Life in the digital age is user-friendly, full of choices. The choices we make determine the choices available. The path not taken tends to disappear.
This is certainly true in the world of books, for readers as well as writers. These creators and consumers maintain a symbiotic relationship, the writer dependent upon the choices made by the reader, the reader faced with an amazing array of choices presented by writers. The book not chosen goes away, or at least disappears from sight.
Another choice the reader faces is whether to buy a physical or digital book. There are personal preferences, we’ve all had this discussion: to have and to hold a real book, treasure it, shelve it; or to purchase a digital book spontaneously, read it quickly and conveniently, and move on to the next. Neither will go away soon. As long as both roads are taken, they will continue to exist.
This choice is most apparent during the Holiday Season. For gifting, a physical book is the more likely choice than an Ebook. I sell more physical books during this season than any other time of year. The paperback or hardcover book can more easily be signed, wrapped, and placed under the tree, or presented as a Chanukah gift. The physical book costs more, a disadvantage the rest of the year, but a clear advantage for gift giving, if one doesn’t wish to appear cheap.
My format preference has evolved. I enjoy my eBook at night, to read just before sleep. It is light (in both senses of the word), and instantly refillable. I like a paperback or hardcover for the coffee table, for gifting (as mentioned above), to hold, smell, listen to the creak in the binding. I treasure my shelf of books signed by the authors.
Sometimes I buy both formats. I may read a book digitally and love it so much I have to own it. I have a shelf of those, too. These are books I can pull down at any time, to revisit a page, study an author’s style, contemplate the “hook” in the opening paragraph. I keep this shelf by my side as I write.
Again, a book format choice may be about the reading device one uses. I use only a computer and a reader. My wife uses an iPad. She is enrolled in a book loan program (paperback) for her book club, but uses the iPad the majority of the time to read or listen. Neither of use own a smartphone. I can imagine how smartphones synced with other devices might create a different world for digital books, visual or audio, and so influence preference.
The digital revolution is about free choice. Anyone may choose to write and publish; anyone may choose to read what I publish, or not. Since the publishing industry began, publishers and agents have made choices for us. The books the agents chose to represent, and those the publishers chose to publish, were the books we were given to read. No more. The publishing houses must change their ways, or disappear. On sites like Amazon and Smashword, readers, through reviews and ratings, suggest to other readers books that merit reading. Readers may choose to read them…or not.