Weekly Blog,  Writing & Publishing

Print, Audio & E

The Three Faces of Publishing

Over at Beach Glass Books, we’ve just announced our March Book of the Month. It’s THE SENATOR’S SON: The Shocking Disappearance, The Celebrated Trial, and The Mystery That Remains a Century Later, by Charles Olden.

Technically, The Senator’s Son is not a new book, having been published more than a year ago. In  fact, it has already picked up some nice honors – winning a North Carolina Society of Historians Book Award and, on a more global note, being named an award-winning finalist in the International Book Awards. Those, obviously, were for the hardcover print edition, the only version there was.

Now, The Senator’s Son is available in a fine audio version, read by actor John Witt. And this month, it is being released in eBook format, meaning you can read it via your Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, or anything else on which you can read a download from Kobo, Google, etc.

It’s become the first new Beach Glass Books offering, as opposed to a reprint, to appear in all three versions.

So is this a big deal, little deal, no deal at all?

Figures on books are hard to, well, figure. When eBooks came out, readership quickly grew. But that coming tsunami of e-readers crested instead and even started to fall. The new theory is that, after being on a computer at work and a cell phone screen most of the rest of the day, many readers want time away from a screen. They want a good old-fashioned  holdable book. A tactile experience.

So print books still make up roughly 70 percent of sales, while eBooks and audio combine for less than one-quarter. Here are the figures: For the month of January 2019, the Association of American Publishers reports paperbacks brought in 35 percent and hardcovers, 34 percent of the $543.8 million total. By contrast, eBooks were responsible for less than 15 percent and audio, a little over 9 percent. (Board books and an “other” category make up the remaining 7 or 8 percent.)

So the question for small publishers, of course, is whether these alternatives are “worth it.”  It costs to prepare these formats — and there’s the question of whether eBooks cannibalize more profitable print sales. That can be a double whammy, if it means print books also have to be tossed away – or fewer printed in the beginning. Either raises per-book cost. (Retail prices are based in part on printing cost, which is tied tightly to the number of books printed.)

It’s too early to tell from the Beach Glass experience. Last month’s Book of the Month, Diary of a Broken Mind: A Mother’s Story, A Son’s Suicide, and The Haunting Lyrics He Left Behind, by Anne Moss Rogers with Charles Rogers, is our only other eBook. (Broken Mind will be out in audio book, too, within a few months.)

We’ll know soon. Going forward, new releases – and we have several for the months ahead – will drop in both print and eBook versions. Audio will follow.

Our educated guess – “guess” is the key word – is that most e-readers might not buy a print book, anyway. A few probably would … and we hope those just offset each other. The same may go for audio books … we guess.

We hope.

So we’re doing it.

We’re diving in.

We’re hardly in this publishing gig just for money, after all. We hope to support good authors. We’re trying to get their works out. So regardless of how this goes financially, there’s a big plus – it will make our books available in the way YOU want to experience them.

That alone may be worth it.

Ray McAllister, former columnist of The Richmond Times-Dispatch and former editor of Boomer Magazine, is the award-winning author of six books, including four on North Carolina’s islands. Through Beach Glass Books, he is also the publisher of 10 books by other authors.