Print and Prejudice

For the last ten years, since the unveiling of the Kindle reader, there has been a constant conversation about reader’s preferences. Print or Ebook?

While ebook sales grew exponentially and paper sales stagnated many declared victory for the ebook. I have a number of friends who have not purchased a paper edition of a book for quite some time. Some libraries have removed all their books and gone completely digital. The end of print seemed inevitable.

Until now.

Last week a “Guardian” article asked the question “Have Ebooks Lost Their Shine?” It cites a statistic that in 2016 ebook sales in the UK dropped 17%. Another report declared that ebook sales in the United States dropped 20%.

Is it consumer fatigue?

Is it because the major publishers raised the prices of their ebooks after winning a court battle over who controlled the ebook price of their books?

Is it because too many books are being indie published and sell their ebooks for so little?

Are the statistics wrong because no one really knows how many ebooks Amazon sells via their Kindle Direct Program for Indie authors?

Is it because there hasn’t been a singular “phenomenon” bestselling title that drives all book sales?

Or could it be that no one really knows? Are we reacting according to our own preferences?

Prejudice for Print

I’ve read quite a few books using a combination of my Kindle and my iPad. But nowhere close to the number read in print. It’s at least a 50-1 ratio.

Why is that? I’ve begun to notice my own preferences (or prejudice in keeping with the title of the article).

I’ve yet to completely train my brain to read non-fiction digitally. I gave it the college try a number of times. I do like the ability to use my finger to highlight selected passages and then later access all of those in one document. I can see the extraordinary value in that. But I’m an old dog who can do a new trick but prefers napping on the couch.

Novels read easily in ebook form for me. But the other day I found myself unable to remember the title of the book or the author’s name while in the midst of the early chapters of the story. I couldn’t just turn my wrist and see the cover of the book. I would have to stop, click the upper corner, exit the story, and then remind myself of the book. That is a silly objection, I know, but it bugged me. So as a test I didn’t bother looking. Continued to read the story. Finished it. And as I’m writing this I am unable to tell you the name of the book or the author. The impermanence of the experience is a cloak over me, as the reader.

In addition, since it’s on my e-reader I cannot glance at a “bookshelf” to tell you what I read. I’ve tried to use categories to file the books I’ve read, but they then still clutter the virtual shelf since I sort them by “most recent” in order to keep the current book-in-progress at the top.

I’ve also found that my eyes feel like they are working harder when reading on a screen. Even the e-ink page of the Kindle for some reason creates some fatigue. This is counter to some research done a few years ago which declared that backlit reading on  screen is better for those with vision trouble. I guess I’m an “outlier.”

Call me old-fashioned, I’ll wear the badge without shame. I like turning pages. I like being able to see how much of the book is left to read while glancing at the clock to decide whether I should put it down and go to bed, or continue reading to the wee hours. I like writing in the margins of my books when reading non-fiction. The interaction has a tactile function and helps memory retention. I like having thousands of books on my shelves…to be able to run my hand across the spines when researching for the right book on the right topic. I like the thrill of unpacking a box with a new book in it or browsing the aisles at a favorite bookstore.

Prejudice for Ebooks

Before you think I’m completely stuck in the dark ages. I plan to keep my Kindle Oasis and my iPad charged and ready with hundreds of books loaded.

Traveling with eight or nine hardcover books is a bit challenging. Should I pack those extra socks or that new science fiction novel? Decisions, decisions.

I invested in a digital library of dozens of my favorite non-fiction books. I can access then any time, anywhere. They are slowly being highlighted so I can find the best passages in minutes. I’ve also collected my favorite science fiction and fantasy novels in case I want to binge read while traveling.

If you want a more comprehensive list of pros and cons, read Randall Payleitner’s excellent article “10 Years After the Kindle…What’s the Verdict on Ebooks?


It comes down to personal taste, preference, or prejudice. There is no right or wrong answer. What is rather amazing is that the ebook has become the fourth major “trim size” or “format” to choose from as a reader. Hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, and ebook. It is a wonderful thing to find what helps make your reading experience that much more joyful.

Your Turn

What is your preference and why?

In this calendar year how many print books vs. ebooks have you purchased? For yourself.




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Switching or Grinding Gears?

Each year in the U.S. more titles are published indie/self-pub than by all traditional publishers combined. Some authors publish only indie or traditional, but some entrepreneurial folks are known as “hybrid” and use whatever model works best for the situation at the moment. Many clients of the Steve Laube Agency …

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Did You Feel the Tremor in the Industry Last Week?

by Steve Laube

I know what it is like to feel the earth move under my feet having experienced the ’64 Alaska earthquake firsthand. (The above picture is from the neighborhood where we lived called Turnagain Arm.) Therefore I know the difference between a 9.2 Richter scale quake and a tremor that registers near 2.0 on the scale.

Last Thursday Amazon announced they were reducing the royalty payments for authors and vendors who use their ACX service to sell self-published audio books. The amount will change on March 12th for new contracts to a flat rate of 40% instead of the 50%-90% rate they currently pay.

No big deal, right? Sort of like a 2.0 tremor. If you blinked you missed it. And since many don’t have an ACX account to sell audio books they are unaffected. However this should be a reminder to all authors and publishers who use KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) that Amazon can change their royalty terms at any time.

This is the danger of putting all the proverbial eggs in one basket. If any author chooses to only utilize the economic system of Amazon for their sales they can be vulnerable to any changes. I once met a man who sold the foil that was used to make the dairy creamer packets for McDonalds. He had one client. His job was to search the world for the best price on foil. And he lived in terror of losing his client.

Be very clear, I am not suggesting that this is going to happen. Amazon’s 70% royalty rate on kindle ebooks has not changed. All I am suggesting is that it could.

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Is Christian Fiction Dying?

Last year, a couple Christian publishers stopped publishing fiction.  Some publishers are nervous about it and in a wait-and-see mode. Others are excited about growth potential.  The answer to the title question is no, but it is certainly interesting to explore the reason behind such widely diverse opinions on the subject.

NOTE #1: For full disclosure, I am a member of the advisory board for the Christy Awards, had a substantial period of my time in publishing during growth years of Christian fiction and our literary agency is committed to Christian fiction and its authors (as well as non-fiction projects).  Therefore I have an interest in seeing Christian fiction grow both personally and professionally.

NOTE #2:  I am limiting my comments to traditional publishing only, not self-published novels.  

Here is why I think Christian Fiction is causing some publisher-confusion right now:

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Embracing Change

On September 3, 1967 the world changed. It was a day remembered for chaos and disillusionment, despair and confusion.  No, it wasn’t because the last episode of “What’s My Line?” aired on U.S. television.

The above picture is what happened in Sweden the day the country switched from driving on the left to the right side of the road.  Their neighbors, Norway and Finland had already changed, but alas, Sweden held out until they could wait no longer.

Predictably, throughout history, big changes have been viewed first with skepticism and then as a threat to the groups that stand to lose the most or simply like the way things are.

In 1876 an internal memo at the Western Union Company, who were making a lot of money with telegrams stated, “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently no value to us.”

I wonder how that turned out?

H.M. Warner of Warner Brothers was making a lot of money in the silent movie business, so it was no mystery why he commented in 1927, “Who wants to hear actors talk?” (Expletive deleted)

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E-Readers, Tablets and Bears, Oh My

The latest data from the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project released this Fall and confirmed in solid data what we all know to be true…that e-Book readers and tablets are becoming more prevalent in American society.

In a scientific survey conducted five times since May, 2010, the Pew Research Center concluded as of September 2013 that 24% of Americans age 16 and older have a dedicated e-Book reader (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc.) and 35% have a tablet computer (like an iPad, etc.).  Furthermore, 43% of those 16+ have one or the other, so a number of people have both.

Compared to the last survey taken in November 2012, this one reveals a 26% increase in ownership of e-Book readers and a 40% increase in ownership of tablets in the last ten months.

So who owns these things anyway?

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Doomsday Words

“Nobody is buying print books anymore”

“Nobody is buying printed magazines or newspapers anymore”

“No one shops at bookstores anymore”

“No one is reading anymore”

“No one goes to the trade shows anymore”

“No one needs a traditional publisher anymore”

“Everyone should just self-publish”

When the speed of change is faster than we can easily comprehend, our language has a difficult time catching up with reality, so we have a tendency to use over-stated terms to describe what is happening.  Our very choice of words open the door to making some very poor business decisions.  How?  Rather than seeking wise solutions by understanding the facts, we make fast decisions based on incomplete information.   Simply…it’s faster.

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A is for Agent

by Steve Laube

I thought it might be fun to write a series that addresses some of the basic terms that define our industry. The perfect place to start, of course, is the letter “A.” And even better to start with the word “Agent.”

If you are a writer, you’ve got it easy. When you say you are a writer your audience lights up because they know what that means. (Their perception is that you sit around all day thinking profound thoughts. And that you are rich.)

If you are an editor, you got it sort of easy. Your audience knows you work with words and all you do is sit around and read all day. In my editorial days I was often told, “I’d love to have your job.”

But tell someone you are an agent and there is a blink and a pause. If they don’t know the publishing industry they think “insurance agent” or “real estate agent” or “secret agent.” Or if they follow sports or entertainment they think “sleazy liar who makes deals and talks on the phone all day.” I resent people thinking that I talk on the phone all day. (Hah!)

Even at a writers conference I always have someone ask, “What is it that you do?”

Deal Maker

An agent works on commission. Fifteen percent of the money earned in a contract they have sold to a publisher on behalf of a writer. I will be bold to say that any prospective agent who asks you for money up front is someone you should stay away from.

This is the category that most people focus on when defining the role of the agent. But it is only one small facet of what we do. Two months ago I published a list of the activities our agency had recently done as a way to help dispel the myth that we are only deal makers. It is how we earn our living but only a small part of our work.

Don’t get me wrong. This is a crucial part of what we do. Our contract negotiations are critical to the long-term health of the publishing/author relationship. Last Fall I taught a course at a conference called “Landmines in Your Book Contract.” Each time I read one from an “offending” contract there were gasps in the room. There is a good reason to have a professional review any book contract you are ready to sign.

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Author Accounting 101

by Steve Laube

You are a published author. You must be rich!
You are an agent. I know you are rich.

If it only were true.

A couple weeks ago we peered at the bottom line for the brick & mortar bookstore, now let’s attempt to do the same for the author. Please remember this exercise is generic, your mileage may vary. As before we will use some round numbers so we can all follow the math.

Let’s start with that $10 retail price book we dealt with before. The publisher sells the book for $6.00 to a store. That creates a “net price” for the publisher. Be aware that some contracts pay the author a royalty based on the retail price and some on the net price.

The net price is $6.00. They author’s contract pays them 15% of the net price. That would mean when this book was sold to the bookstore the author’s account was credited for 90 cents.

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