With the release of Amazon’s Kindle e-reader in 2007, the eBook industry surged. Many publishing insiders predicted that eBook sales would surpass print sales within a decade, and print would gradually become obsolete.
Fast-forward to 2019, and we see that is not the case. In fact, according to the Association of American Publishers (AAP), eBook sales have been declining the past few years, and print books still rule. However, eBooks have carved out their own niche due to their convenience and other attributes and will continue to have a large presence in the publishing industry. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and your choice to publish your book in one format over the other will depend on how well they meet your audience’s different reading needs. Here’s an overview of things to consider when choosing.
eBooks: The case for and against
As the new kid on the block, eBooks received a lot of buzz when they were introduced, and although they didn’t spell the end of print books, they do have many qualities that make them the format of choice for many people. Often it comes down to the type of book and how it’s read, so it’s important to understand who will be buying your book. Tech-savvy people and people who travel a lot tend to favor the convenience, portability, and instant access that eBooks provide. Readers of fiction, especially romance, erotica, and fantasy, typically prefer eBooks. (Perhaps because others can’t see what they are reading!) Other benefits of eBooks include:
- Less expensive to produce and purchase. Indie authors often choose electronic format because it’s quicker, easier, and less costly to produce
- Reader can personalize fonts and layout for easier reading, and they are easier to read in low-light conditions
- eBooks can have added functionality ― search, embedded dictionaries, and links to enhanced content
- Can store hundreds of books on one e-reader
- No delivery/distribution costs for the publisher
On the downside, although eBooks are convenient, you have to purchase a device to read them on, keep it charged, and remember to bring it with you. eBooks can also cause eyestrain and are expensive to replace if you break them.
Print books: The case for and against
For some people, the comfort and feel of turning the pages of a traditional book can’t be reproduced in electronic format. It’s not as nice to cozy up to the fireplace with an eBook, and eBooks don’t look that great on a shelf or coffee table. Other reasons print books are here to stay include:
- Don’t have to purchase or carry an e-reader
- Learning and retention are better with print books
- Author can sign printed books at a book signing
- Print books don’t cause eyestrain; however, you can’t read print books in the dark
Print books also have their fair share of downfalls. They are more expensive to produce, take longer to get to market, and publishers must deal with shipping/distribution of physical books.
Choosing a format ― or not:
Both print and eBooks have their advantages and disadvantages, and each have their loyal followers. When choosing whether to publish in print or electronic format, cost is typically one of the weightiest factors. However, you also need to consider your book’s purpose and audience.
- If your content is timely, electronic is quicker to publish and deliver
- If your book belongs on a shelf for all to see, traditional is best
- To sell at conferences, you need physical copies
Often the best option is not to choose either one, but to publish both ways. By doing so, each format fills in the gaps the other leaves. For example, print books usually outsell eBooks, but eBooks incur very little additional expense once created. People prefer to give physical books as gifts, but an eBook is instantly downloadable. If an author is testing the market, they might want to publish an eBook first before spending the money on print. Or a person who enjoys a particular eBook might want a physical copy as a keepsake or addition to their print library.
Book bundling is an effective way to leverage both formats. You can add an electronic version with enhanced content to add value to a print book and charge premium prices for both.
Both print books and eBooks have a solid place in publishing, and each has its pros and cons. But unless there’s some reason to choose only one format, you should make your publications available to fit all your readers’ needs and preferences. Sheridan’s eBook conversion services, as well as its eCommerce solutions, will help you easily provide readers with whichever format they choose or even a bundled package.