print books

First Edition

stack of books

By Lisabet Sarai

When did books become so ephemeral?

I have a bookshelf in my apartment full of titles I’ve lugged around for most of my adult life—from the East Coast to the West Coast and back again, and then from America to Asia. Indeed, some of these books (Alice in Wonderland, The Complete Sherlock Holmes, The Complete Plays of Gilbert and Sullivan) have been with me since I was a child. These are books I don’t want to live without. I never know when I’m going to want to re-read one of them.

Many are hard-cover. Some have begun to disintegrate with age. I recently replaced two dilapidated volumes with new editions: Little Big by John Crowley and A Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. I found it heartening that both these books, among my life time favorites and first read decades ago, were still in print.

Growing up, books were my closest friends, possessing a special magic. They seemed more real than many of the people around me. It is perhaps strange, given the fact that I started writing as soon as I knew the letters, that I didn’t fantasize about being an author. However, I had a famous author in my extended family. I knew that having penned and published a book was a major achievement.

I remember the thrill of holding the first edition of my first novel. It was a cheap paperback, printed on dingy, low-quality paper. Still, it had my name on the cover, and my words inside. At the age of forty six, I felt that I’d achieved some small measure of immortality.

Now, seventeen years later, sitting in my apartment storage room, I have at least a dozen copies of that book that I can’t get rid of. Living as I do in a conservative Asian country, I can’t just toss them in the trash. I don’t want to send them to readers; I’m only too aware of the weaknesses in that edition, hopefully remedied or at least improved in the most recent release of this title.

I have even more copies of the second edition, and the third. In fact I have author’s copies of dozens of books that nobody wants—including me.

I used to believe that books were forever. Now they’re just clutter, inconvenient and space-consuming.

And that’s print books. What about everything that I’ve written that has been released only in electronic form? Talk about ephemeral! In a couple of decades, as technology and file formats change, it may not even be possible to read those books. (This is assuming that people will still know how to read.)

All the blood and sweat I put into those books, the energy and the love, produced nothing more than a collection of bits, easily erased by a random cosmic ray or an erroneous mouse click. Definitely a bit discouraging.

Books these days are ephemeral in another sense, too. In the days of traditional printing, it was expensive to release new editions. The text of a novel was more or less fixed.

In contrast, when I scroll through the directories on my hard drive, I find multiple versions of almost everything I’ve written. It’s so easy to tweak a tale for a new audience. Sometimes the changes are sufficiently large that it should really be considered a new book.

Which version is the “real” book? When future generations of students study my work (ha!), which file will be take as the authoritative text, from a literary analysis point of view?

Do you know how many e-books are published now, every day? Thousands. One estimate I found said there are 40,000 new ebook titles on Amazon each week.

Even as a reader, I’ve started to treat books as temporary, disposable commodities. Mostly, my DH and I don’t hold on to books anymore, unless they’re among the best things we’ve ever read. We tend to buy in used bookstores, and pass the volumes along when we’re done with them.

Still, there must be some readers out there like me, readers who remember the books that touched them most deeply, who want to make sure they have copies for the future. I recently got a request to reprint a story I wrote ten years ago. A few people, I guess, pay attention to what I’ve written. A few people remember.

Meanwhile, when my husband went to a used bookstore recently looking for new reading material, he found a copy of Raw Silk front and center on the shelves, staring at him. First edition.

I do hope someone buys it—to keep the story alive.

Print v. Ebook: The Never-Ending Debate

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.

Print versus ebook? That’s the big question. According to Waterstones, ebook sales have plummeted while print book sales have soared. Then again, according to The Guardian, print book sales have declined as readers migrated to ebooks.

The Guardian described the dilemma in this fashion:

A review of 2014 from book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan shows that while the decline in sales of print books in the UK slowed last year, with value sales down 1.3% to £1.39bn, and volume sales down 1.9% to 180m, the performance for printed adult fiction was markedly worse. The adult fiction market was the worst-performing of all areas of the book business, down by 5.3% in 2014 to £321.3m, with volume sales down 7.8% to 50.7m. In 2009, printed adult fiction was worth £476.16m.

The decline is even greater when paperback fiction is removed from the picture: according to Nielsen, hardback adult fiction sales plummeted last year by 11.6% to £67.9m, with just three titles – by crime and thriller bestsellers Lee Child, CJ Sansom and Martina Cole – selling more than 100,000 copies.

“The ebook has quite demonstrably hit the commercial end of the fiction market,” said the Bookseller’s editor Philip Jones. “Almost any drop in adult fiction sales can mainly be put down to the migration to digital, which is obviously still continuing. We think consumer ebooks this year will be worth £350m, with most big publishers reporting ebook growth of double digits – and almost all of that will be in fiction.”

Which way is it? Are ebooks on their way out or are print books on the rise?

Articles like these have predicted the end of the ebook “trend” since digital formats became popular with the emergence of the Nook and especially the Kindle. That simply is not the case. Information Today reports that “The most recent AAP data, from December 2014, covers the first three quarters of 2014 and shows that revenue from 1,209 publishers was up 2.8%. “In terms of formats, ebooks were up, hardbacks were down, and paperbacks were up. Total ebook revenues increased by 5.6% over 2013 (to $1.2 billion from $1.13 billion),” The Digital Reader’s Nate Hoffelder notes.”

Deloitt’s 2015 Canadian Technology, Media, and Telecommunications predictions indicated that print book sales would climb four times higher than ebook sales. High end literary fiction such as Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” sell well in print. Children’s books also continue to do well in print.

Print books have their benefits as well:

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as holding a paperback or hard cover book in your hand if you’re a writer.

You can sign print books. Yes, you may sign ebooks with an ebook signature but it’s just not the same.

Having physical books for potential readers to handle and buy at conventions makes it easier to sell books than pushing ebooks on browsers in the same venues.

There is satisfaction in the feel of a print book. The tactile sensation of holding paper and the “new book smell” are very appealing.

Sadly, some do not consider ebooks “real” books. A physical print book may hold more psychological clout than a digital book.

It seems that people are not reading less. A contrasting report showed that readers are migrating from print books to ebooks. Ebooks are the wave of the future, and they have many benefits:

You can store hundreds of books on an ebook reader, which is great if you don’t have much room for numerous bookcases.

Readers of erotic fiction in particular are especially attracted to ebook readers because these ereaders give them privacy. They don’t have to worry about getting the raised eyebrow from onlookers who see a paperback with
scantily clad women and muscle-bound beefcakes on the covers. Ebook readers are lightweight and easy to use.

You can adjust the size of the font with an ebook reader. This especially benefits those with poor eyesight.

Some ebook readers light up, eliminating the need for a book light.

Ebook readers don’t crease or get coffee stains on the pages.

As before mentioned, erotic romances sell well in digital format. According to erotic writer Selena Kitt, sales of erotica alone have driven the rise of the ebook and ebook reader more than any other genre. Despite that fact, major retailers have cracked down on questionable titles including incest, pseudo incest, bestiality, and rape fantasy as well as the new trend monster porn (think Bigfoot or a T-Rex as the love interest, and you have this very strange subgenre.). Despite the pitfalls and fickle nature of some retailers, erotic fiction continues to be the top
seller of all the genres.

Despite many doomsday predictions, ebooks and ebook readers aren’t going away. Not by a long shot. Print books will always be popular, but ebooks are here to stay. It really doesn’t matter whether or not a person picks up a Kindle or a paperback. As long as they read, book retailers, publishers, and writers will be happy.

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


Babysitting the Baumgartners - The Movie
From Adam & Eve - Based on the Book by New York Times Bestselling Authors Selena Kitt



Pin It on Pinterest