Believe it or not, readers have two million new book titles to choose from every single year. Two MILLION!
With that kind of demand, we think it’s safe to say that reading is as popular as ever. And we don’t even really need the stats. Just look around you. On trains and buses, coffee shop sofas, holiday resort recliners – everywhere, people are reading books.
The thing that’s changed is that not every focused gaze is on a printed book. You’ll see many sets of eyes concentrating on iPads, Kindles, and smartphones. But most of these people are still reading stories and information the same way they always have: they’re simply reading ebooks.
A few years ago, there was something of a panic in the book world with the prediction that ebooks would leave printed books virtually obsolete. Some well-known bookstores did indeed close down, but overall, the fears didn’t amount to much.
Thankfully, there is still a very healthy market for both printed books and ebooks. Today we recognize that it’s not about pixels versus print, it’s more about pixels and print. Even so, that doesn’t mean that you should be tempted to dismiss ebooks altogether thinking print will pick up the slack.
If you’re planning to publish a book, the ebook’s growing power is well worth paying attention to.
Ebooks are popular
Last year, over 30% of all the books that Amazon sold were Kindle ebooks.
The fact that they’re portable and immediately available is especially alluring to modern readers. For anyone who travels anywhere, even just on a commute, this is a big deal. You can carry a whole library of books around on one small, lightweight device, and pick the book to match the moment and your mood exactly.
There are many other advantages, too.
Ebooks are cheaper to buy than printed books, so they appeal to readers on a tighter budget. They also don’t take up valuable space on an already overflowing bookshelf or fill a small apartment.
Ebook readers are getting cheaper and cleverer all the time. Devices like the Kindle (Paperwhite, Voyage or Oasis) or Nook (SimpleTouch, Glowlight) have 6 inch black and white e-ink touch screens which you can read in direct sunlight. They have excellent battery life and are gentle on the eyes with no blue-light glare. There is also a growing range of inexpensive, color LCD screen devices, like the range of Kindle Fire devices and Nook Color, to give readers a more vibrant reading experience.
Even if you can’t afford a dedicated ereading device, you’ll probably already own a mobile phone or tablet that can run an ebook software app. This makes ebooks accessible to almost anyone, anywhere.
With all this talk of tech, you might expect it would be the younger generation dominating ebook sales. But, surprisingly, that’s not proving true at all.
In fact, although only 18% of the over 65 market have a smartphone, almost 30% now own an ereader. Unlike with a printed book, older readers can enlarge or reduce font size, light up or dim the screen for indoors or outdoors, and even zoom in on small images.
With every reader’s needs accommodated in so many creative ways, it’s not surprising ebooks have such a widespread appeal.
Ebooks can have extra features
There is something timeless and beautiful about the feel of paper pages: the smell; the rustle as they turn; the whole experience. Ebooks will never replace that, but they can add to the reading experience in different ways.
Ebooks can include clickable links, for starters. This can give you the opportunity to guide readers to supporting information, references, and related websites. The content page lets readers skip straight to the section of their choice, or they can bookmark individual pages, and even make notes. Ebooks are also searchable, making it much simpler and faster to find something compared to skim-reading page after page.
There’s more. With enhanced content, you can enlarge figures and tables with just a screen gesture. On some devices, content can even be interactive and contain audio, video, and animations. Ebook readers are also beginning to introduce text-to-speech capabilities, so you can listen to your device reading your book out loud.
Ebooks are cheaper to produce
Without the overheads of printing, packing, and shipping, ebooks cost much less to produce than regular books. In fact, after your initial investment in a good quality ebook conversion, the only fee you’ll pay is the retailers’ sales cut, charged by retailers like Amazon, Apple, Google, or Barnes & Noble. Even though you’ll sell each printed copy of your book for much more than the ebook, the net profit and author royalties will often be higher for the ebook version.
Book printing can also be considered a drain on resources, from the energy spent on oil for print and binding machines, to the number of trees felled annually by the paper industry. Ebooks cost you and the environment less.
Ebooks can look superb
Whether or not you end up with a beautiful, flawless ebook will depend a lot on the conversion process.
There are many free or low-cost services advertised that will take your written text and convert it into an ebook. It’s a fairly brutal process, however.
All the attention to spacing, drop caps and fleurons that added character to your printed book will likely get cut altogether. And for a complex non-fiction text that includes images, captions, footnotes, numbering, lists and call-outs? An automatic conversion can leave it all in an alarming mess.
This used to happen so often that the market became flooded with substandard ebooks. Numerous poor reviews and refund requests made major distributors like Amazon finally sit up and take notice.
Retailers now carry out increasingly stringent checks on ebooks uploaded for sale. Excellent news for readers, but it does place more demands on authors to think carefully about how to convert their ebook.
It may mean spending a little more, but the results are head and shoulders above their free or low-cost competition. A skilled ebook conversion will maintain the character and stylishness of your printed book while adapting it to be flexible enough to work on the widest range of devices.
Find someone who can handle the tech process adeptly. You need someone with experience of HTML and CSS, who understands IDPF conversion standards, has experience with font licensing, and who knows how to handle things like links, indexes, and notes correctly.
With the right person on your team, the ebook version of your book can be something really special. You’ll be as keen to show it off as you are your print book.
Ebooks are a crucial market to get on your side. With such a large following, you could be missing out on a huge chunk of potential sales if you don’t offer your book in an ereadable format.
If you’re an author, it’s time to rethink the issue slightly. It’s not a question of “should I have an ebook?” anymore. Start from a place of “yes, I should!” and instead, use your time to research how best to create one.
Find the right ebook partners and make sure the conversion is worthy of your book. That way, your readers can enjoy and rave about the experience whichever reading medium they choose.
After all, that’s what books are all about.