Although my love of print books may seem a little biased, I will state now that I do love e-books and all that they represent. However, the e-books are allowing print books to hold strong in what everyone loves about them.
Book Cover Cafe’s post, Future of Publishing: Why Print Books Have Plenty of Shelf Life Yet, details four facts about print books that keep them alive in our hearts and on the shelves! The post sheds some light on how writers are publishing right now. We have so many options that it intimidates the crap out of most of us (and if you say it doesn’t you’re probably already getting six figure advances and don’t care!). But purists we’re in luck! The rise of e-books has brought the importance of print to the market.
1.) Authority and positioning-Although e-book sales are on the rise, print on demand makes the value of being published —virtually effortless. In general, the idea is perfect. The ability for a writer to publish from their home without the grueling, devastating process of going through agent-editor-publisher to get one measly book.
Before publishing became ready made, print books were the only way to become credible. Even if you had your own printing press, it still did not pull as big of a punch as having your book professionally bound and stamped by the approval of the most well-known editors/publishing houses. It was the grueling process, and the approval of highly valued people in the market that made the book have credibility. Logic follows that until there are the same credible people sorting through e-books, we have a lot of people deeming their own work credible enough to be published without the careful eyes of the more experienced. On the other hand, the more experienced or unlucky in some cases can choose the publish on demand as a way to bypass the struggle they cannot surpass or already have.
2.) Unconventional pages- For writing outside of the straight novel text, the format for e-books is not convenient. Poetry, graphic novels, text books, and picture books all have difficulty being transferred to electronic form. However, the glory of print is that you can do pretty much anything on a page and it still looks great.
3.) Slow reception- The reality of e-book sales halting print books is just a tad hasty. The sales of e-books outside of the U.S. are not impressive. We Americans love the newest, greatest products on the market, and sometimes we jump too high for our new toys before the rest of the world. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t right about the importance of e-books, but it means that print is still a heavy hand in people’s lives.
4.) The stigma-Yes, e-books are convenient, they’re flashy, they’re functional, they’re cheap. Is that last one a good thing? I know I like when I get school books for $0.75 on half.com, but I KNOW I wouldn’t want my books sold for $0.99 just so that they’re published. Even though my primary goal is not to make money…we writers gotta make a living and a book for a dollar is not going to pay for all the necessities (at least not for beginning writers).
The stigma is…you get what you pay for. When you pay $0.99 for a book without the pages, the cover, the fancy editor, the credibility (sometimes) it shows. There are obviously pros to this because you can cut the costs for a self-publishing for a writer. However, the author of the post brings up a vital aspect of value. Almost all books benefit from the overall package. The senses are how we experience the world, and part of the magic of a print book is that you get all of them (except taste, but that doesn’t apply to either). The e-book has added joy of video, hyperlink, and instant dictionary. And yet print books have the amazing ability to change according to the kind of book. you need. The old, knowledgeable ones with the dusty, old binding. The new, exciting ones of alien worlds. The format of print is so versatile that it can take the physical shape of the story inside. And that is something you cannot replace!
This isn’t a competition, a war between the ages. It is an opportunity for co-existence (like that one religion that has all the symbols). For those who want a specific experience both avenues give you what you need. I know my love of books and writing will grow to rely on the e-books because they are the children (books) of the future, but I will always cherish the knowledge/beauty of the past.