Friday, August 31, 2012

Making the choice between e-book and print

Yesterday I posted a review of the excellent Publish Like the Pros by Michele DeFillippo of 1106 Design. Today I am pleased to publish this blog's very first guest post, by Michele.

What is an Author to Do? 

Put yourself in the way-back machine, all the way back to the year 1999. Among the things you might do if you could rewind the clock 13 years (worry about Y2K, party like it’s 1999, etc.), imagine yourself having a conversation with a person who prints books.

At that time, some adventurous souls were reading books on their Palm Pilots. Previous to that, there was the Sony Discman, which apparently had books on CDs! Regardless, the audience for eBooks was limited, and the closest most people got to an eBook was online help or a PDF.

However, if you were to talk to the owner of a book printing business in 1999, you might find he or she feeling that computerized readers could one day be a threat to the book printing industry, but that these devices would not hurt the market for traditional printed books until such time as they could replicate the experience of reading a paper book: the visual appeal of a well-designed book, the rustle of the turning page, the pleasure of a lovely font, the anticipation of returning directly to your bookmarked page.

Well, as we all know, that day has arrived.

Many self-publishers feel that they can “get away” with producing an eBook only, and save themselves a lot of money by not printing a pile of books in anticipation of sales that may never materialize. They ask themselves: “Who wants to buy a printed book when the same content can be downloaded in an eBook format for half the price?”

They have a point. According to a March 2012 blog post on the PC World website entitled eReader Sales Down: Way Down, global sales in 2011 of dedicated eReaders (not to be confused with multi-purpose tablets) rose 107% over 2010, and yearly global sales should reach 60 million units by 2015 (what were “down” were sales of “e-ink” readers, those that only display print in black and not color). But even with sales figures like these, there are plenty of people who prefer the printed book, and many who continue to buy printed books for reading at home while purchasing the eBook versions for travel and commuting.

So with the market divided, what is a self-publisher to do? The answer is: do both. The cost of producing both an eBook and a printed book is not as much as one might think. Print-on-demand services allow an author to print only enough books to fill existing orders, and while it’s a little more expensive than traditional offset printing, print-on-demand is a good route to take until demand for the book is established and predictable.

Some authors might hesitate to spend money on book cover design and interior layout for two versions of the same book. They try to save money by not hiring a professional book designer for the eBook project; after all, what is an eBook except for a glorified PDF? The opposite is true, and as the eReader technology improves over time, good design becomes even more critical. For example, the demand for color eReaders and multi-purpose tablets is increasing, placing added pressure on an author to have a fabulous book design that takes advantage of sophisticated displays.

Many professional designers will work at a reduced rate to reproduce the cover for the eBook version, lay out the interior pages and code the book for the eReader, provided they were also hired to design the print version. Authors must hire a person with eBook expertise to insert the coding that makes the book usable on popular eReaders. Why not spend that money on good book design for the print version and then spend a little more to have it prepared for eBook publication as well?

Authors who choose to produce only a printed book, or only an eBook, and not both, run the risk of distancing at least part of their potential audience. By spending just a little bit more to produce both formats, a self-publishing author can maximize the book’s market.

Michele DeFilippo owns 1106 Design, a Phoenix-based company that works with authors, publishers, business pros, coaches, consultants, speakers . . . anyone who wants a beautiful book, meticulously prepared to industry standards. 1106 Design offers top-quality cover design, beautifully designed and typeset interiors, manuscript editing, indexing, title consulting, and expert self-publishing advice. Michele’s first book, Publish Like the Pros: A Brief Guide to Quality Self-Publishing (and an Insider's Look at a Misunderstood Industry) is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions!


  1. Good advice. Sometimes I've bought an ebook and later bought a printed version of the same book to give as a gift. It's hard to put a ribbon on an ebook.

  2. This principle, fairly straightforward when applied to physical objects, becomes more complex for "objects" such as MP3 files or e-books that exist only as bits of digital information. In response to file-sharing sites, which attempted to apply the doctrine of first sale to digital content, copyright holders began to assert that content transmitted digitally was licensed rather than sold.

    Digital Book Printing