By Bobby Christmas
Q: I was wondering how you feel about e-books. Most people have pretty strong feelings for and against. I’d be interested to know how you feel and why.
A: I have two takes on the subject, depending on the point of view. From the point of view of a buyer, I download many e-books onto my Kindle so I can take them with me on trips or read them in lower-light situations. I’m not in those situations often, though, so my e-books often languish unread for a long time. As an author and self-publisher, though, I’m all for e-books, but with a warning.
In my opinion, and it’s backed by statistics I’ll give later, I’m all for producing every book in both printed and e-book forms, so my books are available as both e-books and printed books. On the one hand I sell far more copies of my printed books than I do my e-books, but on the other hand, when people buy my e-books, I make more money per sale.
With e-books I have less work, as well. Buyers’ money goes into my account and my website automatically delivers the e-book file. What a breeze!
It’s also a breeze when people buy my books through Amazon or my publisher, because those places fulfill the order for me, but I get a truly small percentage of the price. On the other hand, I make more if people order the books directly from me, but I’m the one who has to pack and ship them, and each order takes time to fulfill.
E-books have many advantages to both publishers and buyers. They cost less to produce than printed books, so they cost less for buyers, even though they sometimes have a greater profit margin for the seller. They’re certainly easier to deliver than printed books, and buyers can obtain them almost instantly.
On the downside, e-books still don’t sell as well as printed books.
Sovan Mandal’s April 30, 2021, article on Good E Reader noted that according to research by Statista’s Advertising & Media Outlook, almost twice as many printed books sold in 2020 compared to e-books. About 45 percent of the people who bought a book in 2020 bought a printed one, while 23 percent of those who bought a book chose to buy an e-book. Experts are saying that e-books may have a steady market, but e-books only complement the publishing sector; they don’t replace printed books entirely. At least, not yet. In the United States, the second-largest e-book market, 22.7 percent of buyers bought an e-book in 2020 compared to 44.5 percent who bought a printed book.
Although a good supplement to printed books, e-books should not supplant printed books. They still don’t appeal to buyers as strongly as printed books do. Some people are hesitant or forget to go to a website and download the books. Some are afraid. Some don’t want to use a credit card online. Some don’t like reading long works electronically. Many people still like the feel of holding a printed book, as opposed to holding an electronic device.
Although e-book sales have been growing over the years, some people still don’t see the upside to them, which can include clickable links, electronic bookmarks, instant fulfillment, and a lower price. While printing can be costly, e-books avoid the cost of printing, plus you can sell the same file thousands of times and never “run out.” E-books have advantages to both buyers and sellers, but I recommend offering your book in both printed and e-book forms, rather than one or the other.
Bobbie Christmas is a book editor, author of Write In Style: How to Use Your Computer to Improve Your Writing, and owner of Zebra Communications. She will answer your questions too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com or BZebra@aol.com. Read Bobbie’s blog at https://www.zebraeditor.com/blog/.