Print vs. E-books: A Conclusion

Not a conclusion to the discussion, mind you. Just a conclusion I’ve come to.

For the first two months of this year, for the first time, e-book sales figures equaled or exceeded those of hardcopy books. And of course, since e-books often run cheaper than hardcopies, that suggests that the number of units sold was even higher.

And yet, every online poll I’ve seen–such as the one currently up on CNN.com, but which I can’t link to directly–shows that respondents to said polls prefer hardcopy books by a huge margin. (At the time of this writing, 80% of people responding to the CNN poll favor hardcopy books.) And that’s an online poll, where we can expect the numbers to be weighted in favor of e-books.

This means a lot of things. It suggests or implies a lot more. And lots of it can be argued. But what it says to me is this:

The people who prefer hardcopy books aren’t buying them.

If that’s you–if you prefer hardcopy books, but haven’t been buying books lately–you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself. I don’t want to hear about having to decide where to spend your entertainment dollars, or how you feel about "modern fiction" (which is a ludicrously large brush to tar an entire medium with). The bottom line is, if you’re not buying books, then your book-buying preferences don’t matter. Book publishers have zero reason to care about the opinions of people who aren’t buying books; they’re going to tailor their products to the market that actually, y’know, earns a profit. You want your voice heard? You don’t want to see paper books replaced entirely by e-books? That’s a valid opinion to hold, and certainly worth real discussion on both sides.

But you only get to voice that opinion, in any way that matters, by putting your money where your mouth is. Answering polls? Ain’t gonna carry a single breath of weight with the publishers.

Want "real" books? Buy "real" books. Regularly. Period.