eBooks vs. Printed Books: Is Book Printing Worth It?

Does it seem strange that eBooks haven’t yet replaced printed books? Well, don’t expect to see an obituary for the printed book anytime soon. If you’re self-publishing a book, you’ll have to decide whether it’s worth it to release a physical book or if you want to offer a digital one.

While it can be fun to think about embracing the future and releasing an eBook, remember that according to consumer research, 74.7% of book sales still come from printed books, while eBooks only account for 7.48% of the market. In this guide, we’re going over everything to know about eBook vs printed books. Take a look!

eBooks vs. Printed Books: At a Glance

eBooks are digital-only books that are meant to be read on an eReader, tablet, or any other mobile device. Printed books are crafted on paper in hardback or paperback form.

When it comes to self-publishing, there’s not much difference between the two methods in terms of how you’ll upload your book to a printing service or a digital storefront. While some digital publishers require their own formats, you can usually convert your files from a standard Word Doc or PDF.

Printed Books

It’s not true that print books are out of style. Surveys on eBooks vs printed books revealed that 68% of younger readers (18 to 29-year-olds) in the U.S. prefer print books. Furthermore, 63% of people over 65 in the US read a printed book in the last year, while only 17% have read an eBook in the same amount of time. It’s a lot to consider when you’re looking at self-publishing a book!

There may be reasons you choose one or the other based on your specific target audience or the type of book you’re selling. A coffee table book of beautiful landscapes would be a poor candidate for an eBook experience, while an interactive book with sound effects would probably work best on an eReader. Know your product and know your audience!

Pros of Self-Publishing Printed Books

Looking to self-publish a printed book? Here are some of the benefits you can expect to experience:

  • Readers don’t need a specific device or an internet connection. If your reader’s internet connection goes down or the power goes out, your books will still work.
  • Studies show that retention is higher with printed books. Even though eReader speeds are faster, the information doesn’t stick as well. This is true across age ranges.
  • Your customers own the book. They never have to worry about your book being removed from a digital storefront.
  • Your customers can share your books with friends. There are no compatibility issues or storage space limits — they can just hand the book to someone else (bonus points — you gain word-of-mouth advertising!).
  • Eye strain is nearly non-existent.

eReaders have made great strides in being easier on the eyes, but none of them are as glare-free and clear in bright sunlight as a printed page.

Cons of Self-Publishing Printed Books

Of course, there are drawbacks to self-publishing printed books, too. These include:

  • Printed books take a lot more upfront cash to publish. That sense of permanence and value comes with an initial cost. As your books increase in sales you’ll make the money back, but physical, tangible objects will cost more to deal with than digital books.
  • Printed books usually cost more for the customer. For example, as of the time of this writing, the John Grisham novel A Time For Mercy costs $9.99 on Kindle and $13.89 on paperback.
  • Getting books into the hands of customers is way slower than with eBooks. An eBook is available to read immediately. A printed book must be created, stored, and shipped to the customer.


As digital devices become more prevalent, eBooks will likely grow in popularity. Lower-income readers may prefer eBooks due to their lower accessibility cost. While 86% of people who make over $75,000 annually read a printed book in the last year, only 62% of people who make less than $30,000 annually read a printed book over that same time.

As you work on self-publishing a book, remember that eBooks get returned at high rates because it’s easy to do so (and they get pirated a lot). There are ways of combating these high return rates, but it’s still a larger issue than it is for printed books.

Pros of eBooks

Publishing time is incredibly short to get an eBook on the market. Publishing on Amazon, for example, involves uploading your book in Word Doc or PDF format and then waiting 24 to 48 hours for it to appear on the storefront.

Other benefits of self-publishing eBooks include:

  • Your customers can get your book instantly.
  • It’s cheap. In fact, in most cases, publishing an eBook is free. You’ll pay royalties, but the upfront costs can be small or even nonexistent.
  • eBooks are convenient. They take up no physical space, so your customers can have hundreds or even thousands of books on one small device.
  • Flexibility is huge. Readers can manipulate fonts, colors, and font sizes.

Cons of eBooks

Drawbacks to self-publishing eBooks include:

  • You have no control over when your book is removed from a digital storefront (unless it’s hosted on your website).
  • Your eBook is one of over 6 million digital books hosted on Amazon alone. Breaking through the clutter is an uphill battle.
  • Sharing your eBook is more difficult than it is with a printed book.
  • The royalties can be high — up to 70% of the cost of the book.
  • You have to pay close attention to formatting.

Not every eReader can read documents in every format, and it’s not always possible to make your book look how you want it to in a Word Doc or PDF.

Choosing Between eBooks vs. Printed Books

Self-publishing an ebook can be faster, easier, and cheaper. You can get your ebook published and available for download online within just a few days. There are no upfront printing or inventory costs, and profit margins on ebook sales can be higher over time. Promoting and distributing an eBook to a global audience is also simpler through major online retailers. However, ebook-only self-publishing means readers must own specific devices and you lose that tangible customer experience of selling a physical product.

Self-publishing a print book enables wider promotion opportunities like book signings, sales booths, and getting your book physically in stores. Print books can establish more authority and credibility for you as an author. However, the upfront investment for editing, printing, and storing inventory is higher, not to mention the need to handle shipping and fulfillment logistics yourself. Lead times to getting your book available in the market also take longer.

There’s no definitive right or wrong approach – it depends on your goals, target audience, content type, and availability of initial funding, among other factors. Many authors choose to self-publish both an eBook and print book to enjoy the unique benefits of each format.

Taking the time to objectively weigh the pros and cons of each option in relation to your specific book and situation is key to deciding the best path forward.

5 Things to Consider When Self-Publishing a Printed Book

After going through the aforementioned points, if you decide to self-publish a printed book, keep the following points in mind:

1. Where to Sell Your Book

Selling physical books comes with the decision to do print-on-demand vs. having a bunch of books preprinted up at once to be sold. Either way, you can sell them on your website, which provides you with the greatest percentage of profits and offers the best connection with your customers. You can also sell through online marketplaces like Amazon FBA, but what you gain in convenience, you lose in control.

2. Working with Print-on-Demand (PoD) Services

Print-on-demand services allow you to sell your books without having to deal with unsold inventory. When a customer orders a book, it gets printed up and shipped out. Using a third-party logistics (3PL) partner can be particularly helpful as your book sales increase. A 3PL service will print, store, and ship your books so you don’t have to worry about the fulfillment process.

3. Promoting Your Book

Buy social media ads, have a good online presence, do interviews, send out news releases, and give away copies to reviewers. Having your own website is crucial because you can create email lists and collect demographic data for your customers. It’s all part of growing your personal brand.

4. Costs and Profit Margins

Publishing an eBook may be cheap or even free, but you can give up more than you’d think. To use Amazon as an example again, you relinquish 30% of the profits if your book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99. If your book is $10 or more, you’ll give up 65% of the profits.

When you’re selling printed books, it might cost you a few dollars to print the book, but you get to set the price.

5. Book Distribution and Fulfillment

Letting a third party deal with printing, storing, and shipping your books solves a multitude of issues. You don’t have to manage inventory or returns.

As your book increases in sales and shipping speed becomes paramount, your shipping partner can print a run of books in advance and ship them as customers purchase them.

Bring Your Masterpiece to Life with Print Bind Ship

When you want your books to truly wow your customers, turn to the team at Print Bind Ship! We have the experience you’re looking for to bring your literary masterpiece into the hands of readers. Contact Print Bind Ship and make your book a reality today!


Are eBooks more environmentally friendly than printed books?

eBooks are indeed more eco-friendly compared to printed books as they eliminate the need for paper, ink, and transportation, thus reducing the carbon footprint. Additionally, they eliminate the waste generated from book production and disposal. So, if you’re looking to go green, eBooks are the way to go!

Which format provides a better reading experience – eBooks or printed books?

When it comes to reading experience, both eBooks and printed books have their unique advantages. With eBooks, you can conveniently carry an entire library in a lightweight device, adjust font size, search for keywords, and even listen to audiobooks. 

Printed books, on the other hand, offer a more tactile experience with the smell and feel of the pages, the physical presence on bookshelves, and the satisfaction of turning actual pages. Ultimately, the preference between the two formats comes down to personal taste and convenience.

Are eBooks more cost-effective than printed books?

eBooks are often more cost-effective than printed books. They are typically priced lower, especially for digital editions of popular titles or during e-book promotions. Additionally, eBooks offer the convenience of immediate delivery, saving you time and expense compared to purchasing printed books from physical stores. 

Furthermore, eBooks eliminate shipping costs and the risk of damage during transportation. So, if you’re looking to save some money without compromising your reading experience, eBooks can be a wise choice.

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