For new authors and experienced authors alike, it is imperative to keep honing our craft and learning new things. For this reason, I recently became active in a writing group on one of the social sites. I was interested in getting their opinion on a certain subject, so I posed a query to the group: What are your thoughts on eBooks vs. printed books? I was quite surprised by the amount of responses I received. It seems that for most, there is an emotional connection to the printed page. After reading the responses, I thought it would be a good idea to address the subject further.
As authors it is our job to express ourselves in words, to craft a story with the flow of beauty and to paint a picture in our reader’s minds. It is our passion, it is our life. Does it matter what venue our labor of love is presented on? With the advent of eBooks and growing industry surrounding them, will our beloved books be preserved on paper?
How many of you swore when you were younger that you would never give up your vinyl records and albums? Most of us thought the CD would go the way of the 8-track tape. None of us could imagine listening to this impersonal piece of metal. There was no character to them, no vinyl smell and limited artwork; yes, the sound was better, but it was the whole experience we wanted. The scratches added character and richness to the music. Will this be the path of eBooks?
Will eBooks replace the paper books we love? They certainly have their merit, such as the CD over vinyl, yet the experience is totally different. A bound book, with a worn spine and the yellowed and torn pages, can it really be replaced by a piece of machinery? EBooks enable us to carry as many books as we would like without having to labor under their weight. We can download a book over the internet and not have to leave the comfort of our homes. On vacation we don’t have to seek out a local bookstore in order to have something to read when we finish what we brought with us. In our homes, our bookshelves do not have to be cluttered with copies of our favorite books. Then of course there is the matter of trees; conserving our resources. Yet there is another side to that conservation. Technology itself is taxing on our resources, so which is better? Do we save the trees and deplete our other resources in the name of convenience?
Those of us who love the feel of a book in our hands may have strong feelings about eBooks vs. paper books. There is an emotional connection to a paper book that is lacking in an electronic copy of the same work. There is nothing like the weight of a beloved friend in our hands, the well worn pages of a truly loved book, the smell of the paper and the silken feel of it between our fingers as we turn a page. Seeing your own book on the shelf of the library or bookstore invokes an emotional response. There is a feeling of satisfaction and a thrill of seeing your work on that shelf. Will we still feel that way when we are looking at a digitized copy on a computer screen? Probably not; how sad it will be to lose that experience of walking into a bookstore and browsing amongst the shelves for just the right book, the one that jumps out at us asking to be read as we sit by the pool, on our deck or in our favorite comfy chair. Yet for our children and their children, the experience of the printed page is not as important as it is to us. The readers of the future are growing up in a digitized age. Computer screens are replacing textbooks and workbooks in the schools just as the ipod is now replacing the CD. We authors need to realize that the future may lie with these electronic versions of our work. The eBook market is expanding rapidly (currently it is 8% of book sales, but it is expected to rise to 25% by 2012) and it is foolish, in my opinion to ignore it. Printed books may be going the way of the vinyl album, but I do not believe it will be a quick death. There will always be printed books, just as there are still, in some instances scrolls of papyrus in existence. I don’t believe that we will see the disappearance of printed books in our lifetime, yet at some distant point in the future, the printed book will become as scarce as that scroll of papyrus that you see in the museum. There will always be connoisseurs of the written word whose shelves will be lined with leather bound copies of the classics; but for the common consumer, the reader we are trying to reach out to and whose hearts and imaginations we are trying to touch, the eBook will be the norm.
It is the age of computers and digitalization and we need to consider that this may be the future of the written word. I personally do not own a kindle nor do I intend to read my books on that format. I do embrace the future in that my books are available on all three formats: hardback, paperback and electronic. I for one do not wish to ignore a growing segment of the market. Those who are already buying electronic versions will wait until the book they want to buy comes out in that venue and then they will buy. If you do not publish in this sector, you are missing a growing part of your audience, and what author wants to miss out on that chance to touch someone’s heart? Why deny the public what they want when it is our job to give them exactly that?