not as much. And when it comes to gifting them, it’s borderline depressing. You give someone a book they want in the form of a piece of paper with a code on it? Yes, it’s still the book, but it’s such a let-down from the excitement of ripping open the wrapping paper and having an item in your hands.


And The Winner Is…

At the end of the day, what it boils down to is preference. There are no “winners” or “losers” in this debate. Although trends are leaning towards the digital age, print books are still out there for sale in stores, online and in libraries. And established authors often find that people want both. An autographed copy of a printed book is something that will always be special, and cannot truly be replicated on an eReader.

However, the reality of how practical they are, as well as how economic, is becoming a bigger draw for eBooks. And if you are an indie author without a big budget looking to introduce a new series and break into the market, you will definitely want to focus on the eBook market. It won’t break the bank to give away a digital copy in an attempt to possibly gain a paying reader for life. What do you have to lose? It’s a win win for both, authors and writers.