I like to check up on the whole “print versus eBooks” debate periodically, and the status of the industry is pretty interesting halfway through 2017.
This subject tends to get a bit heated in some circles, so I want to preface by saying I see the merits of both formats. I love print books and their tactile experience; dog-earring pages and scribbling notes in the margins. I also love how easy my Kindle Paperwhite is to travel with, and read in the dark. Both are great, and as long as you’re reading quality fiction, we can be friends no matter which format you prefer.
Print is Back! Or Is It?
There are a number of big outlets (the New York Times and The Guardian to name a few) who are all about print this year. They have run a number of pieces about the resurgence of traditional print books; from increasing sales numbers to British hipsters thinking eReaders look lame. If you only consumed these articles, you’d likely think the print industry and indie book stores are experiencing a renaissance, which would be great! Unfortunately, they paint a slightly skewed picture.
Amazon – The 800 Lb. Gorilla
The articles espousing the death of eBooks and the rise in print sales are missing a few key details, and most of them revolve around a certain online retail giant. If you’ve read my blog for any period of time you know I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. I’m a big supporter of small business, and I feel like Amazon devalues books, but I utilize their services to find rare and indie titles I otherwise could not obtain or afford. Hypocritical? Maybe, but I recognize the benefits they offer to readers and self-published authors even if I don’t agree with all of their business practices.
Where does Amazon fit into this equation? In this interesting article by Jane Friedman she points out that the aofrementioned news outlets fail to take “Alternative publication” (self-published and small press) into account. That disregards a massive number of book sales, both print and digital. Since Amazon dominates the eBook market, and also undercuts other retailers by discounting print books (they can no longer discount Big 5 eBooks) you end up with a silly situation where print editions of popular fiction cost significantly less than their eBook counterparts. No wonder that slice of sales appears to be doing great!
Adult coloring books were a thing? I missed that entire fad, but it apparently gave a short boost to print sales. The trend seems to be waning, but hopefully something with longer legs will come along in its place. Another factor creating the perceived slump in digital sales is the downward trend in the sale of native eBook readers. Kindles, Nooks and other e-reading devices hit their peak a while ago, and are being phased out for applications on mobile devices like tablets and phones. I personally love a dedicated eReader because it’s easier on my eyes and just “feels” better, but to each their own.
As a reader and a consumer, I don’t pay too much attention to the battle for supremacy between print and ebooks. There are too many personal agendas and biases in the conversation, and I am happy to enjoy both formats on their own merits. As a writer though, I think its important to stay informed about where the industry is going, since I want to get my writing in front of an audience, and that means going where they are.
Do you have a preference for print or ebooks as a reader? What about as an author? Do you strictly consume and publish using one format versus the other? Let me know down in the comments!