Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Paper or Electronic?

When I dreamed up this topic, I was so sure I'd have all my answers and ideas right on the tips of my fingers. Not so. There really are so many angles to think about.

To hold a book in your hands, to feel the give of the pages and smell that special smell they have is something I've enjoyed all my life. To hold my own book is enormous. I can't deny that. It's part of why I'm an author. I can't see myself ever becoming a big NY best seller, and to be really honest, I don't want to be. I think the waste of the old way of publishing is horrendous. Runs of thousands of books, many simply destroyed for lack of warehouse space is ludicrous and, I feel, is a slap in the face of anyone who is eco-friendly. That saying, save a tree, read an ebook, comes to mind.

But, having said that, small run presses or print on demand spark a brilliant flash of interest. True, right now it costs more to supply books that way, but that's now. Give it a little time and I'm sure the cost will be more friendly, the concept more acceptable and bookstores will become more used to the idea of ordering ten, fifty, two hundred or whatever of a new release. Yes, there are authors who can sell those enormous numbers and possibly there will be a place for the big printers for awhile, but I truly think the future lies in POD and/or e-books.

E-books, electronic devices for reading them and the environment. Are e-books really all the environmentally friendly? I mean think about it. The author needs a computer to write the book. And software, can't forget those fancy programs we all gush over. A computer is designed to fall apart after a few years, the software is no good on the newer model. Our landfills are growing with the plastics and whatever computers are made of. Manufactured obsolescence is the way of our world and somehow that's got to stop.

Add the cost of e-book readers to this mix and we can see why so many people shy away from this 'new' technology that Ash said has been around since the 70's. I know in my small city there are few people who truly understand e-publishing, and I'm including the bookstore where I've finally managed to get my books on the shelves. Print on demand is still thought of as self publishing. E-books are a mystery. Pirates and readers, and even some authors have no idea what the rules are about giving e-books to friends/families and are shocked to find out it's illegal. As an author, I die of frustration a little bit every time I think about how little the average person knows about what I love so much.

So, print or electronic? Personally, I write for the readers anywhere and everywhere. If I could snap my fingers and educate them all, I would. I believe that's what we all have to do in this every changing world. Educate the masses and show em our books. Sure, there are some authors I may feel aren't up to snuff when it comes to the craft, but readers will discover that in their own good time.

E-book then into print. Yes, to me that's the dream. Cover all the bases. Snag all the readers wherever they are. Yup, I'm greedy. But, I do believe electronic is the future. I also believe there will always be print books out there. Just not as many and possibly priced beyond the average Joe.

I guess we'll all see, won't we? What do you think the future will bring?


  1. I like the idea of a pod machine in the book shop. All my favorite ebooks available for printing when I've saved all my pennies up. Heaven. :)

  2. Hi Jude,

    Great post!

    Personally, I don't think the confusion over E-Books is helped by the fact that, regardles of what medium it's been printed in, most of my output has been described as 'F-Books' ;-)



  3. When I buy a $7.99 paperback, it is mine. I have the right to lend it to a friend, give it away, re-sell it to a used bookseller for $0.50, etc.

    I can read it in the bath-tub or on a crowded train.

    When I buy a $5.99 e-book, I can read it on my laptop or other pricey e-reader. I cannot lend it to a friend, give it away, etc.

    For now, I will stick with my books on paper and read only free materials online.

  4. Hi,Jude,

    I think the situation is confusing because we are smack in the middle of change.

    I can imagine a situation where a reader could buy an electronic book, then produce an affordable print copy at home.

    I believe that eReaders are going to become much cheaper and more widespread.

    And I hope that I'll see a time when epublishers who don't put any effort into editing and who accept anything as long as it has an "alpha male" will be driven out of business by readers looking for quality.

    It's all happening, right now. Next year will very likely be much different than today.


  5. Sarah,

    I'm with you, to some extent. I love the fact that there are choices. An e-book costs so much less than paper. Also, there seems to be an enormous variety of both genre/sub-genre and size with e-books. You can buy a $.99 e-book for cripes sakes. LOL Paper, it's wonderful to hold, and if it's priced well, it'll do great. Easier to drag into the bath for a read too. LOL

    Thanks so much for dropping in and commenting.


  6. Uh Ash,

    I'd ask you to explain what an F-Book is, but I'm afraid you'd reply. LOL Personally, I like your books, but I do think the fems are on the wrong end of the stick...*G*


  7. Anonymous,

    Some valid points and ones I hope will be ironed out in the very near future.

    I think if there was some way to make e-books more like a paper book in that once you give it or lend it, the first copy vanishes, all our problems would be solved. That's the big issue with lending them. One copy can become thousands and the author, who has worked so hard to create the book, gets nothing for all those copies.

    The price of e-readers is coming down, and I believe they'll continue to do so. I do wonder how long this built in obsolescence will be with us. A hundred years ago, things were built to last. Now, things are built to fall apart. Sad.

    Thanks so much for giving your opinions. I tend to agree with you and hope things progress until electronic is more user friendly.


  8. Lisabet,

    The affordability of eReaders has got to happen. Right now, they talk about college kids or uni students using e-books instead of buying paper. Less expensive, they say. But, until prices come down, I"m not so sure about that. I know I don't have a reader, they're going to have to come down in price a lot before I can justify owning one.

    I completely agree with you in that e-publishing is in its infancy. Growing pains is killing off some of the new e-pubs, and some are simply over-reaching themselves. As time goes by, we'll see a much stronger, sleeker bunch who will take only the better work. A bit scary, but also a lot exciting.

    Thanks for stopping by today.


  9. I will always like print books more than e-books. I prefer to hold the book in my hands.

  10. Hi Patsy,

    Sometimes I think that's a generation thing. (I'm not saying you're old, honest) We, meaning me, grew up with holding paper books and that's not a bad thing. The younger generation have too, to some extent. But, they seem to revel in the technology of computers and all that goes with them. Perhaps they'll feel the same way about holding a reader ten/twenty years from now. I hope I'm around to find out.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and offering your take on this.

  11. I also love to hold a book in my hands, but I LOVE my e-Reader! I have one of the cheapest readers on the market, I can hold about 200 books and take it with me everywhere. I still buy/win print of authors that I love, but mostly I orefer e-books!

  12. Marcy,

    I really hope reader prices keep coming down. That's the biggest hurdle for a lot of people I've talked to. They want one, but can't afford it. It'd sure save a lot of room...*eying the three bookcases in here*

    Thanks for sharing your take on the subject.


  13. If you figure out that 'snap your fingers and educate people' thing let me know, I have a few more projects for you!

    Great post, Jude.



  14. Jenna,

    Well crap! My snapper broke. LOL It'd be nice, but I'm pretty sure it's going to take a lot of time before people are really comfortable with the technology and the cost makes it feasible for more people to buy eReaders, unfortunately.

    I'll work on my snapper thing. LOL

    Thanks for stopping in.


  15. I like both types of books. As much as I love my paper books I think there is a lot to be said for eBooks, including the fact they don't kill trees for them. My biggest concern is longevity for the eBooks. You can keep a print book, but they can get really musty. eBooks eliminate that but proprietary formats make changing from one reader to another really difficult. It's why I mostly get PDFs or HTML.

  16. Hi Connie,

    You make so much sense to me. Saving our trees is one very good reason e-books are a plus. I know there are a variety of formats for e-books, so my only concern is security. Not for you, the reader, but pirating e-books is too easy.

    Oh, I like PDF format, I love putting them together and am learning to make the pages different colors and such. Yeah, I know, not a biggie in the world of stuff, but I amuse easily. LOL

    Thanks for stopping in!


  17. I read both types, but prefer paper. I raely buy hardback books because of the cost and I simply don't have room for them, after a lifetime of collecting. I go for paperbacks, and have a fairly large collection. One thing you can do with a book colection is simply scan along the shelves and see one you haven't read for a long time - you can never do that with an e-book.

    That said, an e-book is so easy to store, but also so inaccesible if the computer fails. It's somehow not like buying a possession, it's buying something quite transient - one mistake, one failure in hardware and it's gone. Also I enjoy reading in bed (among other things) and I have yet to take my computer to bed with me!

    So, on balance I would always opt for a paperback, but I still enjoy e-books too - I just don't feel the same attachment to them.

    Interesting post, thanks Jude

  18. Print or electronic? I definitely prefer print. There's nothing like having a book in my hands. As the story evolves, I feel like I'm right there in it, watching it develop and play itself out. I admit I do have a huge eclectic collection of e-books and I read them now and again, but it's terribly difficult to wrap my fingers around those!

  19. I used to be one of those people who loved holding dead trees. But once I got my Kindle I got over that emotion fast.

    As a college professor at a community college, where many of my students come from lower-income families, I am very concerned about the price of textbooks. Our basic composition handbook is about $60, and textbooks in the sciences often go for up to $200.

    I hope that we will see a good e-reader in the future (I think the Kindle DX is working toward this) that would significantly lower the price of textbooks. (Since lots of my students get their books on financial aid, they could get the e-reader that way, too.)

    This would knock out the huge market in used textbooks, which forces the publishers to update their editions every year or two (a real pain for the professor).

    With luck, this would lead to a big drop in text prices, and fewer excuses from students about not having the book. (Oh, here, hand me your e-reader and I'll help you download the text right now!)

  20. Sony is coming out with two more versions of their eReader. They will be less expensive than the current ones.

  21. At the risk of feeling as if I'm harping on about it (but I will say it anyway *g*), postage and currency conversion make print books (that I really want to read) impossible other than as a special treat. If ebooks become more difficult to access, I'm going back to the (boring) mainstream fiction available in my local library and the free (slash) fanfic available online (with the occasional visit to the Romance & SF/SFF specialist bookshop on the other outskirts of this city).
    Countries without large populations, especially those at the end of the world, cannot provide the competition at bricks and mortar level for great pricing, nor is anyone interested in shipping here for free (confession, I have not yet tried The Book Depository, which seems to be freight free, as I haven't found more than a single title there I want that I don't already have. Need to check back there).
    When my Palm T3 died about 3 months ago, I bought a netbook (Aspire Eee thingy). I love it - it is light, has a battery-life of 9.5hours, can read any electronic format without a problem and I can claim it is also a extra backup option for the desktop!

    Cheers :)
    p.s. And there there are the already over-burdened bookcases, the sagging bookshelves, the boxes in the wardrobe, the bookpile by the bed ..


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