3 Reminders about eBooks Versus Paper Books


As writers, we race to stay up with all of the changes.

If you’re like me, you may have tried new social media sites or technology you wouldn’t normally try. After all, writers need to have a web presence in order to help with marketing and connecting with readers.

And writers need to know the latest eBooks trends and ePublishing options in order to stay on top of the rapidly changing publishing industry.

In fact, I bought my Kindle primarily for the purpose of understanding how they worked. I wanted to have firsthand knowledge of what it was like to purchase and download an eBook and also how it felt to read from a paperless device. I reasoned since readers would be able to purchase my books on eReaders, shouldn’t I have some basic knowledge of how they work?

And yet as we writers become immersed in the changing technology, we tend to get in a bubble and think that everyone else is in the bubble with us. We believe as technology advances, everyone keeps as up-to-date as us.

But the truth is, not everyone is moving at the same technological speed we are.

I’m reminded of this from time to time when I interact with readers. I often get handwritten notes in the mail from readers. And recently I received TWO letters from women who said this:

It was nice to see your P.O. Box included in your book, as we do not have a computer.”

I don’t have a computer (not good at it). Let me know if you write any other books—the titles, etc.

No computer? That may sound archaic to those of us whose fingers are super-glued to a keyboard. But it just shows that not everyone is as bonkers about computers and the internet as we are.

Wirt Library, Bay City MI
Recently, I was speaking at a library in Bay City, Michigan, to a group of 50-60 people at a lunch program called “Booked for Lunch.” I shared about my writing journey, research process, and had a power point presentation giving some of the background information of my books.

At the end of my talk, I left time for questions and answers. In the course of the conversations, I mentioned that my eBook of The Doctor’s Lady was on sale on Kindle (at that time was a part of Amazon’s ‘What’s the Big Deal’ promotion). I asked for those who had eReaders to raise their hands. And as far as I could tell, NOT ONE person raised his or her hand.

What’s my point?

Well, I have three actually:

1. Know your genre readers and their demographics.

A recent Romance Writers of America survey indicated: One-third of romance book buyers (31 percent) surveyed currently read eBooks, while 69 percent do not.

Since romance readers are still largely buying paper books, I would miss out on a large population of fans if I decided to only ePublish my books. I would have been speaking to an empty room at the Bay City library.

The statistics may be different for paranormal, dystopian, or other genres. So we need to know our audience and plan accordingly.

2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

In a rapidly changing industry, we don’t need to decide we’re only going to self-publish or only going the traditional route. Instead we can look at the benefits of both options.

I do believe that regardless of demographics, more and more people are trying eBooks. But . . . I’m fairly certain there will always be readers who will want a paper copy of a book—at least I’ve talked to numerous readers who claim they don’t want to read on eReaders and never will (just like the readers at my recent presentation).

If we want to reach the widest possible audience with our books, then we can’t alienate either group—fans of eReaders or paper books. We can consider reaching out to both in our publishing and marketing spheres.

3. Stay humble and don’t burn bridges.

It’s only natural for us to rise up to defend and show support for whichever method of publishing we choose whether that’s traditional, self, or small press. But honestly, I’ve seen a lot of pride over the past year in all camps.

In my opinion, it’s wisest to stay humble, realize the landscape is constantly changing, and be willing to change too. None of us knows what will happen in another year, or two, or five. So we need to remain flexible.

But in the process, we can’t grow chips on our shoulders, lash out at one type of publishing, or puff ourselves up with pride in thinking we’re on the right path (and those other writers have it wrong).

We all need each other, no matter our publishing choices. So let’s not burn bridges but rather learn from one another and support our uniquenesses.

What do you think? Are you supporting other writers who are choosing a different publishing option than yours? And why do you think it's so easy for us to get into the writer's bubble where we begin to think everyone else is just like us?


  1. Hi Jody. I have no trouble remembering that not everyone is computer/techno savvy, because I'm one of those people who is not. I only recently (less than two weeks ago) started using Twitter. I do enjoy it a little and am learning to use Facebook more, but still have not crossed the chasm from paper book to e reader. My husband has a Nook Color and loves it, but he's an electronics junkie. I, on the other hand will always want the feel and smell of a book in my hand and the opportunity to mark my place with a turned-down corner or my latest Wal-Mart receipt.

    Having said that, I am considering e publishing when my book is ready. It may be a good way (if I have not agent or contract by then) to get my name and my book out there.

    There's room for both I think. Thank goodness for that, because I always feel like I'm about ten years behind the times. Great post. Thank you.

  2. Super post Jody. I need both options so I'm staying impartial all the way.

  3. Good morning, ladies! I'm excited that both options are available to us. But I still can't help being surprised that there are still so many readers who don't own computers, rely on the library or bookstore for selections, and have no interest in eBooks. I think that's true of more people than we realize. I'm definitely guilty of living in the bubble from time to time! :-)

  4. When one writer is squaring off with another, each saying the other is wrong ... they're both right. :)

    I have a dream that one day writers will not judge each other by the method of their publishing but by the content of their stories (I'm stealing both from Martin LK and a fellow Indelible writer friend who coined this first). If we can bridge the plotter vs. pantser divide, and truly believe that each writer has to do what works best for them, we should be able to do the same for publishing paths.

    p.s. I completely agree about knowing your audience. I'm striving to trad-publish for my MG books, because that's essential to reach that audience, while self-pub is working well for my YA/adult audience (dystopian SF).

  5. I published to e-book format, but always wanted a paper version so I'm currently formatting those right now. I know my demographic, and most of them do not own computers or like e-readers, so I'll be wondering what the paper versions bring to the table when I get them out there.

    Great post.

  6. Great reminder! I don't own an e-reader (I know--the room is gasping!!), but not because I don't see their value. I would like one eventually. But I'm sure there are tons of women like me who haven't gotten around to purchasing one. :)

  7. Wow. Great post. I'm leaning toward self-publishing, but since I write romance, I'd better make sure I offer paperbacks, too. Thanks so much for the insight. = )

  8. This was a reminder I needed, so I very much appreciate it. It came home to me more than once this week as I tried to explain to a family member what a blog was and he didn't understand.

  9. This is a great post, Jody. It's really easy to fall into the trap of thinking everyone reads electronically today, and that's just not the case. I do think paperback books will always have a niche, no matter the industry changes. The most important thing to me is that we have such a variety of choices before us as authors now.

  10. I think we forget that there are people out there who are different because most people we interact with are the same as we are. It is not a bubble but just a different "culture".
    I am an avid supporter of Indie publishing, but that is because my genre (YA gay stories) barely have any publishers (big or small) out there. Most of them are either focussed on more erotica stories or more adult characters, mine are over 18 but they are all either in education or working their first job and stuff.
    For my genre I can see quite a big chance in ebooks and POD.

    But I would never just do ebooks, I think POD is also a growing market for those without ereaders.

    Anyway, lovely post :)

  11. I was skeptical of my Kindle when it was given to me as a Christmas gift, but I have grown to love the ease of downloading books from Amazon (and I find it interesting to see which books Amazon suggests for me, generally I've liked most of them). The draw back is not being able to share the books I've purchased with others. I still purchase paperback books that I will want to share, or ones in series that I have from before.

    Thanks for the post.

  12. Jody, like Jill, I don't have an e-reader...yet. But my daughter loves her Nook Color and has downloaded several books!

    While the traditional pub route is my goal, I believe in keeping options open, and certainly, different strokes may work for different folks.

  13. No e-reader here yet, just because I love the feel of a book in my hands. Still, I know I'll eventually need to get one, if only for the same reason as you, Jody.

    Love your wisdom. The humility stuff applies to all of life.

  14. Terrific! I'm in full support of the publishing route that fits the author and the book the best! and like you said, that requires staying on top of the industry and what's happening. And understanding your target reader! Great post.

  15. Good suggestions all - especially number 3.

  16. I support authors of both formats, as well as those who go the self-publishing route. The format all depends on the authors' needs, goals, and readership demographics.

    As a 29 year old writer of historical romance and speculative fiction (I'm in the process of writing a steampunk novella), I see the appeal of ebooks. I want my stories to touch women my age as well as the traditional demographic of Christian fiction readers.

  17. Jody, great post. I do indeed no of many who buy only print. However, as a small press author I do not currently have wide distribution in brick and mortar bookstores. I do, however, have paperback available for purchase online.Still, many have let me know they couldnt find my book in the bookstore when they stopped in. I do hope to have some spread eventually, and first is at my local bookstore with a launch there. But, I am primarily focusing on ebook sales. I believe (I hope) my demographic is in this direction as my ebook sales far, far outnumber print.

    And all that said, if I werent an author I would NOT be on Facebook or Twitter or GoodReads. But its necessary. I too, love a book in my hand far more than my Kindle. The ereader books I have easily "disappear" and are forgotten but they never do on my nightstand.

  18. Great post Jody! Although my book is not published yet, I do plan to have it available in both e-book and paperback. I am self-publishing when I'm ready. I am one of those people who likes books and I do not own a kindle. I am considering buying one though and for the same reason you did. I don't know if I will ever get used to it though and I am glad to hear that the majority still likes to hold a book in their hands!

  19. Great advice!! As someone just starting out, I worry about whether to sell my unagented works to e-pubs to see how they do, but then I also fear that traditional doors would be closed to me.

  20. Yes to the yes! This is so true. Often we think people are exactly like us, but it's not true. Your point here is well-taken.

  21. Great, balanced post, Jody!!


  22. Jody, you hit on a very important truth: "We believe as technology advances, everyone keeps as up-to-date as us." Only about 20% of my non-writer friends even own a Kindle or Nook. They rely on word of mouth and browsing through their local bookstore to choose what they read. Keeping all publishing avenues open is essential to remaining relevant in the crowded field. Great post!

  23. Thanks, Jody. This is a reminder to all of us who write that everyone does not have a computer.
    I knew that because many people, most actually, who live around me do not own computers and few have ereaders. It seems to be the younger generation who own them.
    Even though VADA FAITh is on as an ebook I'm getting the paperbacks made and will have them on Amazon as well.
    Good luck with your writing and thanks for this post.
    Blessings, Barb

  24. Very interesting post.

    It would have been interesting if you had also asked your library group how many books they buy each month. The people I know who have e-readers are people who buy books. They (like me) often bought them because it was buy an e-reader or buy a bigger house to store the books, and the e-reader is a whole lot cheaper.

    The people I know who don't like the idea of e-readers are either:
    - bookshop owners
    - people who don't read
    - people who borrow from the library (or me!) because they can't afford to buy.

    The non-buyers also tend to be older people. Younger people are more likely to adopt the new technology (which comes back to your point about knowing your demographics). To develop and maintain a career as an author, you have to appeal to young and old consumers, which means not putting all your eggs in one basket.

  25. Number three really connected with me: 'Stay humble and don't burn bridges'. In this rapidly changing industry this is probably the best advice I've heard this year! thanks for always adding something valuable to the conversation.

  26. So funny! I was just talking to a young lady at Starbucks who seemed horrified at the though of digital e-readers. She was younger than me and really fun to talk to.
    You've given me some stuff to think about here. Thanks!!!

  27. My husband and daughters have kindles... I still need to take my mac classes before they run out this month!!
    It's nice to know that there are others out there who are like me. :)

  28. Very, very good post, Jody.

    Even by your ridiculously high standards!

  29. I wrote a post on ebooks vs "hard copy" and many people commented that they still like hard copy. This post is a great reminder about keeping variety in our publishing options, just like we need to keep variety in our social media platforms - we can't reach everybody in just one place. Whew, writing is exciting, isn't it? Certainly not for the inflexible or faint of heart.

  30. Julia, Great outlook! There is never a dull moment, is there? :-)


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