By Maggie James
For some, there's nothing like a real book
'I get how convenient e-books are,' a friend told me recently. 'But there's nothing quite like snuggling up with a real book, is there?'
She's not alone. Since I started publishing novels, I've lost count of the number of people who have told me they prefer to hold an actual book in their hands as opposed to a tablet or e-reader.
Personally, I'm happy to use both. I have a Nook as my chosen e-reader device. I love it, but I also read hardbacks and paperbacks borrowed from my local library. I believe our free book borrowing system is amazing, so I'm keen to support it, and there's also an ever-growing range of e-books available from them as well.
The rise of the e-book
Although Amazon chose not to reveal actual figures, that near-vertical orange line shows that Kindle books are selling at a phenomenal rate. Bear in mind that the graph is from Amazon, so it doesn't take into account competitors' e-book sales, such as ones from Apple, Kobo, Google Play, etc. With those factored in, the dominance of e-books over print has to be even more startling.
E-book purchases in the UK rose by a massive 20% in 2013, with self-published titles accounting for one in five sales. Readers spent £300m on 80 million e-books in 2013. (Source: Neilsen). In the USA, e-book sales are reaching new heights as 50% of Americans say they own an e-reader or tablet. 28% read at least one e-book in 2013, a rise of 23% from the previous year, according to a new survey of more than 1,000 adults from the Pew Research Centre. However, the study showed the percentage of people who read print books increased as well, with 69% reading at least one print book, a rise of 4% from the previous year.
E-books, defend your corner!
So why are e-books so popular? Let's look at the advantages.
1. Immediate gratification. In a world where change is occurring at an increasingly fast pace, e-books provide near-instant enjoyment. With Amazon's 'one click' facility, it's a matter of seconds to get the latest blockbuster on your Kindle.
2. Portability. E-readers and tablets can hold thousands of books, great for travelling. It takes seconds to add or delete books, and it's a doddle to move them between devices.
3. E-readers are customisable. Need to read in a larger font? Simple. Like to make notes you can erase later? Easy-peasy. Want to read in bed at night but your partner is asleep beside you? No problem - simply activate the built-in light on your Kindle or Nook.
4. Price. The price of most full-length novels on Amazon UK is around the £3 mark. Paperback novels tend to retail at £8 or £9. E-books have made reading far cheaper and often free.
Let's hear it for physical books!
It's reassuring to note that whilst the graph shows Kindle book sales outstripping physical ones, there's still a gratifying rise in the sales of actual books as well. So what makes so many people love snuggling up with a physical version of their chosen read?
1. Ah, the pleasure of a brand-new book! Many people give this as a reason for preferring paperbacks and hardbacks to e-books. There's something incredibly sensual about holding a new book purchase, smelling its pages and feeling the smoothness of the cover beneath one's fingers. How can an electronic version compete? Straight answer - it can't. Set beside their physical counterparts, e-books appear somewhat homely at best. And doesn't a well-stocked bookcase add something wonderful to a room?
2. Whilst textbooks are becoming increasingly digital, there are some books that undoubtedly do better in physical format. Cookery books, for one, with their glossy pages full of photos of wonderful culinary delights, look much better in a physical format. So do the types of books destined for life on the coffee table - exotic travel tomes, photographic books and the like - against which digital versions can't as yet compare.
3. For me, it's easier to flip backwards and forwards in a physical book. I can skim through the pages of one really quickly with my fingers. Not so with an e-book using the content/search facilities on my Nook. And I can't speak for the Kindle, but Nook doesn't always remember where I've finished reading, which can be annoying. No such problem with using an old-fashioned bookmark - although, of course, they can always fall out!
4. Finally, plenty of people are technophobes. I'm not, but I do know a few! They're simply not comfortable with using electronic devices for reading.
What's your preference? E-book or actual?
So what's your stance on the e-book versus actual book debate? Are you one of the many people who savour the feel and smell of a real book in their hands, something which will grace their bookshelves and hallmark them as a bookworm? Or do you love the convenience and cheapness of e-books, loading your e-reader or tablet up with the latest bargains as they hit the digital shelves? Maybe you're like me, mixing the tangible with the digital as it suits. Leave a comment and let me know!
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