Hi, SEers! It’s another Mae Day in May 🙂
Back in the late 1970s, Miller introduced their lite beer with a series of commercials dividing fans into two camps. One side championed “tastes great.” The other side loved it because it was “less filling.” The ads featured a roster of athletes and celebrities, done with tongue in cheek humor. You might remember some of these commercials with Bubba Smith, Rodney Dangerfield, Mickey Spillane, Billy Martin, and George Steinbrenner to name a few.
So why am I bringing up a beer commercial on a writing blog?
Books can also fall into two camps: Ebooks and Print
Do you remember when ebooks were predicted to bury print? As in six-feet-under, dead-as-a-door nail? Predictions aren’t always spot on. Just for fun, I dug up a few I thought were interesting:
“It doesn’t matter what he does, he will never amount to anything.”
– Albert Einstein’s teacher to his father in 1895.
“A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.”
– The New York Times, 1936.
“Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan.” – Mary Somerville, pioneer of radio educational broadcasts, 1948.
“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” – Decca Recording Co., rejecting The Beatles, 1962.
Pretty bad predictions, huh? Not just off the mark a little, more like a landslide of wrong.
Now, let’s look at ebooks vs. print books.
Amazon introduced it’s first Kindle in 2007. By 2010 The ebook boom was in full swing. I’m currently on my fourth Kindle. My latest is the waterproof version so I can read on a raft in my pool this summer. I love my Kindle and devour books on a regular basis. Looking back over 2019, I purchased 155 ebooks from Amazon. That averages out to almost thirteen books a month. Some of those were freebies, but the indication is clear—I’m addicted to my Kindle.
I certainly didn’t buy thirteen print books a month in 2019, but I still love reading print from time to time, especially a big, fat paperback. I’m thankful I can walk into my local bookstore and browse the shelves. It’s just not the same when browsing Amazon or Goodreads. All readers know that wonderful bookstore smell, the feel of holding a book in your hand, and roaming through aisles of shiny covers. I sincerely hope brick-and-mortar stores never go away. It does seem that rumors touting the death of print were premature. Maybe not as bad as Decca Records rejecting The Beatles in 1962, but still off base.
According to an article published by CNBC, print books raked in $22.6 billion in revenue in 2019, while ebooks took in $2.04 billion.* Numbers like this indicate that print is still viable and going strong. I have a floor-to-ceiling bookcase, each shelf packed like the shot below to prove it.
Surprisingly it seems to be millennials who favor print over ebooks. The boomer generation is the largest consumer group for ebooks. Perhaps because the convenience of not having to go to a store. Toss in the benefit of adjusting print size and ebooks can be very appealing, especially if you rely on glasses to read—like me.
It’s pretty clear that ebooks have not buried print. It also seems clear that print is here to stay for the foreseeable future. As authors, we can benefit from both epublications and print. The online world is geared toward ebooks, while print works best for local author festivals and regional promotions. Readers will always have their preference, but as writers we can find value in both. I am always surprised by the number of print books I sell, and also by the number of my regular readers who will have nothing to do with ebooks. Thankfully, we have the means to reach both camps.
Although . . . it sure would be fun to see some of those old 1970s Miller Lite celebrities with Kindles and paperbacks yelling “convenient to carry” versus “smells great!”
What’s your preference (and no, I’m not talking about beer). Do you see a benefit of one over the other, or are you like me—happy to embrace both camps? Let’s chat print vs. ebooks in the comments below.
Ready, set, go!
*as per the 2019 annual report of the Association of American Publishers, which includes fiction, trade and educational books