A contrarian approach or perhaps just wishful thinking from a long time book manufacturer.
On Sunday, I boarded a plane for the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) meeting in New Orleans and was excited to transcend back into the mid-1860’s, reading The Lincoln Conspiracy. While in flight, between the heroic return of Mary Todd Lincoln’s diary and decoding John Wilkes Booth’s, I glanced up and noticed the woman next to me was reading from her Amazon Kindle. Rather than thoughts of envy, I was more than content with the object I held in hand, which displayed crisp black type on masterfully crafted natural stock wrapped with a vibrant cover. I thought the Kindle to be far less appealing. This thought quickly passed as I dove head-first back into the chase for Booth’s co-conspirators.
While at the AAUP meeting, “e” and eContent dissemination were front and center as topics. It was however not lost on me when Joe Esposito, President of Processed Media, reported in the opening plenary session that print still makes up 85% of university press publishers’ revenues.
Why print and not “e”? A thought I pursued for the balance of the meeting with the following small sampling of musings captured.
“There are issues with eBooks. The user experience and current readers are not well suited for our types of books.” Images, math and foreign language characters were all cited.
“There’s a strong preference for print for all educational related titles.”
One small press stated, “While we are pursuing a digital first strategy, we are not pursuing a digital only strategy as readers’ retention rates have proved to be better with print.”
Firmly convinced the tactile and user experience still favored print, my train of thought shifted to perhaps a more important question for their market. “Do eBooks fulfill the publish or perish mandate required by professors to earn tenor?” A question I posed to two prominent editorial directors at highly respected presses. Their responses:
“That’s a good question. I don’t know of any university presses offering “e” only without print.”
“Peer review is critical to validating an author/professor’s research. All relevant book publishers that offer peer review publish their titles in print at a minimum.”
My conclusion: Is “e” dead? Hardly. “E” continues to grow and will flourish well into the future. That said, it is just as outrageous to ask the question, “Is print dead?” A topic opined far too frequently in recent years.
At the time of this blog, I’m happy to report Sheridan Books is seeing growth in both print and eBook distribution platforms.