Are eBooks Really Any Better than the Physical Thing?

It’s a hotly debated topic among avid readers – what’s best, a printed book or an eBook? The answer to that question is never a straight one, because there are many, many factors to consider before making a decision.

You see, reading is a very personal matter. As such, there’s a certain way people like to do it. Some like to read at night, alone, in a corner. Some like to read in the mornings, sitting by the window seat of a cozy café, sipping on a delicious espresso and nibbling on a bagel. Some like to read together, aloud, or just in a circle. Others like reading at home with their lover, lying cozily together under the covers.

And just as people enjoy reading in a multitude of different ways, they value certain factors of a book more than others. For some, font is incredibly important. A book has to be formatted right. Others only like paperbacks – some can only stand hardcovers. And there are those that don’t care about printed books, but devour eBooks like they’re an essential source of life essence.

But that aside, what are the benefits and downsides to eBooks versus printed ones? And which would you choose?

Printed Books Are Still Preferred, but That May Change

Statistically speaking, print is still in favor. As Fortune points out, eBooks are doing very well despite what some publishers are saying – but that doesn’t mean it’s in the majority. More than 63% of Americans are reading print books, of the roughly 72% who’ve read a book at all this year, according to Pew Research. eBook readership remains mostly the same from 2014, and has been on a rise since 2011.

On the popularity front, there are a lot of clear points to be made about why people prefer eBooks versus the printed thing – just as there are a few points to be made for the world of print media. Mainly, however, as people are working towards eliminating their reliance on space and size, eBooks are becoming an ergonomic and minimalistic way to enjoy as many books as possible without requiring a physical library or book shelf to hold them.

For Authors: eBooks Are a Clear Advantage

To writers and authors, eBooks are an absolute godsend. Not too long ago, being a financially successful author meant having connections and being talented enough to land a publishing gig. Then, it meant hoping that your book sold well by paying top dollar in marketing campaigns. If you were broke, you had that much harder of a time to get your book out there and read.

Today, it’s much different. eBooks eliminate the middle man, and they’re so cheap to produce that many authors can afford to offer some of their books as free eBooks in massive online retailers like B&N’s Nook, to attract readers to pay a few dollars for their newer works.

For Publishers: eBooks Could Be a Threat 

In the same lieu, many publishers are scared. eBooks are giving authors the ability to market and publish their books for free digitally, while it allows retailers to easily bundle and sell books in bulk, offering unique offers and other perks to members and subscribers to build up their customer base.

But some publishers aren’t simply fighting the power of digital media – they’re taking advantage of the fact that print-based media is still alive by offering print-only deals to authors. This way, authors can sell their print rights to a publisher, but still make money on their digital copies.

Publishers are also working with authors and retailers to make digital copies of a book free after the purchase of a printed book, allowing readers to order a print copy and have a free eBook copy on-the-go through an exclusive code found inside the printed book. This can keep print sales well and alive through the digital revolution, and it gives publishers a decent survivability in the industry.

For Retailers: The Race Is Tight

For retailers, the drop in printed readership is a problem. Some retailers are forced to close down brick-and-mortar shops, while the innovative ones stick their revenue into digital stores, selling on both fronts instead of catering simply to one.

Independent retailers are selling the experience of reading more so than the books themselves – they’re becoming venues and cafés, meeting places for publishers, writers and avid readers to meet and network – and you could be expecting them to make a decent bit of money on their coffee revenues as well.

For Readers: It’s a Matter of Preference

In the end, it’s a personal matter for readers rather than a question of business. Because of that, it may very well be that print and digital will live on – just as much as vinyl and CDs have survived Spotify, and just as much as Blu-ray and the DVD have survived Netflix.

Sure, one day, printed books will become a novelty, more about the tactile feel of the book and the smell of the pages – but there will always be a market for printed books, just as much as the market for eBooks will continue to grow for years to come.

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