Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Big Debate: Digital vs Print

Have we fallen out of love with e-readers?
The Independent UK, 6 October 2014, Caroline Cororan
I read this article last night but decided to read it again this morning just to be sure I still felt the same. I think I do. I'm sharing it with you to get your impressions on the subject of our ereaders.

My opinions --

I call bullshit on this article. Plain and simple. Here are my reasons:

1) "In 2013, British consumers spent £2.2bn on print, compared with just £80m on e-books"

That's because British (and Irish books by default) are priced through the roof. For example, an $8 paperback in the US costs consumers  around £8. Seems like like for like, right? Convert to US dollar and that same book is now over $10 usd. Ebooks are notoriously much lower in cost than traditional print books, especially with small presses which dominate the digital market. And for those publishers and authors putting out POD books, the average cost of those is higher still than mass market published books. So yes, this is why the print vs digital amounts vary so greatly. Print books cost more than digital books from the get go.

2) "adult e-book sales were up just 4.8 per cent in a year, while hardcover book sales had risen by 11.5 per cent"

Is this a comparative calculation? The author of this article pointedly said 'adult e-books' but then just said 'hardcover book sales'. Because if you add in YA and childrens books, the latter almost always being hardcover (hard vs paperback), then yeah, I can see the hardcover sales being higher. And exactly which adult books is the author talking about? Commercial mass market fiction, or erotica . . . the traditional 'adult book'? Compare like for like and see where the figure really stands. This  claim is vague at best.

3) "Nielsen BookData analysis showed e-book sales in May and June last year fell by 26 per cent from 2012."

Of course they did. Let's remember that 2013 was really the first post-recession year people started feeling free to spend money again on luxury goods and holidays. These days, there aren't a huge number of people who go on holidays just to sit and read. With people traveling again, they want to get out and explore, not spend thousands on flights, hotels, etc just to lay on the beach or at the pool and read. Also, this time of year is typically end of the school year, with kids wanting lavish graduations; and people are leaving on holidays. Readers would have made their summer reading purchased in the after-Xmas sales with all their gift vouchers. As a publisher, May and June have typically been very slow for sales, so this is no BIG revelation.

4) "One study showed that in a group reading the same book, e-readers had a lower plot recall, which was credited to a lack of "solidity".

First of all, "One study" should be telling here. Where are multiple studies?

And what is the author claiming . . . "When we can't see the pile of pages growing on the left and shrinking on the right, the book is, apparently, less fixed for us."

WhatWHAT? Readers think they can't retain a story because there's no physical paper? Readers were given a short story from Elizabeth George: half read on Kindle, half print. Maybe it was the story that didn't hold their interest and not the device. I've read George's work before. While I appreciate that she has a good following, her stories don't hold my interest. Even for the sake of an experiment, I'm not sure I'd have total recall for the questions either.

As for 'solidity', I admit when I got my first Kindle, I found it very light and thin. I was afraid of dropping it because I couldn't feel the traditional weight of the device. I think this is something most ereader newbies face. I ended up finding a great cover to protect the device in case I dropped it. I use Oberon Design covers because I love their designs, but anything like these covers offer an ereading device the weight missing from a physical printed book. It has a cover you can open to give the device more of a book feeling too. So I don't buy the 'no solidity' BS. Just like the saying, "A good bra makes all the difference," so does the right device cover.
  
5) "Scott Pack, publisher at HarperCollins imprint The Friday Project, isn't surprised. "I retain a very physical memory of a book for some time after reading it," he says. "I can recall whether a particular scene or quote appeared on the left- or right-hand page, towards the top or bottom, and sometimes the page number, too." "

Sounds to me like this guy has some form of eidetic memory and doesn't know it. I can walk through a shop and tell you where certain items are without having to go back and look again. Freaks out people in bookstores when I can tell a customer where a book is and the clerk can't. I can do the same thing with any book I'm interested in. Interest = caring. When you care about the story you're reading, you pay attention to details. So I call bullshit on this comment.

6) "In September this year, The Bookseller conducted research that found nearly three quarters of 16- to 24-year-olds preferred print to e-books and when asked why, the sentence "I want full bookshelves" cropped up"

That's fine. Some people like to see books on the shelves. The number of those books staring back somehow gives certain readers a feeling of accomplishment in SEEING all the books they've read, or showing off to their visitors . . . "Look, I've read AAALLLLL these books." And some have found some great, creative ways to display them.


For others, we don't need that back-pat, so it's unfair to say this statement is the coming trend. I have books on my shelves . . . rather in storage getting ready for our move. I love hard cover versions of my most favorite books. More so these days are cookbooks and knitting books, a few Irish history books.

IMPORTNAT NOTE: For others, especially those of us with allergies, digital books are a blessing. No more dust, no more paper eating insects, no more smell of cheap paper breaking down over time. The yellow on the pages isn't just age. It's a chemical reaction that aids in the breakdown of the cheap newsprint mass market books are printed on. Most books are not printed on acid free paper! Mass market books have and will continue to be 'throw away' books. Buy them cheap, read, and recycle was the order of the day since the 70s when they were introduced.

When I moved to Ireland in 1997, I brought over with me 40 cases of paperbacks I'd been collecting. I'd reread them all many times. Some were falling apart but I couldn't bear parting with them. But they were killing me. There's no way anyone can reread that many books while buying more to read. Unless you're dusting them every day, stuff in the air settles, and the slightest breeze scatters the dust back into the air. Then come the pests and the bug 'dirt' behind them (they defecate in the books, have their offspring in the books, use the books for food to have more offspring). And of course, the acids breaking down the paper can be noxious. Oh, and let's not forget mildew. Paper soaks up moisture in the air like a sponge.

Don't get me wrong. I love the smell of new books . . . the new paper, the fresh ink . . . but give it 20 years, and if you have allergies, your collection could be what's making you sick.

7) ""I believe the reader of 2020 or 2030 will have two libraries, print and digital, with different types of books and publications in each," "

NEWSFLASH, Scott. The reader of 2014 already has two libraries, and have since day one. And we all have varied collections. Do your research.

8) ""While I have no qualms about trying out a debut author on e-book or loading up some holiday reading on to my Kindle, when it comes to my favourite authors I have to own the print edition, and I remain a sucker for a beautifully designed and printed book." "

NEWSFLASH again, Scott. We all feel this way. You're not telling us something we don't already know or practice.

AND are you saying that only new-to-you authors and book are the ones you'll put on your device? Are you saying that only branded authors are worthy of your physical shelves? If books were people, you'd start sounding a bit racist with your comments, Scott. Like ebooks are 'back of the bus' reading. Hmm . . .

In conclusion --

- Want solidity? Buy a heavier cover for your device.

- If you want to collect titles in print, go for it.

- If you only want books in a digital format, go for that too.

-- Whatever you do, be happy in your choices, but let's stop comparing which format of a story is best -- digital vs print. Don't revert to being 6 years old and trying to convince your friends your house is better than theirs. Let's focus on the story!

There are some awesome stories at Tirgearr Publishing. And now we've launched print editions. Drop over and try a few. Grab the digital and print of a book or three, and tell us which version helped you better retain the story. We love hearing from you!

PS . . . Whatever format you read, don't forget to leave the author a review. How else are we to know if we're doing something right? ;-)

As always, we welcome comments to our posts.

Most titles under $5 -- Every month offering new bargains for 99c


3 comments:

  1. I read this article pretty fast and I agree with the idea that we already have 2 libraries. I love physical books, just to have and share when someone comes to visit who's finished a book - or, get this, has taken a physical book all the way here only to realise they'd already read the thing before (how's that for memory of books! stupid comment) and I can give them something I either can get back from then in a year or two, or never, because I picked it up in a box on the street in Jamaica Plain, where the idea of leaving books for others must have started. Anyhow, I don't have a kindle yet, but I listen to lots of books on MP3, and I can not only remember the content, but I get reminded of them when I am in particular places where I had been listening to the story. I agree that we associate place with memory and stories, but you're more likely to remember a story you read at the beach while back on the beach (subliminal advertising!) whether you listened to it or read it on a kindle or in paperback. There are those who prefer paper, but they're the same people who have trouble with their mobile phones and who could never get their mind around the programming the video. Lots of those are actually new to reading - I know lots in their "old age" (my mother's not reading this, I hope!) who only realised it was cool to read a few years ago. They're going through all the paperbacks other, long-time, readers had on their shelves. The longtimers are reading on kindles now, just to save on space and expense - they've read most of the books in their public libraries already.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love the idea of having both print and digital books available. There's nothing like the feel of going on holiday, for example, with an e-reader downloaded with books you want to read. As many as you want. At other times, I want to buy a special book in print, or have it to share with others, family or close friends. I think with the availability of both kinds of books, we will all read more, not less. The E readers may have been around for a number of years now, but attitudes take time to change. And the softly, softly approach for reluctant digital readers, is always best.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Apparently this post got into someone's hands and they posted this link about the acids in paper and how books break down over time --

    http://www.openculture.com/2014/10/the-chemistry-behind-the-smell-of-old-books-explained-with-a-free-infographic.html

    And this one --

    http://www.iflscience.com/chemistry/where-does-smell-old-books-come

    Now . . . who just got a memory scent of an old book in the second hand store? :-)

    ReplyDelete