book printing vs. digital e-book publishing

The U.K.s Guardian from August 2012 reports that “Kindle E-book sales have overtaken Amazon print sales (in the U.K.), and that for every 100 hardback and paperback books it sells on its UK site, 114 E-books are downloaded in a ‘reading renaissance’ and that sales of its Kindle E-books are now outstripping its sales of printed books”. However Amazon has refused to release audited figures for its digital book sales, something it does for printed books.

Of course one must wonder whether Amazon is simply trying to prevent any version to the contrary or something even more sinister. The article further goes on to state that “three of the top 10 most popular Kindle authors of 2012 – Nick Spalding, Katia Lief and Kerry Wilkinson – were published by Amazon’s own Kindle Direct Publishing.” This would of course lead one to consider whether this may be an additional motive not to release actual figures and blow the bubble of what may simply be a marketing hype.

Despite what the Guardian reports in the U.K. as well as any potential skewing of the facts by Amazon having a vested interest in E-Book success, the fact is that both mediums are important to the publishers and authors of books. Newsweek reports that of “those that download an E-Book, only 15% of those who bought them will discontinue the purchase of a printed book”.


The Future For Book Printing Still Looks Bright

 Education Week this year released a survey of children 6-17 years old found that “most were enjoying reading more since discovering E-Books, that 80% of the books read on their own and not part of the school curriculum were books in print”.  Parents praised the printing of books as being able to “get away from technology” and “not needing batteries” as well as the ease of the reading experience.

 E-Books Help Sell Printed Books

The New York Times reported in an article entitled “Using E-Books to Sell More Print Versions” how the publishers are using E-Books as a means of promoting the version created by printing books. Many also, as the article continued, will bundle them at the sale point.

Some Books Require Print

Certain books that rely on illustrations, especially colorful ones will benefit more from book printing than E-Books as nothing will come close to the printed version for the beauty and overpowering result of holding the version produced by book printing in your hand and seeing these illustrations which are part of the narrative of the book as one reads. E-Books are great for vacations or travel, but the technology is still not comparable to the printed version’s quality of the book.

Further nothing beats the beauty of a finely printed book and holding it in your hands and feeling the texture of the pages as you turn them. I personally prefer this to the point where in the case of the hard cover book I remove the dust jacket to see what the case bind finish looks like. I have been doing that for years, well before I ever entered the book printing business.

E-Books Are Not Replacing Printed Ones

The fact is that both will coexist as that while they may be overlapping formats, they each serve separate purposes. As an author and/or self publisher you understand that you need to promote your book. In an age of mass email where it seems we are all under attack from spam, it is my belief that a nicely packaged book will grab the attention of a reviewer, publisher or distributer faster than your E-Book sent via email can hit their spam folder.

Many publishers are also combining the sales of both versions as a purchasing incentive, thereby expanding their chance to sell the book. Promoting your book can also be very difficult with just a digital one and without a version from your book printer. What will you autograph at book signings?  The printed version of your book is also a more personal expression than just a digital file. Another thing to consider when promoting your book is that many organizations, such as chambers of commerce and organizations seek out speakers for their events where an author can sell their books at the back of the room following the speech about the book.  What are you going to offer there on the spot in order to garner that impulse sale?

The Hard Numbers Still Favor Printing Books

PC World reported about a year ago that “In the overall market, E-books represented just 6.4% of total revenues for books published for the general public last year, according to the Association of American Publishers”. One year later, this number has probably gone up and over the years it shall potentially go up more, but we are not there yet, which provides for the necessity of still printing books as at least part of the author’s or publishers media package.

The Pew Research Center reported that E-Books rose slightly over the prior year “from 16% to 23%, and that “89% of readers stated they had read at least one printed book during the prior 12 months” and that only 30% reported reading only a single electronic one over the same period”.  The Association of American Publishers reported that “electronic book sales fell in 2012 by 34%”.  In a survey by Bowker Market Research it was shown that only “16% of Americans purchased an electronic book while 59% stated they have no interest in buying one.”

In the final analysis we only know this: Both versions are here to stay and the electronic one is not replacing book printing, but instead is helping to market the printed version of the book as well as expand sales rather than deplete them. No one knows what the future will bring and if I am to guess correctly, book printing will be around for a long time to come.


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