The power of a printed book

Posted on April 25, 2012 (Subscribe to Blog)

In the last year, the majority of my sales have been Kindle and Nook e-books. But sometimes I'm reminded of the power of printed books.

Recently, Heather Sutherlin emailed me to say:

"I enjoyed your book, Island of Fog, very much and would love to review it on my blog, kidsgottawrite.blogspot.com. I would love to have you guest post, if you are willing, on a topic for young writers or parents/teachers of young writers."

Of course I was willing, so I wrote something and Heather blogged about it here. After that I sent Heather the whole set, and when she received the box, she emailed me to say:

Keith! I got your package this week!!!! It was kind of funny and a moment I wish I had recorded so that I could share it with all of my writer friends who self-publish. I had been telling my kids they should read your books and my son will only read books about dragons right now (he's Asperger's and more a little obsessive about things). Well, when he saw me open that box and pull out the books he turned to me with complete annoyance and said, "Why didn't you tell me they had dragons?!" And my daughter said, "Hey, look! Here's one about a mermaid."

It made me realize how very important our covers are, even when we want to tell ourselves they aren't, and also seeing them hold the actual books was really fabulous. You just can't entirely replace the power of a printed book in a kid's hands.

So, thanks a million for the books! We are devouring them here and my daughter is reading as fast as she can to get to that mermaid tale. ;)

Which is why I'll always have printed editions of ALL my books available even though the majority of sales might be Kindle or Nook e-books. Plus, it's far more satisfying to hold a printed edition than stare at an image on a screen.

That said, e-books are far easier to put together. They're completely free to publish, and you don't have to worry about such things as the resolution of the cover, obtaining a suitably large image, making sure it's CMYK for Lightning Source's pre-flight requirements, getting the spine size exactly right, choosing between white and cream paper stock, paying and waiting for proof copies, forking out for a shipment of stock copies, packaging them up when someone buys a copy... With an e-book, there's some formatting to do of course, but the process is far, far quicker. And if I need to make a change to the text, I just re-upload the file and the book is updated within 24 hours. Easy.

But still.

There will always be a place for printed editions, and in my opinion, authors who "don't bother" having that alternative are just slamming the door in a lot of readers' faces. Not everyone likes reading books on Kindle and Nook. I don't either; with my website design business, I stare at the screen enough throughout the day without adding to it.

What about you? Do you prefer electronic, print, or either?

Comment by GUANOMERE on Wednesday, April 25, 2012...

You can't play down the look and feel of a brand new book! The weight, the smell, the turn of every fresh page... there's something reassuring and personal about it all. Plus, you don't have to worry about that next electromagnetic pulse. Not unless you're reading at night and the lights stop working. But then there's always candles, and... Sorry, I've stumbled off the beaten path.

Comment by BRIAN B on Wednesday, April 25, 2012...

Give me a paper book anyday! I know it's not good for the environment and it seems like a big pain to print and distribute but.... Put it this way, I have hauled my 400+ vinyl LPs through 11 addresses on 2 continents for the past 30 years. And I am so glad I did. Now about the 12 boxes of books still in the attic..! Many of them hold fond memories.

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Wednesday, April 25, 2012...

Yes, we should all hold on to our books in case of the apocalypse that renders all electronics useless. Plus, we can burn not-so-good books to keep us warm and cook food. So printed books are good for survival as well. Try burning a Kindle! (Although Bear Grylls used a mobile phone battery to start a camp fire (see here) so keep hold of those dead mobile phones, folks!

Comment by DADDEE on Wednesday, April 25, 2012...

Not tried Kindle or Nook yet, but would need my arms severely twisted to tear me away from books.

Comment by JAMES L on Wednesday, April 25, 2012...

I also personally prefer hard copies of books, but Keith, just to clarify one thing about e-readers, the screens on Nooks and Kindles etc are not like regular computer screens because they are not backlit. If it is in terms of your straining your eyes from staring at too many screens that is one of the reasons which puts you off them, then that actually shouldn't be an issue at all. I don't presume that you don't already know this, it's just a common criticism of e-readers which is, in fact, a fallacy.

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Wednesday, April 25, 2012...

James, you're right about Kindle screens being easy on the eyes, but that's only if you own an actual Kindle. Many people just use Kindle apps on phones, iPads, etc, and those ARE backlit. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm not ready to fork out for a device even though in the long run it might be cheaper. Plus, using a phone, laptop or tablet means you can try and compare other apps as well — for instance Kobo and Aldiko — which are also free. But yes, from what I've seen of the Kindle (and Nook), its screen is really nice and easy on the eye.

Like DaDDee above, I'm sticking with printed books for now... but I suspect I might be starting to wobble on this subject this time next year!

Comment by LYNDA on Wednesday, June 27, 2012...

I love both my kindle and printed books. My kindle goes everywhere with me and I read when stuck at traffic lights and even when cleaning my teeth. My children bought my kindle for me for my birthday/mother's day this year as they were on the same day and this is the first present they have bought together and had to save for - so extra special because of that. But.... love the feel of a book and having complete sets of certain books, will be ordering the others of yours in paper form soon :-) Great to have so much choice in electronic and paper versions - am sure they will both continue for many years to come not one cancelling out the other . That's what I think anyhooo .

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