I always set the print book price for my novels as low as possible. I rarely make pennies on a print book sale. I finally loaded Molly: House on Fire "correctly" to CreateSpace. According to them, I have to charge $17.10 for this print book. I'm not really happy about a book price that high, but it is a long book, 465 pages in a 6x9 format. I checked the box for Amazon basically to take control of the pricing. I'm hoping they will discount the price, making it more affordable. As it is, I am making no profit from bookstores or online retail print sales from this book. What this means is, I'm writing off all print sales as advertising. To be honest, print books are maybe 3% of my total novels sold, so I'm simply offering the book in print as a service to the readers who have not made the jump to ebooks. Such is the life of the on-demand publisher.
I know, I know, some of you do not want to let go of the printed page. Holding a book just feels right to you. The smell of ink on the page, the smudges of chocolate, the water spots from the tub, the first crack of the spine, and other things you would miss too much to give up. I felt the same way and fought against the revolution alongside you. Then I became an author. Still, I went a whole year after beginning to sell ebooks before purchasing a Kindle Fire. I needed it to check the formatting and make sure the books were uploaded correctly. My entire take on e-readers changed the moment I turned it on.
First, book covers look very cool in their original digital format. It’s not a reason to give up print books, but as a cover designer, it’s a plus. I won’t go into all the advantages to having the wi-fi enabled Fire. I will say, I can do almost anything on the Fire that I do on this laptop. My cell phone and a wi-fi connection are all I need when I travel. There are even some things I can do on the Fire that I cannot do on the laptop. I can read outside. Drop it in a zip lock baggie, sit in the tub, hang in the pool, sit on the beach, all things I would never do with this laptop. Still, if you’re not on the internet, it’s not a reason to give up print books.
Did I mention how easy it is to read an ebook? What happens when your eyes get tired, but you want to finish that chapter? The printed page becomes too fuzzy to read one more word. When that happens to me now, I simply hit a button and make the words big enough to read easily. I gave my 74-year-old mother a Kindle for Christmas. She has always been an avid reader, but her eyes are failing her. She had pretty much stopped reading. She's reading books on the Kindle now and enjoying it again, and I assure you she is anything but tech savvy.
Suppose you want to finish that chapter in bed and the person you share your bed with hates the light. No problem with an ebook, it’s backlit. No need to keep your partner awake and grumpy. No matter how you stretch out to get comfortable, the text on the Fire re-orients with you as you move. Turn the page with one touch. Highlight a word and get a definition or search text on the Internet. Highlight a section, make notes, bookmark pages, great tools for text books or research material. I’ve read more books since I bought this e-reader than I have in the last five years combined. I haven’t found a reason not to like it. In my research, I am forced to buy some books in print. I find the holding of the book, the highlighting, writing in the margins, is tedious, after learning to use the e-reader. I’ll admit it. I am a convert. I also love the ease of purchase. See a book, hit a button, and it appears in seconds in your hands, no more waiting weeks for a print book, and no shipping costs. Not to mention, ebooks are cheaper across the board, more along the lines of what I like to pay for a book. I can purchase far more books for a lot less money. That’s a win for the reader and the author.
I just wanted readers to know, I’ll keep printing books as long as I can, but it doesn’t take a genius to see this business model isn’t going to last long. I write books because I can’t help myself. I need to write like I need to breathe, but I also have to eat and keep a roof over our heads. This is my job and how I support my family. Putting a book out in print just to make money for the company that prints and ships it is rapidly losing its appeal. I would rather not sell print copies, if the price is so far out of line with what I think is a fair price for a print book, something as a reader I would pay. I don’t want to see the bookstore on the corner go out of business. Going the way of the record store is a very real problem faced by the print industry. I have no idea what the solution is to that part of this equation. What I do know is that writing books that are sold by other people and never seeing a penny from those sales is real to me.
I’m simply speaking for myself here. 99% of my income for 2011 came from ebook sales. The majority of my readers buy ebooks. That is a fact. I love all the readers, print and ebook alike, but I’m hoping to have persuaded some of the die hard, “You’ll have to wrench this book from my cold dead hands,” enthusiasts to at least give an e-reader a try. Save a tree, save an author, let go of that print book. I loved my eight-track, but I had to evolve with the technology. When I push play on a digital recording, I know I'm going to get the same quality every time. That's progress from scratchy records and broken tapes. Nat King Cole never sounded so clean and crisp. I'm happy for the digital recording process. I can enjoy old favorites again and again, in sparkling surround sound. I'm quite sure the ebook revolution will do for books what digital recording did for the music industry. It made their products better. I’ll borrow an old Lipton tea slogan here, “Don’t knock it till you try it.”