Thursday, February 23, 2017

Printed Books VS Ebooks, that old debate

As the managing director of Australian eBook Publisher, I often get asked questions by students about ebooks. I recently had some questions about the topic of printed books VS ebooks. I will share my answers below so that any others who are interested in my opinion, based solely on my unique (limited?) perspective, can benefit. :)

Student asked: 

When it comes to e-book publishing and print publishing, which gain better feedback and response from readers and authors?

I answered:
There is a problem with your question. The answer is anything and everything. The question is far too broad and assumes there's some kind of trend that applies to all kinds of books, all kinds of publishing, all kinds of readers and all kinds of authors. These variables are vast and difficult to pin down.

In my experience, specifically in indie publishing (assisted self-publishing to be even more specific), we see about a 70/30 split where 70% of authors are only interested in ebook publishing, and 30% in print as well. There is the rare occurrence of print-only as well. This is a skewed statistic because obviously with a name like 'Australian eBook Publisher' and ranking on Google better for 'ebook conversion' than for 'book design' we would tend to get more of the ebook authors than the both or the only.

The target market of the book is a major factor in whether to go print or ebook or both. For example, children's books must be in print. There is slow uptake of children's ebooks globally. The simple fact is that children, parents, teachers, etc. prefer to sit together and read a real hard copy of a book, not use a screen. However, I do believe this is very slowly changing, because ebooks are so much cheaper. This will occur for middle grade and chapter books a decade before picture books. Indeed, if you ask me, the picture book in hard copy will always rule supreme. The same might be said for some photography books, large reference books, cook books, etc.

Enhanced ebooks for children may be a different story, because only on devices can you easily get hold of ebooks for children with audio narration (media overlay), sound effects, video and interactivity. Please see my projects Myra and the Magic Motorcycle and You, Kifaru and the Mud Problem for example.

Student asked:
I was wondering what you’re thoughts are on the two methods of publishing and perhaps which you like more and why? Is there one you would recommend more than the other? Why?

I answered:
I like both. As a reader, I prefer to have a novel in hard copy sitting on my bedside table. It looks better to be seen reading a book than staring at a screen. It's also a slightly more involved reading experience (you ingest the words rather than skimming them). I read novels both as ebooks and in print, so I do a bit of both. I tend to enjoy it more when it is a hard copy book though.

As a publisher in the indie space, I prefer ebooks because they are so much cheaper to produce, and selling printed books to the level they expect (eg. to make back their initial investment) can be difficult for indies. However, every book and every author is a unique individual, so it really depends on the circumstances.

I recommend whatever my customer wants. Often they want it in print for posterity. That's perfectly valid. If an author engages me for marketing services, that's when I will put in the required time to research them, their genre, their book etc. and explain what I think it would take for them, using their author platform, to sell their particular book. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this. You really have to understand the extreme variety there is in the book publishing industry. Authors are as extremely varied as people are. Books are as varied as any idea or concept you can think of. Anything and everything. You wouldn't say that one kind of clothing is better for all people. It's simply not possible to generalise like that.

For example, Bernie Searle one of my customers is a massage therapist, so he has a way to sell hard copy books, i.e. in his practice. That being the case there's an argument for publishing the book in print. With ebooks, they have to be marketed online (internet marketing), so an author in their 80s who has no ability, nobody to call upon and no budget to pay for an internet marketing person should not go into ebooks if they want them to sell.

Student asked:
Do you think e-book will be the future of books and print publishing will be a thing of the past? Or do you believe that they will co-exist in the future?  Why?

I answered:
The reason I got into ebooks is because it was a noticeable upcoming trend 10 years ago (5 years ago in Australia), and I figured 'Hey, I can do that'. There will always be a place for printed books, of all genres. We will never see the complete destruction of the printed book. The bookstore in Australia has already morphed into a shop full of gimmicks and mass market big names. Even so, I predict that it may not be around in 5 years. Instead, people may only buy hard copy books from second-hand bookstores, department stores and online. Books are cheap enough to post so buying them online is the way of the future. 

Student asked:
For a beginning author, which publishing method would you recommend and why?

I answered:
It depends on each individual author and each individual book. For some, I would recommend both because we offer print-on-demand, and the indie author often enjoys having a physical book in their hand they can use to market to their local readership, family, friends, at a launch, take to local bookstores and libraries etc. 

It depends on the authors' goal. If they just want to 'get their book out there' then ebooks are the way to go because they're not investing so much. 

You will find more relevant information in the FAQ of Australian eBook Publisher and on the Australian eBook conversion and distribution blog.

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