Ep 06: Ebooks vs Printed Books

Ebooks vs printed books is an often debated question within the publishing industry and among new authors. Discover how to pick what's right for you.

In this episode we discuss book formats (hardcover, paperback, and ebook), popular book trim sizes, and whether the debate should be ebooks vs printed books or ebooks AND printed books.


Robin Cutler [00:00:08] Hello everyone, welcome to Go Publish Yourself, an IngramSpark podcast. I'm Robin Cutler, the Director of IngramSpark.

Justine Bylo [00:00:17] And I'm Justine Bylo, and I manage the Author Acquisitions program at IngramSpark. Hi Robin.

Robin Cutler [00:00:24] Hey Justine, so today we're going to be talking about print versus electronic or eBook. Which is one of the questions that we get asked a lot about, so I think this is a really good topic for us to talk about today.

Justine Bylo [00:00:41] Or should we say print versus "e", or print and "e". I think that's the bigger issue here, Robin.

Robin Cutler [00:00:48] I totally agree with that, Justine. I believe it should be print and "e", and we can talk about why that is so. But, let's first talk about, just so that people know this, what today are the most popular formats that authors are publishing in?

Justine Bylo [00:01:07] For the print market, especially in genre fiction, you're really looking at the 5x8 and 6x9 paperback. Those are your real tried and true trim sizes for the paperback book, right?

Robin Cutler [00:01:31] Yes, and I would totally agree. I would say to the tune of about 60%-70% of all books that are published are exactly those trim sizes and also as a paperback.

Justine Bylo [00:01:47] Yeah, agreed. The reason why everyone puts their books in those sizes is because booksellers really like it that way. You know when you walk into a bookstore or Barnes and Noble, and all the books on the shelf are the same size, and it looks really, really nice. And the OCD person in you jumps for joy. That is totally why everyone does it that way. It's so that everything's standard, right?

Robin Cutler [00:02:15] Even in people's homes now you'll see books arranged, even by color on a bookshelf. Which to me, is a little offensive. I would never think about organizing my books in that way, but that's fine in terms of interior design.

Justine Bylo [00:02:36] I totally saw this weekend that you can buy books by the foot and by color from the strand. Come to find out, for those purposes.

Robin Cutler [00:02:47] I totally don't get that, but you know, to each their own. Definitely in terms of genre, paperbacks fit really well what we see in fiction. Also, in nonfiction romance, mystery especially, don't you agree, Justine?

Justine Bylo [00:03:08] Yes, mystery it's all about the genre paperback, 5x8, 6x9, same with romance. But also in those genres, people love the mass market paperback. You know when you walked into the grocery store back in the day, they had the little mass market paperbacks? The harlequin novels that you used to steal from underneath your mom's bed. Yeah, those have made... They've kind of never gone away, but they're kind of making a resurgence. And it's that 4.25x7 trim size, those are totally coming back. You have that thicker book and those also have a place on the bookshelf for sure. And we print them by the way, we totally do that trim size.

Robin Cutler [00:04:00] It's a great beach book size. They fit in your purse even.

Justine Bylo [00:04:07] I have very strong opinions about beach books and what people want to read on the beach. I think that the hardcover really has a place on the beach, because you won't ruin a hardcover on the beach, as much as you will a paperback. The water from the bathing suit really just ruins the paperback.

Robin Cutler [00:04:28] Well you know, Justine, when I was in Jamaica a few months ago, I really like to look and see what people are reading on a beach. What I was really surprised, and kind of thrilled about was, so many young men that were reading hardcovers. I could not believe it.

Justine Bylo [00:04:46] Wow, go men. I'm so proud of them. That makes my heart sing.

Robin Cutler [00:04:52] Yeah, exactly. Let's talk about hardcovers and why someone should not only think about putting their book into a paperback, but also a hardcover. Why do you think, besides taking your book to the beach as a hardcover? Why else would someone think this is a good idea?

Justine Bylo [00:05:13] Personally, I'm a hardcover junkie. I love a hardcover. I leave for vacation tomorrow and I've got three hardcovers in my bag. My boyfriend thinks I'm nuts for schlepping them all the way to Hawaii with me, but it's what I like to read. They look nice on a bookshelf. They have the durability and I just love feeling the hardcover in my hands. It's the tactile experience. I really love the hardcover. But from a more practical standpoint, the libraries love the hardcovers, because they are durable. They can go to all of the patrons and not get torn up, and you know put through the ringer as much. They really stand the test of time.

Robin Cutler [00:06:08] That's a really good point, Justine. If you really are wanting to see your book on a library shelf or to have a library consider it, you really do have to make your book available as a hardcover. That's just kind of ground zero, for a library even considering your book.

Justine Bylo [00:06:30] Yeah, exactly, they really prefer to buy in hardcover.

Robin Cutler [00:06:36] Okay, so we've covered paperback and hardcover. Let's talk a little bit about eBooks and why someone should make their book available as an eBook, as well. And I talk a lot about this to different writer's groups and organizations that I talk to. And basically, my sense about this is, you should make your book available in as many formats as you can afford, because you don't really know how they prefer to read your content. Don't you agree with that, Justine?

Justine Bylo [00:07:09] I totally agree. You also never know where your readers are reading their content. They could be reading your paperback or hardcover at home, but for their commute in the morning, they want to read on their phone or their tablet that they can just throw in their bag and go. They can be buying your book in multiple formats and also reading it in multiple formats. You just never know. Giving them that option is really, really important.

Robin Cutler [00:07:38] And especially around genres, around mystery and romance. I think eBook and certainly authors that publish, especially in romance, know this. I think they're very savvy about making their books available as e-content, because they know that a lot of their readers prefer that format.

Justine Bylo [00:08:01] Totally, and I think that with romance in particular, people are still a little ashamed to be reading romance out in the open. 50 Shades of Grey kind of changed that, but you don't want to be reading the really steamy book with the cover out on the subway, so you tend to read it on the eBook. Also, it's a cost thing for a lot of romance readers. They tend to read really fast and a lot of books, so because the eBook tends to be a little less expensive than the actual paperback or hardcover of the book, they can actually consume the content at a faster rate and you know get their fill of all their favorite authors. It satiates their need for their books.

Robin Cutler [00:09:00] Yeah, for the super fan, especially in the romance genre, once a fan meets their author in-person and you just mentioned this yourself, Justine, you want to hold on to those books in a print format. The other thing that our listeners should know is that even though we're touting "e", electronic, and eBooks as being important, the fact of the matter is print is still the dominant format; especially paperback, but also hardcover. A lot of fans want to collect and keep their favorite author's books on a shelf, so just remember that.

Justine Bylo [00:09:47] Yeah, a few years ago we kept hearing print is dead, print is dead, and that couldn't be further from the truth. EBook has been stable. It's been doing really great. But print has made a huge comeback and it's not going away any time soon.

Robin Cutler [00:10:03] Nope, that's right. We've got a few minutes left here, let's talk a little bit about children's books as being different formats that you need to consider. What are the dominant sizes that an author needs to think about? Do you want to talk a little bit about that, Justine?

Justine Bylo [00:10:24] Yeah, so with children's books typically the sizes that we see are the 11x8.5 landscape, which we just rolled out at Ingram, which is really exciting.

Robin Cutler [00:10:39] Fantastic.

Justine Bylo [00:10:41] Yeah, we've been asking for it for years, and our prayers have been answered. It's been great. We just rolled that one out and that's your really typical children's book trim size. The thing with children's books is that durability like the library market is key, because kids are rough on things, right? They're sticking things in their mouths. They're reading a book a million times. Hardcover is really important for children's, because hardcover's going to hold up to reading that book a million times, because they love the princess in that book or what have you. That's something to keep in mind. The other trim size that we see a lot of is the square book, which is the 8x8, another really great trim size.

Robin Cutler [00:11:39] I love that one. That one is so fantastic. Not only for the child, because it's a little bit smaller to handle, but also when you get in bed with your child that 8x8 when it opens up, it still looks landscape. That really lends itself well to a landscape design, without having to be as bulky. I just really love that.

Justine Bylo [00:12:07] Good for bedtime reading. Also, the other thing good about the 8x8 is that it's easier to throw in a bag. So for the mobile mom, it's also a really nice trim size. And then also, the other trim size to consider is just your 8.5x11, which is the larger, vertical children's book size. That's another one to think about.

Robin Cutler [00:12:33] And that's probably the most dominant one I would say that I see everywhere, is the 8.5x11.

Justine Bylo [00:12:42] Yeah, that one's pretty classic I'd say. I think the thing to think about is just how you want your story to look and how it's laid out when you're talking to your illustrator.

Robin Cutler [00:12:54] Yeah, and it's something to keep in mind as a children's book author. When you’re working with an illustrator, you really need to think about a standard size. You need to think about how that book's going to be oriented before that artwork is done. It's a really good idea to look at your cost before you make that decision, because that decision can really impact the overall budget of your book. I'm a big, big believer, and I say this a lot. Make your book a standard size. It's going to save you a lot of money in the end. It's not going to have any kind of negative impact on bringing your book to the marketplace.

Justine Bylo [00:13:39] Totally, and just remember those bookshelves that I talked about earlier, they got to look good.

Robin Cutler [00:13:47] We've about run out of time, Justine. So, I invite everyone to follow us on IngramSpark.com, sign up for our blog, which I think is one of the best in the self-publishing space, and just check out our pricing. We have a calculator there that can do exactly what I was just talking about. Check out your prices before you get too far into your content, and how you're going to present it. I just want to mention, next week our episode is on the differences between IngramSpark and CreateSpace. I know you're all going to want to stay tuned for that. Without further adieu, this has been a really great conversation. Justine, I appreciate talking to you today.

Justine Bylo [00:14:39] Thanks Robin, this was fun, and talk to you next week.

Robin Cutler [00:14:44] Bye, bye.

Justine Bylo [00:14:45] Bye.

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