Many years ago, when cellphones were still a novelty, the Kindle, the Nook and other eReaders were just a dream, and the iPad was not yet on Steve Job’s horizon, I had dinner with a friend who owned a book printing company. At that time, some adventurous souls were reading books on their Palm Pilots, and while my printer friend knew that computerized readers could one day be a threat to his business, he didn’t think such devices would hurt the market for traditional printed books until such time as they could replicate the experience of reading a paper book: the visual appeal of a well-designed book page, the rustle of the turning page, the pleasure of a lovely font, the anticipation of returning right to your bookmarked page. Well, as we all know, that day has arrived and it’s a good thing my printing friend has retired, because if he hadn’t, he might be struggling by now. Or would he?
Ever on the lookout for ways to save money, many self-publishers feel that they can “get away” with just producing an eBook. They ask themselves: Who wants to buy a printed book when they can download the same content in an eBook format for half the price? They have a point. According to a March 2012 blog post on the PC World website entitled eReader Sales Down: Way Down, global sales in 2011 of dedicated eReaders (not to be confused with multi-purpose tablets) rose 107% over 2010, and yearly global sales should reach 60 million units by 2015 (what were “down” were sales of “e-ink” readers, those that only display print in black and not color). But even with sales figures like these, there are plenty of people who prefer the printed book, and many who continue to buy printed books for reading at home while purchasing the eBook versions for travel and commuting.
So with the market divided, what is a self-publisher to do? The answer is to do both. The additional cost of producing both an eBook and a printed book is not as much as what one might think. Print-on-demand services allow an author to only print enough books to fill demand. Print-on-demand means that books are printed to fulfill existing orders, and while it’s a little more expensive than traditional offset printing, it’s a good route to take until demand for the book is established and predictable. All this to say that the author does not need to put out a lot of money ahead of time for printing.
An author might balk at spending money on book cover design and interior layout for two versions of the same book. Some authors think that they can get away with not hiring a professional book designer at all for an eBook; after all, what is an eBook except for a glorified PDF? The opposite is true, and as the eReader technology improves over time, good design becomes even more critical. For example, the demand for color eReaders and multi-purpose tablets is increasing, which puts added pressure on an author to have a whizbang book design that takes advantage of these sophisticated displays. Producing an eBook is not for the unskilled or the faint of heart; in other words, your Microsoft® Word skills are not going to cut it in the eBook world, no more than they would with laying out a printed book page
If an author hires a professional book designer to lay out the book cover and interior pages, the designer will typically reproduce the eBook cover, lay out the interior pages and code the book for the eReader at a reduced rate. It is almost certain that an author must hire a book designer with eBook expertise to insert the proper coding that makes the book usable on popular eReaders. Why not spend that money on good printed book design and then spend a little more to have it prepared for eBook publication as well?
Bottom line: Authors who choose to produce only a printed book, or only an eBook and not both, run the risk of alienating at least part of their readership. By spending just a little bit more money to produce both formats, a self-publishing author can maximize the potential market for their book.
Michele DeFilippo owns 1106 Design, a Phoenix-based company that works with authors, publishers, business pros, coaches, consultants, speakers . . . anyone who wants a beautiful book, meticulously prepared to industry standards. 1106 Design offers top-quality cover design, beautifully designed and typeset interiors, manuscript editing, indexing, title consulting, and expert self-publishing advice. Publish Like the Pros: A Brief Guide to Quality Self-Publishing is Michele’s first book.