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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Not as E as We Think

by Raelene Gorlinsky

I've got hundreds of unread print books on my TBR shelves, there is no more room left. So I made a conscious decision last month that I would buy only digital books from now on. Well, I tried...

I just assumed all the books I want would be available in digital format. Those of us in the epub industry and those readers who are heavily into digital tend to forget that many publishers are not yet with us. The big publishers still often delay the release of the digital version of new books until later than the print release (especially for hardcover books). And although they talk about digitizing their backlist, they are still nowhere near getting any significant portion actually available in ebook format.

What happened with the twelve books on my "buy" list last month? The list was a mix of new releases and older (but not more than three years old), fiction and nonfiction, well-known and new authors. To my surprise and annoyance, only FOUR of the twelve books were available in e. Those four were all new fiction releases that were also available in mass market paperback. And one of the ebooks was available only on Kindle; sorry, I buy ePub format. So I was able to get only 25% of my buy list as digital. I had to buy print for the rest.

This month looks like it may be almost as dissatisfying. I want to buy four books. One is available only in e, from a digital-first publisher, and I've bought it. Yay! One is a Harlequin category, not yet out, but I'm sure will be available in e. The other two--I don't know. One was a mass market release six months ago from a big NY publisher, but I haven't managed to find it in any digital format except Kindle. Hey, publisher, do you realize how much of the e market you are missing by not offering ePub and PDF? The other is an upcoming fiction hardcover, I don't have high hopes for a same-release-date ePub digital version.

I'll keep trying--when possible, I'll buy an ebook instead of a print book. But looks like I'm going to have to find more space on those TBR shelves.

What's your experience? What percentage of the books you buy are digital versus print? If you can't find it in digital, do you buy print or refuse to buy?


Barbara Elsborg said...

The price of digital puts me off for the big names. The new releases of books by writers like Lee Child are more expensive as an e-book than they are paperback - crazy!!I won't pay more for a digital release than I would for a paperback - period.
If I wait - then they'll be cheaper but most times I don't want to wait.
Might be an anomoly of the UK because of the tax thing with ebooks but even so...

Bill Greer said...

I don't buy print books anymore, but my e-books purchases (Kindle) are price-conscious decisions. There are recent hardcover releases from the Big 6 publishers where I'll pay $12.99 for the Kindle version.

Like Barbara, when I'm looking at books out in paperback, I refuse to buy an e-book that costs more than the paperback version. That's just not right. Recently, I remembered a book that came out about seven or eight years ago that I'd heard good things about and wanted to read. Paperback - $7.99. Kindle version - $12.99. No sale.

Scarlett Knight said...

Yeah, e-books being more expensive than print is pure rubbish because you know it costs much less to digitally publish a book as opposed to printing. I still primarily buy print books, but only because I enjoy being able to loan them to people and I also don't have a very good quality e-reader device yet.

Keziah Hill said...

This is my experience Raelene. So frustrating that I can't get my favorite authors in ebook format. Even more irritating that as an Australian, I can't get Australian authors published in the US in ebook format! Crazy!

ECPI Editors said...

Yeah, I'm definitely in agreement on the price issue. No way will I pay more for an ebook than the print book price! I'm "iffy" when they are both the same. I see new books where both the paperback and the ebook cost $7.99. If I am desperate for immediate gratification, I might go with the ebook download. But otherwise, for the same cost, I'd rather have print.

Being in the industry, I do see the "production" costs of ebooks. Yes, they are cheaper than the paper and printing and warehousing and shipping of print books. But there's still a large cost to format the books, upload them to many e-tailers, deal with all the problems associated with those e-tailers, etc. EC employs several people to handle this, for our volume of book releases. So I think e should be cheaper than print, but won't be dirt cheap.


anny cook said...

If it's not available in epub digital, I try the library... I'm waaaaaay past running out of bookshelves.

Rational1 said...

I get a bunch of books from the library in print or audio (CDs, Playaway, e-audio) formats on a regular basis. The books I purchase are print. I like holding the book, and enjoy the feel of paper more so than plastic (or whatever material they use for e-readers). I spend too much time reading screens; I prefer to look at paper in my leisure time.