Steve Bearden

If you’ve just put the finishing touches on your novel, memoir, poetry collection, or photo book, you’re one step away from sharing it with the world. But what’s the best way to publish your book – a digital eBook or a print copy?

These days, some people might tell you that eBooks are obviously the better option. After all, we’re living in the future where everything is digital – don’t you want to keep up with the times?

The truth, however, is a little more complicated. The argument of whether a custom printed book or eBook is better for self-publishers has great arguments on both sides. Let’s dive into them, shall we?

According to recent data from the Association of American Publishers, eBook sales have actually been on a downward trend for the past several years. Total eBook sales in the US in 2019 declined to $983 million, while hardcover books alone made $3 billion and paperbacks made $2.5 billion that year. Still, those are huge numbers no matter how you look at it which show that readers are excited about reading books, regardless of the format.

Benefits of eBooks

Have you ever tried carrying around multiple books? They can get seriously heavy, and fast! On the contrary, you can fit thousands of eBooks on a phone, tablet, or eReader device. That means any book you want to read is a few touches of a finger away at any moment – just make sure the batteries are charged!

eBooks are also much easier to get in your hands (figuratively) than physical copies. All you have to do is search an online store, make your purchase, and download them to your device – no going to a bookstore required. eBooks are also cheaper in general, coming in at sometimes half the price (or less) of a print book.

Benefits of Print Books

Anyone old enough to remember the early 2000s loves the way a print book feels to read. Turning the pages, touching the paper, and proudly displaying it on a bookshelf are some of the greatest joys an avid reader can experience. Many readers love to collect books – even if they don’t get around to reading them immediately. Just knowing that a book is there waiting for them to dive into it, full of new and wondrous events and memories, is reason enough for them to buy a physical copy.

Print books also have higher quality images, illustrations, and font resolution. Readers who purchase an eBook with pictures or unusual font choices can find them difficult to make out due to their shrunken size. Plus, navigating around images and between pages on a physical book is dramatically easier than on an eReader, phone, or tablet. Some readers even complain about eye strain from long-term use of the bright, often grainy screens of eReaders.

Extra Considerations

Many self-publishing authors think eBooks are the cheaper route for publishing their work but are often surprised to discover the costs of posting them to online stores. Sellers like Barnes & Noble and Amazon take significant cuts from each sale, which can seriously cut into profits.

Also, eBooks are not simply Microsoft Word documents uploaded to the Internet. In many cases, self-publishers have to hire experts to convert their work into proper formats like EPUB or MOBI just so people can read them on their devices of choice. These costs can add up dramatically over time.

Why Not Both?

Just because eBook sales and hardcover/paperback sales seem to be in competition each year, they really aren’t. At the end of the day, the same books are being purchased and read one way or another. It all depends on what each individual consumer wants to read, and how they want to read it. Plus, some of those readers are buying both a digital copy and a physical copy, so they can while read on-the-go and when they’re curled up in bed each night.

In other words, when you’re ready to publish, your main question should not be which format you want to stick with, but rather which format you want to start with first.

For more helpful information on the self-publishing world, check out the Linemark blog each week!

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