Tuesday, July 24, 2012

To Print or Not to Print, Is That the Question?

By Dani Greer, Chief Red Pencil

It hasn't been very long since the traditional publishing model meant printing a hardcover edition of a new book, then following that with a low-cost paperback edition, and maybe, if the publisher was really sharp, making an e-book available on the heels of print. In today's rapidly changing publishing environment, all three versions of the book are usually published simultaneously, or at least within very narrow time-frames. This gives readers all the options quickly, and multiplies the opportunities for sales.

In the past year, a growing number of publishers have started printing new titles in only e-book version first, presumably capitalizing on the success of indie authors who have discovered the potential of feeding the e-reader market. Later, if e-book sales proved successful, the door might remain open for a print run, particularly if libraries and schools demanded the title for their shelves. But fast disappearing are the days of large print runs, warehouses full of books, and the dreaded remaindering of books that didn't sell as expected. It's an awful production model, particularly since few publishers print in environmentally conscientious ways to begin with.

Recently, I interviewed Keith Anthony, the printer broker for Little Pickle Press, about the comparative costs of printing children's books in North America on recycled papers with soy inks. The cost of these books is 5-6 times the cost incurred by traditional publishers printing off-shore. With any sort of commitment to the environment, it makes even more sense to publish new content in digital format first, and then follow with a true collector print book that will be treasured for life, rather than sent to the Goodwill bin.

Last week, Little Pickle Press introduced its newest children's book, written by Coleen Paratore (who writes the adorable Wedding Planner's Daughter YA novels) and illustrated by UK artist, Clare Fennell. BIG came out as a Kindle edition with special pricing of $2.99 through July 26. In August, the print edition is available, and can be pre-ordered at 25% off by clicking here. I think this sort of new book presentation will become the norm in a very short time, especially if readers like the option of trying a title out at a lower digital-format price first, then buying a real copy for their shelves later.

What do you think of this approach? How have your buying habits changed since acquiring an e-reader, and are multiple buying options important to you when acquiring books?

Do share with your friends and let us know if you like this book. There is actually a "try it free" link at the Amazon page in the right-hand column, where you can have the first few pages of the book delivered to your Kindle.

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  1. Oh absolutely! I have a ton of samples I've downloaded to my Kindle, and I love that I can now purchase a book electronically when I would previously have avoided buying an actual book because I wasn't sure it would be worth cluttering up my bookshelves. I buy a lot more now (e-books) just to give the author a chance to impress me.

  2. I rarely buy Kindle editions from trad publishers (who are charging almost as much for the digital download as for the tree-killers), but I pick up many indie works that way. I still prefer the real thing.

    Shelf space is not the issue--well it is, but living in a floor-to-ceiling library has its charms. Actually having the book matters to me. Working in the industry, I know that digital is not real and can be made to disappear or become unreadable at any time.

  3. As a poor indie-author, my purchases are usually at the grocery store rather than the book store ... but when my e-books go viral, I'll be rolling in print books AND Kindle Fires!

  4. I have been buying more and more e-books the past couple of years, although I still go for a paper copy of a book from a fav author. Like Larry, I don't buy the digital copy of a book that is priced just a tad below the cost of a paperback or hardback version.

    I like the fact that the way content is being delivered in digital books is still evolving. As mentioned in yesterday's BRP post design is moving toward something that is as visually pleasing as what we enjoy when reading paper books. Of course, it will never be exactly the same, but when the e-book experience is more than just words on a screen, more people will be enjoying them.

  5. With "cloud publishing", our e-books really don't disappear. They easily move from gadget to gadget. Well, I suppose if the Internet burns down, you would lose your books, but that can happen to your house, too. I'm particularly sensitive to my library going up in smoke with the drought in my area and the fires all summer. I do know that if I had to evacuate for any reason, grabbing my Kindle would be mighty handy if I needed something to read. I wouldn't pack up printed books during a serious disaster.

  6. I don't have an eReader, per se. I have Kindle for PC and I recently got an iPad - but I only read freebies on Kindle and rarely at that. I strongly prefer printed books and can't see myself choosing to pay for something to read digitally even though I use my iPad a lot. The only ones I have even remotely considered are some niche manga titles that are only being published in eBook form, but even then I've yet to been able to justify pushing the trigger.

    Books don't need charging, can go with me in the tub more safely than my iPad, and still have far greater variety. :-) And, of course, books are accessible to far more people versus a digital device.

    However, I did get my mom one as she needed something she could up the font on, was lighter to hold, and took up less space. :-P

  7. We are trying this sneak preview of BIG on Amazon for the Kindle Fire to build buzz and to generate some early revenue for the title. The approach has enjoyed some early success. Thanks for starting the conversation, Dani. ~ Rana

  8. I'm not a huge re-reader, since there are simply so many wonderful books to sample in the world. While I have borrowed books from the library and then later purchased the book at a used book sale so that I can use it for teaching purposes, I am not at all likely to purchase the book in print once I've already read it on my Kindle. If I trust the author and the hardback edition is lovely, I'm more likely to spend the $25 from the get-go to own it, and reserve my Kindle for riskier literary experimentation.

  9. I'm with Elle; I download Kindle books as a sort of trial run. I couldn't possibly afford to buy all of the print books that catch my eye, especially if there's a chance that they won't be quite to my taste.

    Luckily for my house payment, Amazon doesn't take PayPal. ;)

  10. Which begs the question - why doesn't Amazon take PayPal? It's very annoying when I can now use PayPal at stores like Home Depot and World Market.

  11. It's even more annoying for international affiliates. Almost every other affiliate sends me money through PayPal without a problem. For Amazon, I have to wait for them to mail me a cheque (check) and then pay my bank an absolute fortune to convert it to Aussie dollars and put the money in my account. It's so last century.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.