Q: As a reader, e-books or print? As an author, e-books or print?
Both and both.
Even though my first two Dani mysteries were already out in e-book form, I hadn’t succumbed to a digital reader until I began to plan for my recent trip to France. My dear American friend living in Burgundy had begged me to schlep a handful of books she couldn’t get there and I realized there was no room for my own necessary quota of reading material in the one small suitcase I was determined to limit myself to. To offset the cold, hard feel and look of the device, I bought a leather-like, embossed cover. I had no problem reading off the screen – I bought a Kindle “paperwhite,” which I can even read in bright light.
But, I find I don’t use the e-reader much unless I’m traveling. It can never take the place of books if only because the walls in my house are already lined with hundreds (thousands?) of books still begging to be read. I enjoy real book covers, I relish the feeling that each book is a gift waiting to be opened.
As a writer, this is a question I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. My first Dani mystery, Murder in the Abstract, came out first as a hard cover. My friends were pleased for me, but it’s harder to sell a $24 book than a trade or mass paper edition, both versions of which followed a year or so later. My second Dani mystery, The King’s Jar, came out as a trade paper but also as an e-book simultaneously, and the e-book sales were quicker and more robust, in part because the distribution system my publisher used was weak. The paper version was $14 and the e-book less.
My third Dani mystery, Mixed Up with Murder, is in production now and I have asked my publisher to release it only as an e-book, at least for a first edition. My take on the pros is that people can decide instantly, that they’ll try reasonably-priced books with instant downloads, that online e-book promotions are pretty successful (see BookBub), and that libraries now buy e-books too. Since the other books in the series are also available electronically, readers who like one can easily download the others. The cons: no professional reviews (I got wonderful ones for the second Dani), fewer blog reviews, no in-store readings and book tours, nothing to sign when people do buy it. I’ll miss the interactions with readers, the best part of this whole process. It’s a gamble and I’m not at all sure what will happen, but I am pleased my publisher is willing to try it, and to do a print edition later if we decide it’s a good (read, profitable for them) strategy.
Fellow Minds, what do you think? Readers, are you aboard the e-book ride? I welcome your feedback. The book industry is shifting under our feet and the pathways are not always clear.