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Ebook Vs Paper Book: What's the better publishing platform?

Updated on November 13, 2012

Just from experience as a reader...

I would say that publishing in a paper book format is probably preferable. This is the standard, has been for a few centuries now, and will probably remain so for a good long time. I seriously doubt whether they'll be replaced by ebooks any time soon.

The reason for this are fairly simple: ebooks aren't widely available, and tend to be limited to one type of reader. ebook formats often aren't compatible with other reader hardware, causing the prospective buyer to stick with their own marketplace and venture outside only for free ebooks.

Some Other Considerations...

The text you type will probably be in some kind of word processor or text editor. As such, it doesn't really matter if you publish in either format. You can always bring it to the other one easily.

ebooks are fairly difficult to come by (see second link) - and are not really being reviewed very often. If you write a paper book, the chances are good that you'll get some free publicity by someone who just picks it up (word of mouth, or perhaps a blog page). I'm not seeing this happen very often with ebooks yet.

Another path, perhaps?

When Cory Doctorow started publishing, he released paper books. Because he was relatively unknown, his publisher granted him permission to release his books freely online under the creative commons license.

The first books were published under a fairly restrictive license, allowing only for their reproduction (in different formats, of course). In the meantime, he has released his works under the most liberal of the licenses, requiring only attribution (ie. the work was created by him). This has allowed some amazing things to happen - fan fiction abounds, and Cory's name is now relatively well known among his target audience. His paper books have also been selling rather well.

And he's not the only author to have done so. Rudy Rucker, a rather well-known science fiction author, recently released his latest book free of charge for download (see links).

Short video describing Creative Commons

Interview with Lawrence Lessig (creator of Creative Commons)

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this path?

If you decide to follow this path, be aware that you're essentially giving your book away for free; however, you can always define in the license that it cannot be used for any commercial purposes (for example, simply re-published). Therefore, the major disadvantage is that you lose control of your work.

The advantages are enormous:

  • Your readers will get a taste of your work, and might buy the book. They'll also consider purchasing your next book.
  • Publicity is easy to come by. There's a huge community for this type of book, and if your audience likes it, they'll be promoting it for you. Fan fiction is not to be scoffed at, as it can provide you with more ideas, more paths, and a larger reader base.
  • Your work is still licensed, and is always attributed to you. That means if another author decides to write in your "world", they will need to include your name
  • Sometimes losing control of your work isn't such a bad thing. After all, it's organic in nature anyhow - let it grow.

Whatever your path...

I wish you the best of luck! My only advice to you would be to pick a path and stick to it. There are great rewards at the end of each, but I personally lean towards releasing at least some content under the Creative Commons in order to get a reader base.


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    • Coeus profile image

      Coeus 5 years ago from All over the world and then some.

      Wow - it's been a while since I was here. I updated the ebooks vs paper books article with a 2012 edition . Perhaps you'd read that and give me your thoughts?

    • profile image

      Thom Loveless 6 years ago

      Yes, life has changed in the three years since this was written. Note what has happened in the music industry and adjust your strategy accordingly.....

    • Fiction and life profile image

      Fiction and life 6 years ago from Miami Fl

      this was 3 years ago. although at the time this article simply states facts, it would be a good idea to revise it and update it, as the e-books and e-readers hold anywhere from 1, to 2.7 million e books. meaning is no longer that "inefficient" to own an e reader.

    • profile image

      kaitlyn 6 years ago

      im doing a research paper for english and wanted to cite your source so i was wondering if you remembered what day month and year you wrote this?

    • profile image

      funky23 6 years ago from Deutschland

      absolutely nice

    • kirutaye profile image

      kirutaye 7 years ago from London, UK

      Another useful hub. Thank you for sharing

    • profile image 7 years ago

      Fabulous post! Loved reading your great post, I always can tag it and I will vote up for you

    • Lelue profile image

      Lelue 7 years ago

      Couldn't agree with you more. No matter how available ebooks may become with technology, the paper book will still be preferred no matter what

    • profile image

      Practical Side 8 years ago

      The articles is really good...eBooks for sure can't replace the physical books. But if not talking about replacement, it can for sure be an alternative. Those who travel with their note books, those who don't have time to go to a physical bookstore, those who spend almost the entire day in front of their system....they all can for sure feel much contended by buying eBooks rather than physical books... Sites like A1Books lists millions of eTitles on their site and one can purchase it @ nominal price...many other sites even provide you with the free eBook download facility....

    • profile image

      scheng1 8 years ago

      Sometimes the first book is the best book. It is very painful to give ebooks away freely.

    • profile image

      Morgan Ebook 8 years ago

      Giving away free ebooks is a great strategy for authors who want to deal with epublishing business. It is like a tester for the readers.

      Giving away free ebooks is a great strategy for authors who want to deal with epublishing business. It is like a tester for the readers.

    • profile image

      automated ebook software 9 years ago

      I have never heard of creativ communs before.. interesting. Thanks for the post and vid.

    • Coeus profile image

      Coeus 10 years ago from All over the world and then some.

      bliss: excellent points, thank you! Especially the last one - selling books as audio books gives you a whole new market (people driving long distances, for instance) which you might otherwise not be able to tap.

      I'm not sure about customers willing to shell out extra for an ebook when they already have the paper version - but you never know. They might want some tried-and-true novels for that new reader device they've bought (I've seen weirder things).

    • bliss profile image

      bliss 10 years ago from Toronto, CA

      excellent hub. And I would like to also say that interms of profit:

      eBooks turn to start at a higher price than paper book. So far, I have seen some eBook with poor content sell for as low as $27 and some quality useful paper book go for $14.

      A good example is the chicken soup for the soul. It sells about $15 as a hard paper book, which can sell for around $47 to $67 as an ebook.

      Again like Coeus mention in his hub, some people might download it for free and share with others. but then again the profit margin will out way those who get it for free and the market your reach is massive.

      And here's a great news for you: if you like publish as paper for a year and see how it sells. Then convert it into an eBook to sell online. You might even get some old customers who will be interested in the eBook as well and vise versa.

      Another way is to read into an audio to convert it to audio and sell that as mp3 or cds. which is even at a higher profit margin than eBook.

    • Coeus profile image

      Coeus 10 years ago from All over the world and then some.

      dafia - thank you very much! :)

    • profile image

      dafla 10 years ago

      I've enjoyed your hubs, even if I didn't comment. Please keep writing!

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 10 years ago from Georgia

      Coeus- I have a long way before I complete anything serious, but I've been working at it more lately. I well definately let you know. Maybe post a preview or summary of some sort on HubPages.

      Parry- I too agree that it's hard to read long sections of text online. Even with HubPages, unless I'm interested, if it's longer than a half page, I just print it all out. That's usually if it's for research for school or something. Otherwise, if it's for fun, I try to read it online, so as to not waste paper and ink.

    • Coeus profile image

      Coeus 10 years ago from All over the world and then some.

      Whitney05 - glad I could help, and maybe give you some more ideas. :) Tell me when and where you'll be putting them up (on hubpages, I hope!). I'd love to read them.

      Patty - I agree. I think ebooks (especially ebook readers) are eminently suited to reading short works. Single short stories are more easily manageable, and you don't have to strain while reading.

      However, I also think it is the format of the future (probably not in the next 2-3 years though), as digital media is here to stay. It's simply more practical, but it has a long way to go before it becomes feasible.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      There was a recent "Opus" Sunday comic that showed the penguin trying to enjoy an eBook and he could not. He built a fire, got some pop corn an dhot cocoa, a hardback book, an blanket...and used the eBook-reader for a light by which to read.

      I like eBooks for short stories and fast reading of textbooks onscreen, but I like to see a printed page in hardcopy as well, especially for editing. However, Hub Pages has helped me to become more comfortable with everything on the screen. :)

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 10 years ago from Georgia

      Coeus- I'm just rambling out lout. Future planning maybe. Ha. We'll see. But I do like the idea of short stories in Ebook format. Maybe the stories could divulge the background and such. I guess it would be a matter of promotting the stories in order to get interest to build.

    • Coeus profile image

      Coeus 10 years ago from All over the world and then some.

      MortimerWorth - thank you!

      Whitney05 - if you keep the short stories coming, I'd say that you could probably extend it to 6 months - even a year. You'd have an extremely anxious community at that point, and I'm pretty sure your first-day sales would be relatively high. Once again, I'm a reader, and this is what I'd like to see happen. :)

    • MortimerWorth profile image

      MortimerWorth 10 years ago from Germany

      I've looked at a lot of publishing angles, but never caught on to this. Thankyou

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 10 years ago from Georgia

      I like the idea of short stories leading up to the main plot, which would be in paper book format. That would grow interest in the story. It may even be beneficial when the book isn't completed. Readers could get a taste for the characters, setting, and such. And, waiting for the full book, would leave them anxious, and willing to purchase the book. I think that would only work if the book was published no more than a month out, versus have the readers wait a year and loose interest. Thoughts?

    • jaymz profile image

      jaymz 10 years ago from USA

      Hm.. interesting.

    • Coeus profile image

      Coeus 10 years ago from All over the world and then some.

      Whitney05 -Thanks! Glad I could help!

      Great idea! As a reader, I'd be intrigued by something like that. To add to that idea: perhaps small ebook short stories which lead up to the book? That would generate interest, and if you allow others to work in that world, would create a strong community.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 10 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks Coeus! There's great info here. What about mixing the two slightly, as in allowing a free E-Book preview of the book that will appear in paper format.

    • Coeus profile image

      Coeus 10 years ago from All over the world and then some.

      Thanks a million Zsuzsy! I'd like to see a book by you as well. :)

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      I'm not too sure how I feel about e-books yet but I know I love to read a 'real book' and would like to see my work in paper form one of these days.

      good HUB

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Coeus profile image

      Coeus 10 years ago from All over the world and then some.

      Thanks for your comments and support!

      I am worried by the same issues, which is why I prefer to read free or CC books.

      Thanks for the link. Another good site is The only reason I didn't include it is because it deals primarily with classics, and is not really useful for more contemporary writers.

    • cgull8m profile image

      cgull8m 10 years ago from North Carolina

      Coeus, keep writing, more will come soon. I think E-books are good and will become a big hit in the future. Saves paper, that itself should be the reason. You are right, since they don't have a standard, people are wary buying ebooks. I buy for Palm, so far it is excellent, but I am worried in the future, what will happen when I switch to a different device. I have a free ebook site, where I have ebooks in different version at

    • Coeus profile image

      Coeus 10 years ago from All over the world and then some.

      Thank you MrMarmalade! Feeling a bit more inspired now! :)

    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 10 years ago from Sydney

      No you are wrong, I also raed thee hubs

      Thank you

    • Coeus profile image

      Coeus 10 years ago from All over the world and then some.

      Thank you again Thoog. I feel like you're the only person who reads these hubs...

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 10 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Very well thought out, and the formatting is perfect.