Creative Connections: Why do we still publish books on paper?

By DAVID CRUMM

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In addition to our long-standing magazine, ReadTheSpirit, our staff runs a prolific publishing house, known by many readers as “ReadTheSpirit Books” but actually doing a wide range of business now as Front Edge Publishing.

We’re a cutting-edge team of software and publishing professionals transforming what it means to produce a “book.” In contrast to the standard, time-consuming processes that still dominate in Big Five publishing houses, we have automated major portions of the editing and page-design process that leads to publication in e-editions and paper books.

That’s why many of the authors and indie publishers who meet with our publishing house staff begin by asking: “Paper books!?!”

Then, we hear: “You’re creating the next wave of publishing systems through Front Edge, but you’re still producing ink-on-paper books? Why not just skip ahead to e-editions? Isn’t that the future?”

The simple answer is: No.

We explain—with lots of industry evidence—why paper books are rebounding as the most important segment of American publishing. Yes, e-editions are a vital segment, as well, and no effective publishing campaign is complete without both paper and e-editions. That’s our specialty at Front Edge, we produce all formats of a book from a single “source file,” making our books highly flexible and adaptable for various audiences, updates and even for special events. We’ve got a wide range of data lined up to make the case for continuing to focus on paper—backed up with all e-editions.

Then, we opened the latest issue of the magazine of the Independent Book Publishers Association and found an eloquent summary of this trend. So, in this latest Creative Connections column, we share this brief passage from the www.IBPA-online.org magazine. IBPA contributing writer David Wexler writes in part:

FIVE YEARS AGO, if you asked what percentage of publishers’ sales would come from digital books compared to print books in 2016, what would you have said? Fifty to 80 percent would have seemed a reasonable answer. In 2011, the great recession was still roaring and Borders declared bankruptcy. Kindle sales were skyrocketing and the industry was abuzz with the specter of major disruption. Apps were the shiny new object, and we seemed to be moving toward an increasingly digital world of books.

That anticipated digital dominance has yet to materialize.

The Nook never took off as the Kindle alternative—neither has the Kobo eReader, Google Books, or the iPad, although they all have their relatively small audiences. The industry average for digital sales is roughly 25 percent of all US book purchases. In the past year, many publishers reported declining digital sales while overall print sales are increasing. Publishers Weekly in its Jan. 1, 2016, edition quotes a Nielsen BookScan report showing a 2.9 percent increase in 2015 print sales over 2014 on top of a 2.4 percent increase in 2013. Also according to PW, this is the first decline in e-book sales since the introduction of the Kindle in 2007. The technology infatuation may be ending, and younger readers are trending away from “e” and back to print.

Then this next conclusion by David Wexler is something that our Front Edge team wholeheartedly endorses. Again and again, meeting with authors and organizations that hope to produce books with us, we find that “writing The Book” on a subject is still highly revered in our culture. Wexler writes:

Similar to e-books, print books are portable and accessible, but they are also more tangible and have managed to maintain a higher perceived value.

Thank you, IBPA! Thank you, David Wexler! We have just added your conclusions to our growing body of industry data that we share with new individuals and groups approaching Front Edge for publishing solutions.

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