I self-published my first book way back in 2002, when ebooks weren’t an option and printing on your own wasn’t cheap. I eventually landed a book deal but never left my self-publishing roots, as I decided to continue to self-publish, even with a book deal. Today, as I prepare for the release of my next nonfiction book, Connect and Conquer: Grow Your Business, Organization, and Career Through Online and Offline Relationships, I’m faced with deciding whether to go ebook only. In fact, I’m sooo tempted to go ebook only, and had decided to do just that. After all, everybody is reading ebooks these days, right?
As I considered more and more whether to go ebook only, I realized it’s not as simple as deciding to ditch the print version.
The ebook craze of the past six years has changed publishing in a big way: It’s given entry to more authors than ever before. Many who could not afford to produce their books before because of higher production costs that included printing are now able to put their work into the marketplace as ebooks. And authors who were able to afford the cost now find they can publish more often, thanks to the lower production cost of ebooks.
Ebook sales outpace print, which is exciting news for authors as we see that readers are happily consuming what we produce. But publishing an ebook doesn’t necessarily mean you can abandon the printed book, especially if you are using a book to grow your business. Ebooks are wonderful. They provide a different reading experience, access to publishing for more authors, and often a less expensive option to the printed book for the buyer.
Here are four reasons why you still need a printed book:
1. Book events and speaking engagements. If you want to sell books in the back of the room at a speaking engagement, having a printed book is quite helpful. You can induce people to go to a website to buy your ebook, but you will lose some sales at your event without a print option. That is because many people will make impulse purchases on the spot if they liked what you said or felt a connection to you when you spoke. And others will want to purchase the book from you so they can have it signed right there.
2. The reader’s experience. Ebooks are great because they are portable and convenient, but the reading experience sometimes lags behind that of a printed book, depending on the reader’s needs. If the reader is using the book as a reference or information source such as a travel guide or instruction book, then getting from passage to passage can be a bit tricky sometimes. For instance, while ebooks allow bookmarking of pages that can be likened to the dogearing of the pages of a printed book, going back and forth between passages can be a bit clumsy. It’s not as easy as dogearing a page or holding a finger between two pages to flip between the two. Remember, we are still in very early development of ebook technology. Ebook technology a few years from now may offer as much convenience of a printed book, but for now, it’s just not there, not in this particular instance.
3. Perception of value. We can pack a lot of information into ebooks. And the ease of publishing allows us to conveniently update. But readers aren’t willing to pay the same for an ebook that they pay for a printed book. In the minds of many readers, ebooks, by virtue of the technology, are worth less. Many readers have thresholds of what they will pay for ebooks. Some won’t pay more than $4.99 or $6.99. But for a printed book, they will pay $15.95 or $24.95 or more. So if you have published “only” an ebook, some readers see that as less valuable than a printed book containing the same information. So consider how you want your expertise and business to be perceived. In some instances, producing only an ebook may work, especially if you are using the ebook as a lead generator on your website. But if you are using the book to build your expertise or credibility or you will use it on the speaking circuit, then you may suffer from reduced perception of value.
4. Access. Ereaders and tablets are quickly gaining in popularity, but that doesn’t mean everyone has an ereader or tablet. In fact, about one-fourth of Americans own a tablet, while about one-third own a tablet or an ereader, leaving three-fourths or two-thirds without ereaders and tablets. Households earning $75,000 or more a year report more ebook usage than those earning less. So consider your target audience and whether it is likely to read books in digital or print format.
Of course there is the bonus reason why you need a printed book: Legacy and permanence. When a reader buys a printed book, the reader owns it. He or she can put it on a bookshelf and pass it to the next generation. When your reader purchases your ebook, it’s pretty much a loan, as the online book vendor can delete the information from the reader’s account. Imagine, one moment your reader has the ebook he or she has just purchased and downloaded. The next moment, it’s gone, taken back by the vendor for some reason.
I love ebooks and believe they are certainly our reading future. But I will continue to produce print versions a bit longer; after all, deciding to publish a book for your business doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition when it comes to how you will produce it.
How do you decide whether to publish in print or ebook format?