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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

The book is dead, long live the book!


The plummeting sales of paperbacks has finally levelled out, and the inexorable rise of the e-book has plateaued, according to a report from Sky News (click here to see the report).

I think this was always inevitable. I was never convinced by the scaremongering talk of e-book being the death of the physical book. Like most people now, I use both.

My Kindle is perfect for when I’m travelling; it’s light, takes virtually no room, and I have a whole library of books to choose from.

But a physical book is a wonderful thing to simply own. There is something special about sitting and reading a book, losing yourself within the pages, feeling its weight…and when it is on the shelf it looks beautiful. I once dated a man who hated my shelves of books as he said he found them ‘oppressive and ugly’. Needless to say he is no longer in my life but the books are – they are as ornamental as a vase or a painting, in my eyes.

As such, there are certain books I will only buy in physical form. Books with illustrations or photographs, but also those that I know I will read again and again and again. I have much-cherished books that I have read so many times a mere look might make them fall apart, and I have to handle them as I would a priceless ancient artefact. Whereas the Kindle is better for a quick read that will almost certainly only be read once – there have always been and will always be people who plunge through a book voraciously then move on to the next, with no interest of ever revisiting it; the intellectual equivalent of a locust. I hold my hands up to sometimes being one of those…

There is no right and wrong with the way of reading books. But what has amazed me is the way the discussion about e-books and physical books had become so very ‘black and white’. Some people who read physical books seem to think it has a snob value, while the e-readers write them off as old fashioned. Both are entrenched in the idea that their way is right, but fail to see that each has its own merits.

So far I have only looked at this news as a reader – but what does this mean for authors? Probably not a great deal. Ultimately, I believe a good story is a good story, and it will sell. When I wrote Invisible I had no clue about marketing, yet it managed to become a Top Ten bestseller on Amazon anyway (although good marketing will make a massive difference to sales!).

I can’t help but wonder though whether part of the driving force behind increased paperback sales is a return to quality. There are some really incredible indie authors out there, creating fabulous stories that are well-written, well-executed, and well edited. But, much as it pains me to say it, there are also some stunningly dire ones who cannot even be bothered to run a spellcheck before sending their manuscript off to Kindle or the like to be published. Perhaps the market is undergoing another reshuffle, and a little more room will be created for indies of quality. If that is the case, it can only be good news for authors and readers alike.

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