Print or Digital?

Print or Digital?

There is a debate among self-published authors right now as to whether it is worth producing a print book when eBooks are outselling print. Cost considerations are often cited as the reason to only offer an eBook. An SP author obviously needs to sell quite a few books to recoup the outlay of expenses associated with a print book.

BUT, there is a problem for the author that he or she may not realize, specifically in rural America. Very few if any people living in rural areas have access to high-speed internet. Yes there are satellite internet providers but for those of you who have never dealt with them, this service is not cheap and it is not dependable. The equipment charges and monthly fees put it out of reach for many rural dwellers. Moreover, snow, rain and clouds can interrupt service (and frequently do!). Some social thought leaders believe that rural America is falling behind in the information revolution for just this reason. The New York Times stated that this, in effect, is a blow against equal opportunity. Whether true or not, it certainly affects eBooks and digital publishing. This invariably makes frequent shopping on sites like and a rare experience for those in rural communities.

How does this affect us as self-publishers? Well, there is no question that eBooks are outselling print books―the statistics don’t lie. But there is still an audience out there for print books. There are those who can’t take advantage of the digital explosion and those that don’t care to; readers who like the feel and smell of a book and want to line their shelves with their beloved books. The brutal fact is that authors who only publish in an eBook format are simply not taking advantage of this group of consumers, even if it is an ever shrinking group!

Here are my thoughts on this –

First, if you can only do one, print or eBook, always have an eBook version of your book. Authors who choose to only publish a print book are out-of-step with the times.

Second, if at all possible, also offer a print version. The audience may be gradually getting smaller but it is still significant and, if for no other reason, you will have a copy to put on your bookshelf to thrill you each time you see it!

I would love to hear your thought-


4 responses to “Print or Digital?”

  1. Doug Carlyle says:


    Sorry for the late response to this.

    First of all, I live in rural America. As a firefighter/paramedic, my district serves 1700 people in 450 square miles. Do the math. We have the BEST fiberoptic internet around. We were fortunate to have a several local phone companies who took advantage of federal grants, otherwise there would have been no way to recoup the millions of dollars it took to lay in this technology. So, don’t underestimate the technological capability of those of us out here in the weeds 🙂

    As for the cost of SP? I just sent my next novel to Createspace. The proof is coming back to me as we speak – 2 copies, actually. The cost, including shipping, is $18.44. This is a 480 page, 5×8 novel. How can it get any better than that? The cover art is free for me. My daughter did it, though I could have used one of CS’s covers as I did with In Search of the Fuller Brush Man. I spend $244 for each box of 36 copies of FBM. If you hustle, have book signings, and have it on local bookshelves, and always carry a few in your vehicle, you recover this investment in a matter of days or weeks. I’m not buying the ‘too expensive’ argument for NOT selling in print.

    I have sold 3x more books in print than e-books. I’ve never spent a lot of time trying to sell e-books. If it happens, it happens.

    So, I stongly urge SP authors to publish in print, as well as in electgronic format. Besides, nothing looks better than a copy of your novel on your coffee table, or on a retailer’s bookshelf, or in open and in the hands of a reader at the coffeeshop.

    I will preface this by saying I am not publishing novels to become rich. I agree e-books is the direction one must move toward if he/she wants to make big money. The other way to make big money is to publish under the pseudonym Nicholas Sparks, and hope there is a lot of confusion.


  2. indieBRAG says:

    Incredible! If only all rural areas had such ingenuity.
    I agree that for any author, having their book to hold in their hands is a great gift and so satisfying. I would certainly encourage all authors to have BOTH print and ebooks- you can’t very well have book signings and attend book events without a book in hand! Having said that, if an author chooses to do only one version it should be ebook. I also agree with you that printing through programs like Createspace has brought the price down to a level that most authors can take advantage of both print and ebook. I am also amazed at how many authors neglect other outlets such a Nook – don’t limit access to your book. Authors rarely write a book with the intent that they are the only ones who read it. Putting it in front of the reading audience is the only way to sell your book and, hopefully, this will bring to you all great fame and fortune!

  3. Plum McCauley says:

    This comment is obviously quite late to the party, but I can’t help but add my two cents to this one.

    I agree that an eBook is absolutely essential, but I also think that a physical copy is just as important. If, as a self-publisher, you want to cultivate your backlist, you should do so not only with new titles, but with as many versions of your titles as you can afford. And everything doesn’t have to happen at once. I’m thinking that eventually I’d like to add audio versions of my novels, as well. Why not? I’d like each of my Amazon book pages to present as many formats as possible for each title.

    Also, having a paperback copy of “It All Started with a Bicycle” made sending copies out to contests and reviewers more appealing. And I know that some of those ended up on Amazon as used books–an option that doesn’t pay royalties but does “pay” with a boost in ranking.

  4. Geri says:

    Although I still feel that having an ebook is essential in today’s book world, i have come to believe that a print books is of great value. I recently read that an author sells more books during personal appearances, such as books signings, than any other way. I have seen this first hand. Even when we take the B.R.A.G.Medallion Honorees on our “road trips”, we are constantly asked if visitors to our table can buy the books. I think you advice of not necessarily doing it all at once is sound. Perhaps go with the ebook and when finances allow, follow with the print copy. There is much info out there also that audio books are taking off!

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