Whither paper?

I love books, I always have. Ever since I could read, I read all the time. I don't read nearly as much as I used to, because I write so much, but there was a time when I would read three or four nonfiction books a month, and five or six fiction books a month. Now, it's more like one fiction book a month and one non-fiction book every couple of months.

And I've always liked paper books. My favorite are hardbacks. Solid in the hand, usually with gorgeous paper, and a nice binding. But practically, I never really bought that many of them. Back in the day, when hardback was released before paper, there were a few authors that I couldn't wait for – I'd buy the hardback. I think the last harback books I bought were the Harry Potter series.

And when I traveled, I always brought lots of books. Even on day trips to the beach, I'd bring at least two. Often, for longer trips, I'd be lugging six to ten books in my suitcase. It was that, in combination with selling most of my stuff to downsize on my way to seminary, that sold me on eBook devices. The idea of traveling with basically an entire library was just too appealing to me, even though I do still like paper books. And, as someone who moves as often as I do, the fewer actual physical books I own, the better. Now, I own more eBooks than I do paper books. 

As everyone knows, the paper book is not having a good go of it right now. Bookstores are dwindling. This is not entirely eBooks fault – it also has to do with Amazon, in particular. But eBooks certainly don't help the plight of bookstores, especially independent ones.  The publishing industry is undergoing a huge change, brought about by technology, including eBooks, and print on demand. It's classic disintermediation, and it's happening on a massive scale.

Almost one quarter of all books sold right now are eBooks, and that number is up from last year. There are predictions that eBook sales may outstrip all physical book sales by the end of 2013. But for my books, the deal is already done. 96% of my books sell on eBook platforms, such as Kindle, Smashwords, etc. This is mostly due to the fact that I don't have a traditional publisher, so physical copies of my books aren't getting into bookstores, and the books aren't being promoted in the classic ways.

Which leads me to think about eliminating paper versions of my books moving forward. It takes a lot of time and effort, and a bit of extra money, to make paper books alongside eBooks. And since so few people buy paper copies of my books, I'm wondering whether it's worth the extra effort for any upcoming books (there are several, I will likely publish at least three this year.)

I welcome any thoughts you have about this.

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