The eBook Conundrum
10 December, 2016
One of the most rewarding things I have found as a photographer is printing my work and holding a physical copy of the images. It endows them with an importance that would otherwise be lost. I can give each page the attention it deserves and the tactile connection is a memorable one.
I am from a generation that didn't have personal computers growing up. They simply didn't exist. My experience with art and photography was mostly on the printed page. It was a time when I could immerse myself in a book and not be distracted. There was no email or notifications from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. I find it hard to read books on my iPad these days because of all these interruptions. Sure, I could just disconnect from the internet, but who wants to do that??
So it is with that in mind that I have a dilemma. When I produce books of my photography, I want to be able to share them. Of course I want to make a little money on the side because my equipment is costly so I don't want to give everything away for free.
The cost of publishing a book on a short run is prohibitively expensive. I couldn't possibly expect anyone to afford it so I look to the next best thing: an eBook. This is essentially a version of the book designed to be read on some kind of screen like a computer or tablet.
The trouble with this format is that it's not as special as owning a physical book. It's hard to look at it because we are used to the screen feeding us information from our newsfeeds all the time. Our attention spans are much less when we are looking at a screen and we are always on the verge of information overload. On top of that, I think people say to themselves, why should I pay for an online book when I can see images for free everyday?
It's becoming harder and harder to make money as a photographer. I can't even break even on producing a single physical book for my own library. This is not a complaint. I'm just stating the facts and what we are up against these days.
Should I just give my work away for free? I don't think so. I feel like once I do that, I'm setting a future precedent for everything I do.
Technology is a great thing and it has made creating books so simple these days but the side effect is that it's now almost impossible to sell them. Luckily this particular book is just a single file on my computer drive and not a stack of hundreds of copies gathering dust on a shelf.
I just sent my latest book, Alaska in black and white, to the lab to be printed. There will probably only be one physical copy produced. The ebook version is available in my online store here.
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