Sunday, June 5, 2011

Physical Books VS Indie ebooks

I just got back from the Utah Festival of Books in Provo where I spoke on a panel and the discussion of ebooks came up which inspired this weeks blog post.

Since I’m a lover of both physical and ebooks - I don’t have a favorite but I think it’s always good to analyze them both for their advantages and disadvantages. I decided to list both pros and cons from the consumer point of view as well as the author/illustrator point of view if working with a traditional publisher vs indie publishing ebooks. If I miss some points please help me by adding your insights as I know I’ll have a different list than some of you. So here we go...

Physical Books Pros:
Having a tangible artifact
Larger format for illustrations
Better legibility in strong light
Developing a physical library
Guaranteed advance against royalties
Eligible for Caldecott and other medals
Inclusion in school & public libraries
Can be signed
More prestigious
Edited by professionals
Marketed by professionals

Expensive to purchase
Expensive to publish
Can get damaged/ lost
Hard to see in dim light
Heavy - unwieldy
Less Eco friendly
Limited to multiples of 4 page counts
Travel to purchase/ wait for delivery
Can go out of print

ebook pros:
Inexpensive to purchase
Inexpensive to publish
Disaster Proof/ download from your account
Reading in the dark
Light weight - easy to carry thousands of titles
Eco friendly
Adjustable font size
Unlimited page counts
Publishing freedom/autonomy
Instant delivery
Quicker to market/ royalties
Never goes out of print

ebook cons:
No physical artifact
Comparatively small viewing area
Hard to view in strong light
Not as gift-able
Less ownership pride
No guarantee of earnings
Not eligible for most book awards
Can’t be checked out at the library
Can’t be signed
Less prestigious
Self edited
Self programed
Self marketed


  1. How are your sales on your ebooks going? I bought Monkey and Crock for my ipad a few weeks ago also and it was still at the top of the list, then I realized it was available as an app, which might have worked better. My grandson has already memorized it and can "read" it to me ;)

  2. I think there was recently an event where ebooks were signed by Sandra Boynton! Although it was a digital signing I suppose, and you can't really pass it along to a friend like a gift book. But maybe signing should come off the 'ebooks Cons' list!

  3. Hey Karen - so glad to hear that grandson likes Monkey & Croc! My kids are too old to appreciate it and I don't have grand kids yet so I have to live through other people's experiences.

    June - thanks for sharing - I had no idea anyone would even try something like this - WOW! My list stands corrected - Apparently you CAN sign some ebooks.

  4. Great list Terry! I am also thinking there has been an attempt by libraries to own and lend e-books and it will certainly happen eventually.

  5. Oops - also Karen - sales are still up - doing 10 times better than expected!

    Good observation Karen Lee - I didn't know how to list libraries in the mix because we know that there will be a transition over time - I listed them the way I did because I don't see many people checking out ebooks from libraries right now.

  6. I think kids should have the hard copies. You can curl up with the book and over time it looks loved. I just get a headache looking at a screen for too long and the last thing I'd do on a screen is read a book, especially if it is for pleasure. For pleasure I want to curl up on a bean bag, in bed, with the book.

  7. Hi Will,
    Thanks for your terrific blog and sharing your knowledge about making ebooks.
    I'm not sure if I've missed this on your site, but what about ISBN numbers for eBooks? Do you purchase them for yours? I've self-published print on demand books that offer free ISBNs, and made a couple PDF ebooks without ISBNs. What's your take on this?

  8. Ebn - Everyone will have their preferences and I'm glad you're weighing in! I thing it helps all of us to hear that some people don't like the idea of curling up with an ereader - I think many people don't like the idea of it. Others however are enamored with the fact that you can do things with ebooks that you just can't with physical books. With ebooks you can now read bedtime storyies to kids with the lights off - many are reporting that it's a more natural transition to sleep.

    Hey Mark - I have purchased some ISBN numbers - a group of 10 seemed to be the most economical for my speculative needs. I haven't used them yet but in order to publish on itunes you have to have one for each ebook/app. I don't think NOT having them on my ebooks now is hurting me but I suppose it could in the future when and if libraries start offering ebooks. But then again their might be a way for them to pull up books lacking an ISBN number - stranger things have happened. I'm not an expert here so if anyone has a better answer please feel free to share.

  9. Yes, my local libraries already lend ebooks too, have been for about a year that I'm aware of.. It's through a subscription service similar to their music lending. I believe you have to submit your book to the catalogue.


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