Paper Books or E-Books? Which Ones Are People Really Reading

I work with many authors who wonder if they should publish an e-book. On the other hand, some ONLY want to publish e-books. But which one is really going to sell?

To find that out, we go to the source: the readers. What exactly are readers’ preferences in 2011? Paper books or e-books?

First, we should note that e-book sales have been going up in recent years, and paper book sales have been going down. That’s to be expected: as technology improves and more people buy Kindles/Nooks, there will be more e-books sold.

Thanks to a conversation on LinkedIn this week, we were able to cull some answers to the question: “Would you be more incline to read a e-book vs a paper book?” Here are quotes excerpted from some of the responses…

  • “I still love to feel the paper, browse the shelves for that certain book and mostly take my book outside and read. Even with the improvements to ebooks it is still hard to read one in the sun. eReaders will never replace a physical book for me.”
  • “The price of books in print right now is horrific for my budget. I love the feel of a book but have gotten used to my Kindle and now love it.”
  • “I look for an e-book first because I can keep the book in my portable device, have it anywhere, and find it easily. … I’ve always used my savings in buying a big name author’s e-books to fund purchases of new unknown authors and have discovered many new favorites that way.”
  • “Right now I’m getting all sorts of $.99 books from Amazon and trying new authors that I never heard of. Some are absolutely great–just didn’t get enough publicity or promotion.”
  • “I still read books but the Kindle has become my preference. I don’t have to waste gas money going to a store. I just buy and it’s put on my device by the company.”
  • “I never really thought I’d be big on ebooks. Got a Kindle for a present last December, and honestly? I’ve read about three or four print books since, but over fifty digital ones. … Readers who pick up an ereader don’t go back to paper, except for the occasional book. “
  • “I love books…the smell…the feel…the visual impact. I cannot imagine using only a Kindle, though I see the advantages.”
  • “While I enjoy (at times) the feel of a paper book, don’t really care for the smell, especially of a library book, my arthritis tends to make me appreciate an eBook for more comfort.”

So, there you have it. Some people still love the feel of a paper book. But more and more people are getting “converted” to eBooks. It also seems like the affordability of e-books makes it a must for a new author: it’s more likely that someone who isn’t a follower of your writing yet will give your book a read electronically.

In short, you need an e-book. I don’t think there’s any way around it. The paper book? Believe it or not, that’s probably less important.