Will Paperbacks Survive the Ebook Boom?
In a word, yes.
We love technology. We love that we can carry hundreds of books around on our pocket-sized device, and that convenient access to fantastical story worlds is not going anywhere. Ebooks are here to stay.
But paperbacks are not going anywhere, either. Think about what we get from paperbacks that no amount of technology in the world can duplicate: the smell of the ink and paper, the tangible feel of the book in our hand, the sound of the page being turned, the access to the story that exists independent of your battery charge.
A couple weeks ago I had an opportunity to place my books in an exhibit at a home and garden show in Portland, Oregon. The YA romance author who coordinated it, Roslyn McFarland, set up this magical Book Garden for visitors of the show to meander through. While there, potential readers could visit with the authors who worked the booth, browse through a selection of hundreds of books, and get their newly purchased books signed.
I noticed something at this event that reinforced my already strong feelings about paperbacks. Books bring people together. We hold them, we pass them around, we sign them, we chatter about the dramatic covers. And once we get the books home, we highlight our favorite sections, write in the margins, dog ear the pages of our well loved tomes, and give our favorites a prominent place on our bookshelves.
While some of those experiences can be replicated with an ebook, for instance highlighting favorite passages in your Kindle, there’s something about sitting in a library and being surrounded by thousands of books that connects you with the tangible world around you. Surrounding yourself with a million tech devices will not be able to replace that connection to the vast world.
Most readers I know purchase their favorite books in both ebook and paperback format, with some buying a third format, audio. The point is that we love our books and we’ll always collectively love paperbacks the most!
We see indie bookstores like Another Read Through in the Mississippi District of Portland, Oregon popping up and hanging around because we love to touch and feel and gather around books. Paperbacks are part of our human experience—as necessary as hugging, kissing, chatting over coffee. Even Amazon, an ebook selling giant, recognizes the value of paperbacks. They recently opened up a real live book store in Seattle and are connecting paperbacks to technology in an innovative way.
While ebooks will continue to do well because of their convenience, I firmly believe that paperbacks (and hardbacks!) are here to stay.
Whether you prefer historical fiction or post-apocalyptic dystopian, the feel of those books in your hand will always matter.
If you are a writer, I would offer this advice. Keep writing and publish your work in every possible format. And don’t forget to connect with your readers, because we love knowing more about our favorite authors and what makes them tick. And while publishing your book in digital form is exciting, there is nothing quite like the feeling of holding your own book in your hands. Flipping through the pages and seeing this world that you created from nothing that now exists in a format that you can touch and feel is maybe the best feeling in the entire world. So if you are thinking that paperbacks aren’t worth the trouble for writers, I would urge you to reconsider. They may not be your bestselling format, but they just might be the most important!
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