Ebooks vs. Physical Books vs. Used Books – The Changing Book Market

This is a guest post from Sylvia Nankivell one of the owners of http://www.usedbooksearch.net, a price comparison site for used books


Books (Photo credit: henry…)

I have always been a good reader and I am working at becoming a good writer. I began by reading or memorizing my favorite story. Now my mind reads and stores text a lot easier. I want to find out what happens next. I don’t want to skip from the beginning to the end of a story. I want to enjoy the journey that the author has created. The curtain slowly opens and reveals the plot, characters or factual reasoning. I like the feel of a used book, with the slightly rough paper and the dog-eared pages. It holds the memory of the reader before me. The crease in the cover or the spine is part of the tale with its unique wear-and-tear. Used books are decorative and entertaining. Visitors to my cabin home will look at the books with a sideways glance to read the titles. The price of a used book is usually low and shipping can be free if you buy more books at one time. But I don’t always have room to store a used book, and over the years the pages can become yellow or worn.

New, physical books make me think of a hardback bestseller. The spine is tight and it makes a slight crackling sound when it is bent. It is more expensive than the paperback version. I will pay this premium when I can’t wait to read the latest release from a favorite author. The pages feel smooth and crisp. I am reluctant to write notes or highlight certain passages. The book is too new to spoil it this way. Ordering a new book online or making the trip to the neighborhood store does take time. And If I don’t like the book then it may sit on the shelf with most of its pages unturned.

Ebooks and e-readers have changed the book market forever. An electronic book is part literature and part computer. It provides instant gratification with its speedy download. An armload of books are easily carried in digital bytes. The reader can adjust the page layout, brightness and font style. It is an interactive experience with the page. You can look up the definition of a word, make notes and share the experience with friends. There are no traditional costs for book-making, binding, publishing house administration and marketing. So an ebook is usually less expensive than a physical book. Some ebooks are free and some are offered for a couple of cents. But, on the flipside, as an author becomes better-known and more marketable, the price will go up, and an ebook can then become more expensive than a physical copy.

Some traditional book agents and publishers have lost their prior influence as gatekeepers. With some formatting practice and experience, self-publishing is much more accessible with ebooks. Additionally, more books are available for the reader with a click and a swipe. The variety of books is overwhelming. I like using consumer and editorial book reviews to narrow down my options. I often read a few pages of text before I buy online in order to dip my toe in unfamiliar waters.

E-readers are in fashion and for good reason. Readers, writers, teachers and students benefit from increased access to books. New companies and websites offer help for authors to make the leap into ebooks. Of course there is no substitute for good writing and no mater what, new technology can’t enhance or cover-up a badly written book.

Some readers may be left out if they can’t afford an e-reader, personal computer or Mac. But good literature came from a physical and not a digital era, and for many bookworm types, the appeal of reading a book on a flat-screen is not quite the same as turning over those paper pages. That being said, the thing that I really love about the digitalised era, is the community aspect that comes with reviewing and talking about books online. It is definitely going to be interesting to see what technology has to offer readers and writers in the future. One thing is sure, and that’s that the next generation won’t have as many physical books lying around as we did!

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