With the explosion of digital publishing, a lot of authors are choosing to publish ebook-only editions of their work, and sometimes for legitimate platform-building or business reasons. However, for the vast majority of authors, the value of the print book cannot be overstated. Print is still king.
This post is inspired by a reader response to last week’s post asking about the difference between She Writes Press and BookBaby. BookBaby, like Smashwords, is a company that exclusively formats and converts ebooks---with what seem to be good results. I imagine a lot of would-be authors look at the price of the average BookBaby ticket ($249) and the cost of an average self-publishing ticket ($2000-$5000) and wonder whether print is worth that much. I hope to explain here how and why it is.
A printed book carries an inherent value.
The culture and readers still value a print book that’s sold in the traditional marketplace. Even if more and more people are downloading ebooks to their e-readers all the time, there’s still a demand for print books. It carries more weight to have a print book as well. To be an author of an ebook is wonderful, but there’s no question that being the author of a print book is a more esteemed.
A printed book is a calling card.
If you want to use your book to get speaking engagements, teach classes, and/or increase your visibility, you really must have a printed book. You want and need to be able to take physical books to events. Most venues want to sell your book, and your audience is going to want to hold it. It’s simply not the same to tell them they can go download the book from Amazon as soon as they get home. You want a physical product to sell wherever you go.
A printed book can be priced over $9.99.
For now, you are stuck at the $9.99 price point for an ebook if you want to sell on Amazon---and who doesn’t? I’m a believer in keeping a book’s price point low, but the fact is that the book publishing industry doesn’t have a way to track ebook sales by price. All they can measure is ebook sales—whether those sales were of .99-cent books or $9.99 books. This is a fuzzy area in book publishing which creates some question about the current and long-term value of ebooks—to readers and to the industry at large.
A printed book's sales are the sales that matter to the publishing industry.
Because of the above-mentioned inability to track ebooks by price point, their sales don’t matter as much to publishers. If you want to self-publish for the possibility of getting picked up by a traditional publisher (which is happening more and more), it’s the print sales that matter, not the e-sales. The industry is still built toward selling print books, so if you’re in the business of writing books to build a writing career, printed books are indisputably still where it’s at.
Printed books are still outselling ebooks.
Recently, many people erroneously began saying (and believing) that ebooks outsold print books in 2011. They did outsell hardcover books in the adult fiction category in 2011, but not all print books. Trade paperback books are still the go-to format of choice, hands down. The industry is changing, but print is far from dead.