Why Would You Want a Print Book? Lots of Reasons
Why Would You Want a Print Book? asked Rich Meyer in a recent post on Indies Unlimited. While the reasons he gave for publishing his quiz books exclusively in e-book formats may be valid for him, his was only one answer to a complex question. It deserves a more complete answer. Let’s look at some of the reasons you would want a print edition of your book.
You want your book to be available to the entire book market. The Book Industry Study Group most recent study of industry trends, Book Stats 2012, found that e-book sales had grown 45% since 2011, but they accounted for only 20% of the trade book market.
So e-books are an increasingly important channel of distribution, but there’s another 80% of the market to consider.
There is not a single book market. The publishing house Sourcebooks advised in a post titled E-Books: How Far How Fast? that “The “book industry” is not just one industry; books are purchased by different types of users and for different reasons.”
So before you make a decision about the format for your book it’s essential to ask what type of buyers you are appealing to, what are their reasons for buying, and what are their book format preferences.
Here are some examples of the kinds of answers you may find:
Genre fiction does much better than nonfiction in e-book format. Publishers Weekly reported that
- Fiction is the leading sales driver of e-books
- Fiction accounted for 61% of unit sales...and 51% of revenue for e-books
On the other hand, Sourcebooks found that Adult Nonfiction is 42.3% of the market for physical books, but accounts for less than 25% of e-books sold. The only nonfiction genre in Publishers Weekly’s top ten was Biography/Autobiography which was 10th with 7% of the sales.
Book Buzzr, was more pointed in its post When Will the eBook Expressway Explode Sales for Nonfiction – as It Has for Fiction? Comparing the e-book success of fiction and nonfiction authors, it said, “Exactly zero nonfiction authors have seen e-Book sales that are comparable to the sales that these genre fiction authors have attracted.”
Illustrated books do better in print format. There are several reasons books with photos, illustrations and graphics work better in print. Here are three of the most important:
You can’t control what e-reader people have. The device controls the display of images. If someone is reading on an older version of the Kindle or on an iPhone they will not have the reader experience you intended.
The resolution of images on paper is much higher, at least 300 dpi, than on e-readers where it is approximately 75 dpi. Screen height and width also limit the way images display.
E-readers allow users to make text bigger or smaller. The tradeoff is that images and captions move when text size changes. You lose control of page layouts.
One consequence of these limitations is that the sales of print versions of illustrated books have been very strong.
Children’s books are a good example of the problem of illustrated e-book problem. Sourcebooks reports that, “The other difficult transformation area right now is children’s books (as distinct from young adult books). E-tailers’ bestsellers lists, publisher-reported data, and our own data are not suggesting strong conversion to ebooks yet for juvenile books, outside of cross-over YA.”
The fact that most children’s books are heavily illustrated might well be a factor.
If preservation is an important concern, print is better. If you are a family historian creating an heirloom book you’ll want a paper edition. Preservation is a high priority. The Library of Congress says you should still consider paper the “archival medium.” Think about the rapid emergence and disappearance of storage technologies over the past twenty-five years: cassette tapes, 8-tracks, VHS, Betamax, various incarnations of floppy disks, CDs, flash drives, and cloud based storage. It is likely that ebooks will evolve into a variety of new formats that will require reformatting of books published today to assure that they will be read by these new devices. Dag Spicer, curator of the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley told the New York Times, “Some paper we have has lasted thousands of years. If Moses had gotten the Ten Commandments on a floppy disk, it would never have made it to today.”
If you are a speaker, consultant or conference presenter who sells books at appearances paper books work better. If you want to sell books after a speaking engagement you have a lot better luck with a tangible book which you can hand to a conference attendee than offering the same person a download. You might want an e-book version of the book to sell from your website or on Amazon, but you’ll want a print version too.
What do you think? Leave a comment on why you prefer one format or the other. Does genre make a difference in your choice of platforms?