eBooks may be changing print books in interesting ways.
eBooks give me a predictable experience. I know how a book will look on my Nook or my iPad and I know that I’ll be able to read it comfortably there. Think of it like Starbucks, where I know I’ll get a decent cup of coffee. Yes, a Starbucks latte may be a little different store to store or barrista to barrista, and ebooks can be designed better or worse within some pretty restrictive parameters, but the basic experience will be similar from Starbucks to Starbucks and ebook to ebook (although I have even seen two ebooks where the translation from print was criminally bad).
When I read physical books, the experience varies. A well-designed book remains more fun for me than an ebook. I love beautiful covers and high quality paper and well-done white space. These things make a book a pleasure, and even in some cases, a work of physical art.
Bad book design can cause pain: some come with refelctive paper or fonts so cramped up on the page that you suspect the publisher was trying to hit a certain page-count at any cost. And I no longer even bother to try and read mass market paperbacks. The font is often so small and the so bad that I can’t actually read it for long.
Poorly designed physical books cause me to download the ebook.
I pretty much buy hardbacks, trade papers, and ebooks. The deciding factor is often how pretty (yes, beauty matters) and how readable the physical book is (or isn’t). I do the same for coffee – I have favorite independent coffeehouses and mall chains that I’ll choose over Starbucks every time they’re convenient, but often Starbucks is just fine.
Other readers I talk to say the same thing: boring book design or boring covers takes them to the eBook. This isn’t bad; ebook reading is a great experience. I think that fact is causing some publishers who want to sell physical books to try a little harder to make them a quality product. What do you think?