Why Print Still Matters in the Digital Age

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CompletelyNovel.com is an online publishing community and social-sharing site for book-lovers which helps self-published writers to publish quality print editions at competitive prices.

We spoke to Anna Lewis, co-founder of Completely Novel, about why print is still important in the digital age.

Are print books still relevant for independent authors?

With eBook sales on the rise and Kindle eBooks surpassing the sale of print books on Amazon last year, more people are asking – is print still relevant in this increasingly digital age? The answer from our point of view, and the point of view of our hundreds of writers who choose to publish through our platform in print, is a definite ‘yes!’.

 So, why are printed books still relevant? We outline just a few of the reasons below.

To have and to hold

Yes, we thought we’d start with the most basic reason: that with all the technology in the world, there are still many of us who love the feel, texture and smell of a physical book. We like going into a bookshop and running our fingers along the spines of the books until we find the one for us; we like showing them off on our bookshelves; we like to feel the pages lessen in our right hand as we near the end of the story. There is something exciting about books that made us all fall in love with them in the first place – and that’s something the typical eBook can’t quite replicate.

To give and receive

 The technology for sharing or gifting ebooks has been slow to develop and is still not very advanced – some have even said that it’s little more than glorified file-sharing. Wrapping a book to give to your family or a friend feels better than sending an email with a voucher code on it – it’s more tangible and immediate.

A book launch or signing also requires a physical product, and while there are some programs to allow for digital autographs, there is still something important to us about having an author sign a physical book.

Print books in a digital word

There are those who argue that print books cannot survive in an increasingly digital world. There is no denying that the way we access storytelling has changed in recent years – we now download films and music, and can watch performances over the web or our television. However, the printing of books has also become increasingly digitalised, meaning that traditional and self-publishers can now print-on-demand and save thousands of books from being printed unnecessarily. New technology has also altered the production of books – making them easier to design, and allowing editors and designers to be more creative with typesetting and packaging. Rather than hindering print, technology has helped books evolve and inspire a new generation to read.

What writers think

We are a publisher dealing mainly in print, so we’re obviously going to have lots of good things to say about the paperback. So, why don’t we hand over to some of our writers, to find out why they opted for publishing physical books.

Tom Evans

For entrepreneurs, having a published book in your name can help hugely in establishing your credibility, differentiating you from your competitors and attracting clients. Using print can be particularly attractive as you have more freedom and control when it comes to using images, graphs and tables in your book, which might get mangled by the reflowable format of eBooks.

Tom Evans is a life coach and works with a large number of clients helping them to find direction and inspiration in their careers and personal lives. Handing one of his books such as In The Zone to clients is a useful way of letting them digest the practices and principles in their own time. Print on demand means he can do that as efficiently as possible.

“Even though everyone seems to be using eReaders these days, print books have a place in this new world. At my talks and workshops, people still love having personally signed copies my books. If I am doing a talk for 23 people, I know that I can order exactly 23 books at no cost penalty and they will be delivered within 5 days, sometimes in two!”

Christian Paris

Christian Paris penned ‘A Pretty Smart Way To Catch A Lobster (The Alice In Wonderland Years)’ to tell the story of how he was inspired to start a club and the many adventures he had in the ten years that the club ran for. There’s a large group of people who remember the club and may also have been part of the various weird and wonderful projects that Christian ran alongside it. Having a printed book was a way of saving and sharing those memories with that group of people.

“To me a book has to be held, to be touched, to turn over, to read the blurb on the back and to take a sneaky look at the pictures inside, before settling down and reading it. Once read it can be lent to others and then to be treasured.”

Andrew Sykes

‘Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie’ was written by Andrew Sykes, a keen cyclist. It has been a highly successful book among other travellers and cyclists, both in terms of eBook sales and print sales. Here’s why he opted for print:

“Selling eBooks is great but to actually see your literary effort in a printed book is something quite special. Apart from that initial wish, it obviously opens up the books to more traditional markets and has allowed me to get the books into around 100 Waterstone’s stores nationwide as well as being sold through online channels such as Amazon. Many people prefer (for very good reasons) having a book in their hand to hold, to bend, to lay down on the floor, to put on their coffee table, to throw at the cat! You can’t really do that with an eBook.”

So there you have it. If you want your readers to get more from your book than just the text (such as a means of animal control or memento to treasure), print offers plenty that keeps it relevant, and interesting – for publishers and independent authors alike.

Anna Lewis is the co-founder of CompletelyNovel.com, an online publishing community, social-sharing site and information resource for all book-lovers.

Meet the Completely Novel team at The Writing Platform Conference and Fair this November where you can talk to them about their work.