physical booksNot a week goes by without another article about the death of physical books, and parallel rise of the ebook.

August saw eBook sales overtake print sales on Amazon, with something like 114 ebooks sold for every 100 paperbacks. Just this week, Digital Book World reported that digital sales were up by 34%, with paperback sales slumping by 20%. Traditionalists worldwide began to cry tears of mourning, whilst digital commentators sat smug-faced, with ‘I told you so’ smiles.

But what does the supposed demise of physical books mean for the future? The only answer anyone can really give is this: we do not know.

A while back, I made a somewhat radical claim that we’re moving away from a world of ownership and more into a ‘rental’ mindset. Perhaps this will happen – Spotify and other music streaming services are flying the flag for such a business model in the music industry.

Or, maybe physical books will display a vinyl-like resilience; a collectors item for the dedicated fan rather than an everyday mainstream item.

What do I think? Personally, I think physical books will coexist alongside ebooks for many years to come, although I do feel a ‘streaming’ model funded by advertising/monthly fee is the future of reading.

I couldn’t help feeling somewhat smug when Oyster, a new startup vying to be the ‘Spotify for books’, received a $3million backing from the Founders Fund last week. Although not identical, this is the sort of thing I was talking about when I hypothesised about a Spotify for Books a few weeks ago.

The truth is, the future is unclear. And that’s what’s so exciting about it. Let’s watch it play out and see what happens.

What about the present?

Some authors are ditching physical books and going ‘ebook only’, or at least considering it. I don’t believe this is a wise move; at least, not yet.

Dean Wesley Smith argues that a writer should launch a paperback copy of every book, primarily to show off just how reasonable your ebook price is.

Think of it this way: you have an ebook out for $4.99. That’s cool – a reasonable price that’s not so cheap that it portrays a lack of confidence in quality, but not too expensive to put off potential buyers.

Now, imagine you have that $4.99 ebook, and a $13.99 paperback copy. Readers will see that they’re saving a crazy $9 by purchasing the ebook version, so it really does scream ‘bargain’ to them, more so than just a standalone $4.99 ebook.

Be careful how low you price your ebook in relation to your paperback though. I’ll be talking about pricing in next month’s publishing post (third Wednesday of the month), but basically, if you’re selling your ebooks for 99c whilst your physical books are $14.99, something doesn’t look quite right. It’s too much of a gap.

The other positives of physical books

I’m a big fan of e-reading. I don’t actually own a Kindle myself, but I do regularly use both the iPad and iPhone apps, and find them great.

However, there’s still something magical about reading physical books. That smell of fresh paper. I’m a sucker for that smell.

Smells aside, I can’t wait to hold a copy of What We Saw in my hands. It’ll be an absolutely magical experience, no doubt, and one I can’t wait to share with you. Which brings me on to another point…

What We Saw launch details

If you follow me on Twitter or ‘like’ the Facebook page, you’ll have got the news that What We Saw, my debut novel, is officially launching on 6th December 2012.

I did postpone the launch until after Christmas a couple of weeks ago, but I’m confident I can fulfil this target. I receive my line edit feedback later today, and after that, it’ll just be a case of proofreading and formatting the thing.

If you’re an email subscriber, of which I only send out notifications regarding my upcoming releases every few months, you’ll have received details of where you can buy the book and the prices. For everyone else: What We Saw will be available to buy from Amazon on launch day, as both a paperback ($13.99/£8.99) and eBook ($4.99/£3.99). The prices are subject to change, and probably will. Pricing is a bastard.

Also, the eBook will be Amazon exclusive until 2013, unless people kick up enough of a fuss to convince me not to go KDP Select. Regardless, it’ll only be exclusive for three months, before jumping on to other eReaders.

I’ll probably put a PDF up of the opening chapters over the next couple of weeks. Of course, sign up to that new release mailing list to be first to hear about it.

See you on Friday for Part 3 of the ‘Author Platform’ series. I hope you’re enjoying it.


Do you prefer ebooks or physical books? Have you converted to digital books, or do you still prefer the reading experience the paperback offers?

Image courtesy of Ian Wilson via Flickr. What We Saw cover Copyright Ryan Casey 2012.