I’ve been thinking about the rapid move towards eBooks we’re witnessing right now and came across a pretty interesting related graphic/chart by Newsweek.
Here’s a few snippets from the comparison:
- $4.05 average production cost for $26 hardcover
- $0.50 average production cost for $9.99 eBook download
- $3.90 average author royalty per paper book
- $2.12 average author royalty per eBook download
There is plenty of additional, interesting statistics. Head over to Newsweek to see the complete comparison.
I don’t see traditional paper books ever going away completely, but I do see a continuation of this shift towards eBooks for many purposes as the cost of eReaders continues to decline.
16 thoughts on “Traditional Books versus Digital Books”
As always with this stuff, picture quality matters to the discerning consumer.
Viva dead trees! Viva! Viva!
True… I had originally intended to hand down my Kindle 2 to Mom. But now I’m thinking I’ll get her the slightly higher res/contrast Kindle 3 when the time comes. Although, I think she’ll prefer paper for a variety of reasons. Including a strange need to read the last chapter before she reads most of the book.
“Although, I think she’ll prefer paper for a variety of reasons.”
I simply can’t fathom why anyone would prefer an e-reader over the dead tree format for reading at home.
Sure, you’ll save a few bucks if you’re a heavy reader, and sure, you’ll be able to get instant delivery of your titles. But the overwhelming UI advantages of the dead tree format would seem to easily cancel that out. It’s a really, really good UI.
Obviously, if you are a frequent traveller, the balance starts to shift. It’s nobody’s idea of fun to travel carrying around four books in your suitcase. But even on day long excursions, I still don’t get the point of e-readers.
All that said, once the Kindle drops to a two-digit price point, I’ll probably pick one up just for fun. And that’s more because I admire how Jeff Bezos is working so damn hard to do an e-reader correctly than anything else. Amazon is perhaps the only big company where I unreservedly love being a customer of theirs.
(And Amazon really ought to make sure they hit that two-digit price point by this Xmas shopping season. If I were them, I wouldn’t care how much I lost on each unit. There’s a war going on, and important ground is being staked out.)
“Including a strange need to read the last chapter before she reads most of the book.”
That seems a more serious issue.
Have you considered suggesting acupuncture or hypnotherapy? I believe the literature shows they can prove effective in curing that.
Chucky: I’ve owned a Kindle since the Kindle 1. I preferentially read titles on my Kindle now. When given the opportunity to buy a book vs. e-book for the same price, I will almost always choose an e-book.
“I simply can’t fathom why anyone would prefer an e-reader over the dead tree format for reading at home.”
Well, you would have to try it to understand it. However, those that own e-book readers seem to overwhelming like them and continue to use them.
“Well, you would have to try it to understand it. However, those that own e-book readers seem to overwhelming like them and continue to use them.”
Well, I have played with Kindles, though only for limited periods. And, as stated, I’ll probably buy one once they hit my “toy” price point, since I’m not a road-warrior at the moment.
Further, I’m aware that some non-trivial number of folks say they simply prefer the Kindle for home usage. I’m even friends with some of those folks. De gustibus non est disputandum. Hell, some folks even say they prefer serif fonts in their laptop/desktop web browsers.
But I still can’t fathom why folks would say such things.
Perhaps it just comes down the fact that I’m a sucker for a good UI. I’ll jaywalk across a busy street for a better UI. And the dead tree reader platform implements a really kickass UI.
(I keep trying to find a link on who it was who invented the dead tree reader UI. My googling skills are not proving up to the task. If memory serves, it was one of the folks at Xerox PARC. Or perhaps it was Vannevar Bush. But whoever did the hard work, they were one helluva UI designer. The dead tree UI does pretty much everything in as elegant and functional a manner as one could imagine. It guess it would be nice if they would implement copy/paste in a less clunky fashion, but I assume that was a copyright issue…)
Integrated dictionary. English is not my native language and e-readers offer a quick way to lookup definition of unfamiliar words.
Also, convenience factor is huge. I have Amazon Kindle and B&N/Nook software on my iPod Touch to go along with Nook hardware I picked up at discount. There are a bunch of times when I have a few minutes of free time and I can get through a few more pages :)
Every time I have done the math, the ebooks would end up costing me more. For example looking at books in my Amazon wishlist, I have tons of paper backs for 7.99. Amazon charges 6.99 and up for the Kindle editions I looked at. Now on top of it most of the books are buy 3 get one free. $27.96 for 4 ebooks assuming 6.99 price or $23.97 for 4 paperbacks since 3 for 4 before you even take into account the cost of the reader and the loss of resale, loaning/trading, and donating the paperbacks.
The Kindle (but maybe not all e-book readers) is more about convenience than cost.
The latest edition of major daily newspapers (U.S. & foreign) are available on your Kindle when you wake up in the morning.
Instant availability of the latest bestseller (or any recent title that strikes your fancy) as well.
Plus the ability to hold literally hundreds of novels (I’m a voracious reader & my bookshelves are full)
Used books can be cheaper, but often not if you’re buying them online, once you consider $2.99-$3.99 per book shipping.
And of course a publisher/author makes no money off the sale of used books.
Yup. Though search is a limited application geared towards research.
(Which led me to consult my OED to find that the word “research” indeed comes from the word “search”. Obvious in retrospect, but it had never consciously occurred to me before.)
“Integrated dictionary. English is not my native language and e-readers offer a quick way to lookup definition of unfamiliar words.”
Yup. Another good limited application for e-readers.
And this one actually intrigues me personally. There is a non-English language I’d like to work on, and I could imagine buying a Kindle, picking up a book in that language that I’ve already read in English translation, and plugging away at it with the integrated dictionary.
OK. I stand corrected. Now I can appreciate a few reasons why someone might prefer an e-reader for reading books at home.
But I’ll fall back on noting that these are relatively limited applications, and will continue to assert that the dead tree readers hold overwhelming advantages over e-readers for most book reading at home.
Price and travel are the only reasons most folks should prefer e-readers over dead tree readers.
I certainly can see Chucky’s point of view. Price is NOT the reason to go with an eReader – at least today. But I definitely don’t see quality of print as an advantage of paper books anymore.
The reasons for eReaders/eBooks popularity in my home:
1. Portability – take many books with you wherever you are. No extra weight or bulk. Great for the traveler or commuter.
2. Convenience – instant access to bookstore as long as you are in WiFi or Mobile range. This is huge for my parents who live in the “sticks” away from a bookstore. And again nice for a traveler
3. Multiple Platforms – If you’re a geek (yes I am) and you use different PCs, iPhones, Android Phones, iPad, Kindle etc you can often catch-up on your reading while waiting in line at a store for instance. I use this feature as does my wife since we both have our “smart”-phone with us most of the time.
4. Its actually MORE comfortable to hold a Kindle or Nook in your hand for extended times than all Hardcover books and many paperbacks. This is a “your mileage may vary” kind of thing, but its true for my family.
5. For those that want/need different sized fonts – like those getting older who have more trouble seeing normal-sized print (my Dad for instance) it’s a real benefit.
6. I see the latest Kindle an important move forward for the blind. The text-to-speech built in for menus and many books themselves is great.
I’m certainly not saying eBooks are better in all cases or even that they are better in general. But I wanted to share the reasons I think they are not a bad thing and for many people they ARE better. I don’t see eBooks taking over paper books ever. But they certainly might overtake paper in terms of market share at some point.
“Price is NOT the reason to go with an eReader – at least today.”
Depends on how heavy a reader you are. If you consume a book a week, I’d guess you’d hit break even on the Kindle hardware in less than a year.
“But they certainly might overtake paper in terms of market share at some point.”
I think they will do that without much doubt in the relatively near-term future. It’s always hard to beat a marginal cost of zero.
I’ll continue to pay more for the lovely dead tree user experience, but I’d guess a lot of folks won’t.
“Good enough” tends to win the market share war, and the Kindle user experience is already close to “good enough” today. It’s just not “as good as” for a UI junkie like me. I pay more for OS X boxes instead of Windows boxes for the user experience. I actually buy newspapers when the alternative is free for the utter luxuriousness of the user experience. But majorities of consumers don’t act that way.
@Dave “Including a strange need to read the last chapter before she reads most of the book.” One of the things that I actually did like about the Nook when we reviewed it was that there was a chapter table of contents at the beginning of the books that I looked at. This was different than the Kindle. This was extremely helpful since at the time their iPhone app sync wasn’t working and I needed it to get to the correct place in the book. That would be good for your mom to get to the last chapter to read it and then go back to the beginning. I don’t know why she would want to…. but who am I to judge? I put my Kindle in a zip lock bag and take it to the bathtub….
@Chucky Oh boy! I don’t have time to read anywhere BUT home unless I go on vacation. I don’t know if I will ever buy another dead tree book unless there is no other option. Hardbacks are heavy and paperbacks give me handcramps keeping them open. Furthermore, they use cheap paper in paperbacks that make my skin crawl. I am not an annotator that isn’t an issue. The BEST UI is by far the eInk platform. The fact that I can change the font as my eyes get tired…. can your dead tree book do that? No… you just have to put it down for the night and pick it up tomorrow. The key to UI is the U (user). In dead tree format, the user is not considered. It is one-size fits all!
“The fact that I can change the font as my eyes get tired…. can your dead tree book do that? No… you just have to put it down for the night and pick it up tomorrow.”
Yup. Yet another worthwhile limited application for e-readers.
If you need large-type print, e-readers indeed make perfect sense.
“I put my Kindle in a zip lock bag and take it to the bathtub….”
You do live up to your branded-surname.
When Amazon releases it’s splashproof Kindle, (given the Walkman evolution history, you’d figure it’ll still be another few years), that’ll be one significant UI barrier to fall.
If you’re a heavy reader, you’re highly likely to do some bathtub reading.
But even then, e-readers still won’t be able to match the dead tree UI’s stunningly designed page-turning effect. It’s so realistic that it almost seems tactile…
The weight of a new kindle is half the weight of a paperback.
You can hold the Kindle in one hand and change the page with that same hand.
The instant page turn of the kindle allows for a better reading experience than paper book page turning, because its instant and requires no thought, your mind stays in the story rather than being interrupted for the page turn process (until you’ve used a kindle for awhile you don’t fully appreciate this “reading immersion” detail).
Traveling with several books is easier with the kindle but you don’t fully appreciate the storage aspects of the kindle till you have to move your library of books from one domicile to another.
It’s not to say that the ebook will rule. And it’s not to say that paper will rule either. Personally speaking I don’t see a problem in digital books, it has it’s advantages. One of them is that it’s a lot less of a stress ride with distribution since that’s all done by the machines.
Paper will always be around however you want to look at it. So there’s no point seeing this as a war or anything, digital books are just an injection of new life into the publishing world.
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