the printed word, it’s not dead!


Digital content is commonplace. Magazines survived the public’s fascination with digital mediums by generating and distributing content across platforms. Almost everyone imagined that printed books would follow suit and eventually be phased out all together. This doesn’t seem to be the case.

E-Book Purchases Have Been Declining

The rising popularity of the e-book has begun to wane. In fact, the popularity of this medium is beginning to appear as if it has been an anomaly instead of the new norm. Early adopters rapidly transitioned to the medium for a limited period of time. Surprisingly, it doesn’t appear that additional converts are going to join the ranks in droves.

A survey conducted by Bowker Market Research in 2012 uncovered the fact that only 16 percent of Americans made an e-book purchase. At least 24 percent of American readers weren’t opposed to the medium and might make a future eBook purchase. However, 59 percent of Americans adamantly expressed to surveyors that they have no interest at all in making an eBook purchase. These stubborn literary fans cannot seem to fathom why so many of their counterparts have developed a sudden fascination with digitally devised prose.

Have We Misjudged the Nature of E-books?

From the inception of this digital medium, e-book purchases have largely skewed toward the fiction. Novels and novellas represent nearly two-thirds of e-book sales. Genre novels such as romances novels and thrillers have dominated digital bestseller sells. It appears that e-books geared towards providing readers with light entertainment are more likely to be purchased in this type of format. These types of reading materials have generally been sold en masses as paperbacks at various non-literary venues.

It makes sense. These types of books have always been considered disposable. Readers quickly devour these works of fiction and move on to the next book. Some types of books may even cause readers a little bit of embarrassment at being seen purchasing or reading the books. This would explain way the digital versions are so appealing to some bibliophile. This medium provides readers with more anonymity.

Are E-Books Just Another Format?

Works of narrative fiction and literary fiction haven’t made much of a transition to the digital realm. Readers appear to prefer to make these literary purchases in person or by mail order. It seems that readers of these works prefer to experience the tactile pleasure of holding a real book. Perhaps seeing the book on their bookshelf is part and parcel to their preferred literary experience.

It might seem that e-books are just another format for literary expression, a modern answer to the disposable paperback. A recent Pew survey seems to concur with this assumption. According to Pew, at least 90 percent of e-book aficionados continue to purchase and read printed publications. It would seem that these two types of formats serve different purposes for readers.

Print isn’t dead. In fact, this medium appears to be growing and changing. Money continues to be invested in developing and shifting printing technologies to inkjet presses and printed books aren’t becoming rare or more expensive.  Yes, digital delivery of literary works has made a significant impression on the literary world, but no one has developed a medium yet that has been capable of completely eradicating traditional printed books.  Apparently, the novelty of e-books has worn off.

Free E-books as an Effective Marketing Strategy

Just because the novelty of this medium has worn off, doesn’t mean that it isn’t useful. E-books are effective marketing tools for many types of businesses. Producing an e-book doesn’t involve making a huge investment. However, offering an e-book to potential clients and customers that solves their most common problems can bring in more business. E-books may not have eliminated print media, but this medium can be an extremely useful marketing tool.

E-book sales may not be at an all time high. However, understanding how this medium fits in with consumer purchase habits and marketing strategies can make obtaining profit from a digital publication more attainable. Print is still in, but anyone who wants to save a bundle while enticing consumers to make a purchase count on this digital medium to still work wonders. It doesn’t matter if an emerging author or a startup is utilizing the medium. E-books have a place in today’s literary world. Knowing when and how to use this digital medium to generate profits is paramount.

randy bowden – t | f | g+



8 thoughts on “the printed word, it’s not dead!

  1. This is a superb blog post chap! My congratulations.

    It is all too easy to assume that the march towards digitalisation is constant and all-pervasive. I find it refreshing to discover this assumption is so very wrong!

    • Maybe a tad wrong, there is a place and demand for e-books. However, you can not replace the value and quality of the printed page! Thanks Mark for the input…rcb

  2. In all Honesty I LOVE real books, with my eyes it is very Hard to read on the small Kindles… I just prefer to read the real thing. Unless it is a very SMALL Ebook or PDF than I am Ok with it… Just not a fan of EBooks in general, however they have their place and can be a good tool…

  3. Hello Randy,

    A couple of years ago, when I released my last collection of poetry, people urged me to turn it into an eBook as well. “Printed books are dying, eBooks are the future,” they said. My answer was simple: “Nothing beats a physical book. There is this intimacy that you won’t have with an eBook. The former is not going anywhere. And the latter won’t last for ever.”

    It seems I was right! ;-)

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