The Tug-Of-War Between Pixel and Print

Let’s face it, as a writer a printed publication of your work somehow seems more ‘legit’ than digital.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s quite an accomplishment to have any work published—whether it’s electronically or physically. But the crowning glory still seems to be a printed book. Publishers—rightfully so—carefully guard which titles go to print. And even authors who’ve signed with a publisher often find the road to print publication is long, as printed copies are often reserved for titles that prove out their popularity in the first year of digital publication.

The data certainly seems to support that. Seventy two percent of Americans last year read a printed book vs. 28% who read a digital book.

While there’s no doubt that the printed book provides a nostalgic and very tactile experience, the move to digital books is gaining ground.  Cell phones and tablets have taken center stage allowing greater accessibility to content and allowing more authors to  become self-made successes. Established authors are also reaping the benefits as they see increased sales through the digital channel.

And, with commerce sites like Amazon making digital publishing easy and accessible, new authors are adding their digital signature to the ever-growing library of content. Add to that the fact that many Amazon users and avid readers see book recommendations based on past purchase history, and you have a powerful new tool in an author’s tool belt!

Instant gratification

As readers and authors utilize sites like Amazon for ebooks, readers become more likely to provide ratings and purchases.  As verified purchasers positively rate a book on Amazon, it grows in popularity and shows up more easily due, in large part, to Amazon’s robust search functionality.  And, as others add their voice to the choir, an author’s chance of gaining additional exposure rises exponentially.

But digital publishing has far greater rewards than the ease at which authors can hit the electronic newsstand. The cost effective nature of digital books also allows them to be sold at lower costs, hence making them even more appealing to budget constrained readers.  In a brick and mortar store, a new author name can be a bit of a risk but electronic books remove some of the risk by making it cost effective to give new authors a try. And with Amazon’s KindleUnlimited program, the risk of trying a new author becomes almost negligible. 

From a reader perspective, the advantages seem obvious. The very fact that most digital readers can hold thousands of books is worthy of the highest honors. I used to deliberate for several days which book(s) to take on vacation. Terry Goodkind and Robert Jordan were always top of my list until I actually started packing. It soon became apparent that I had to change my strategy. Pile on the probability that I would likely finish one book and want to start another, and I was looking at a good five pound adder.

Shoes or books . . . hmmm.

So for me, making the switch to digital was an easy choice. I now have all my favorite authors at my fingertips and if none are singing to me, I simply have to browse a library (from wherever I am—ok, as long as there is an internet connection!), and I can instantly add several more titles to my collection.

All in all, not a bad way to go.

Print is here to stay

While there’s no doubt that digital publishing will continue to grow, it’s safe to say that the printed book isn’t going anywhere. After all, until the digital book can replicate the smell of old pages and musty bindings, there will always be something that draws an avid reader to the printed word.

Karlene Cameron and Dark Awakening

While the digital revolution is clearly upon us, I’m not counting print out just yet. After all, I love the way Dark Awakening and Dark Gathering looks in print.