Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hardcover, softcover--or e-book?--A novelist perspective

“Print on paper is out, digitalized words are in,” — or so is the current opinion expressed in social circles, the internet and publishing industry.

Is that really so?

There is no question that the e-book revolution is upon us with various choices led by Kindle, and iPad and Nook, leaving other starters such Sony Reader in the dust. "By this time next year," wrote technology expert Mike Egan two years ago, "e-books will be mainstream."

I’ve recently replaced my cumbersome and ineffective Sony Reader with a basic Kindle (Sony Reader required tech support each time the battery ran out—and it did run out freqently. If I left it plugged into my computer to recharge, the computer eventually went into save mode, causing the Sony Reader’s battery to drain!) By the time I deserted Sony Reader, it had over 80 books, mostly the free classic books, which I tend to read in my never-ending self-schooling in English Lit. The platform did not lend itself to transferring the books to my Kindle.

Besides being an avid reader, I am also a published novelist, and have collected statistics about my books sales: My first novel PUPPET CHILD, (2002) sold only one hardcover copy for every 100 softcover copies. And now, nine years after it was published, its various digital platforms sell twenty copies to each softcover book.

When my second novel, CHINA DOLL, was published in 2006, I told my agent and publisher not to bother with hardcover; I wanted readers—and I wanted them buying their own copies at the lower rate rather than waiting until the less-costly softcover version became available. Now, the digital selling ration is similar as for my PUPPET CHILD—about twenty-five to one.

Both novels are available in all digital platforms most of us have never heard of, yet are being sold, thanks to an innovative service, .

Now, that JERUSALEM MAIDEN is out, we discover that each week about one-third of the sales are in digital formats.

If paper books continue to hold their place in the market for the many of us who love the feel and versatility of it (it is much easier to flip through pages or glance through sections in the paper version,) I must say that I have been right on one count: The print must be large enough not to require a second pair of glasses…. The font needs not be the industry-standard "Large Print" for the senior citizen shelves at the public library, but simply large enough to be easy on the eyes. That’s what I had requested from HarperCollins when they’ve recently published my new novel JERUSALEM MAIDEN.

The verdict? Hardcovers look great on the shelf, but cost too much in resources (paper, shipping,) and are the ones most likely to be replaced by softcover and digital versions.

Talia Carner’s most recent novel, JERUSALEM MAIDEN, depicts a young woman’s struggle for freedom within the confines of her society’s religious dictate.