E-book or Print

Judy Alter give her thoughts on this question:

I plunged headlong into the book world both as author and publisher in the 1980s, a different world from today. Hardcover books were the norm, and we used to agonize over the print run—1,000 copies, 1500? We didn’t want to run out but neither did we want a stock of unsold books in the warehouse. It was strictly a crap shoot—sometimes we lost, sometimes we won big time. After a book came close to selling out its cloth edition, we went to trade paper, assuming sales justified it. Then along came Print on Demand (or Print to Order as some call it) and e-books, and the whole publishing world turned topsy-turvy. I’m not sure it’s righted itself yet. Don’t get me wrong—I think both technological advances are great for both publishers and authors.

I retired from publishing (I was director of a small academic press) four years ago and turned my attention to what I really wanted to do—writing mystery novels. After the usual futile try to find and agent, I was fortunate enough to find a home with a wonderful small press, Turquoise Morning Press. I didn’t know it at the time, but the press was less than a year old. Now, with five years under its belt, it’s grown dramatically. And things have changed. TMP is now first a digital publisher, which means print comes much later than the digital edition. And this has set me to thinking about the important of print—or whether it’s important.
I have no statistics but mystery lists online are full of opinions—e-books are dying; e-books are flourishing; the sale of digital readers is down (but not out); the e-book sales surge is over; e-book sales are climbing; the free book program (principally on Kindle) is no longer as effective for publicity and increasing sales as it was when new. 

A couple of things are obvious: I think the free book program in general is not as effective, though there are exceptions and the Goodreads giveaway program still seems to be working; more people are reading e-books but with the increased opportunities for self-publishing, more people are publishing them. So for the self-publisher, it’s a question of whether or not your book will be found.

And that, to me, is where print books come in. Print books are easier to promote—through reviews, signings, giveaways, etc. Sure, there’s an ego thing about having a book in hand, but I know enough about economics to realize that ego is not enough to justify print. But I still think print is important…and I have at least a few fans who don’t do e-books and are waiting for the print of my latest, Murder at the Blue Plate Café. The books were finally available in mid-June, after the e-book appeared in February. Meanwhile, my next book, Danger Comes Home, debuts as an ebook this week. 

Abut Judy Alter:

An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of four books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, and Danger Comes Home. She is also the author of Murder at the Blue Plate Café.

Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame. 

Judy is retired as director of TCU Press. She is the mother of four grown children and the grandmother of seven. She and her dog live in Fort Worth, Texas.

Danger Come Home Blurb:

Kelly O’Connell’s husband, Mike Shandy, insists she has a talent for trouble, but how can she sit idly by while her world is shattering. Daughter Maggie is hiding a runaway classmate; protégé Joe Mendez seems to be hanging out again with his former gang friends and ignoring his lovely wife Theresa; drug dealers have moved into her beloved Fairmount neighborhood. And amidst all this, reclusive former diva Lorna McDavid expects Kelly to do her grocery shopping. In spite of Mike’s warnings, Kelly is determined to save the runaway girl and her abused mother and find out what’s troubling Joe, even when those things lead back to the drug dealers. Before all the tangles in the neighborhood are untangled, Kelly finds herself wondering who to trust, facing drug dealers, and seeing more of death than she wants. But she also tests upscale hot dog recipes and finds a soft side to the imperious recluse, Lorna McDavid. It’s a wild ride, but she manages, always, to protect her daughters and keep Mike from worrying about her—at least not too much.

P. S. Thanks for visiting today, Judy. I have similar thoughts--though must of my books come out in print and e-books around the same time. No matter what we do, a lot of our time must be spent in promotion. 


Amy Jarecki said…
I like print books. There is still a large contingent of people who prefer to read in print. I do have a Kindle, but I prefer to read my favorite authors in print.
Polly Iyer said…
I have a few thoughts on this, Judy. I'm a self-published author who has five of my six books in paper and all as ebooks. I plan to put the sixth in paper when I get around to it. I personally don't like to do signings or personal appearances with my paperbacks, so my concentration has been mostly promoting my ebook sales. I've used the free days that the Kindle Direct Publishing Select affords and have done very well. The downside is that those with ereaders have grown accustomed to free books, and that has hurt paid sales. I assume in the future something will change, but that's up to Amazon. I doubt paper books will ever disappear. As Amy said, there are many people who love the feel of a book in their hands. I'm reading a hardcover book now, in fact. It's a reader's market, and because of ereaders, more people are reading than ever before, and that's a good thing.
Judy Alter said…
Amy, though I like print books, I read on my iPad. A few times, I've ordered print of a book I've read because I want it in my library. Polly, I know you've had great success with Kindle and free days, and I've watched that carefully. Not sure what my future holds.

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