Paper cuts—both ways

We continue the debate between paper and electronic books. This week, observations

By Seb Kirby

As an author do you prefer ebooks or paper books?

There’s nothing like seeing your work appear as a book on paper. It’s part of the magic of the whole creative process that started out as a dimly-seen notion that has now made it through to become a physical reality. You can’t replace the feel and smell, the sense of achievement with an Ebook version.

So much is true for most authors, I guess. Yet there is a catch. 

I’ve just recently spent time resorting my somewhat extensive book collection and I’m shocked by what I’ve found. Paperbacks published less than five years ago already show significant browning of the edges of the pages. The browning spreads inward so that after ten years it’s become more extensive. After fifteen or twenty, the paper decay is so extensive the books might as well be thrown away. 

The cause is the use of acid containing paper, which, presumably is less expensive that the acid free versions. It is known that such paper will decay in this way over time. It seems to be extensively used in mass-market paperbacks. I’m not seeing the same effects on KDP publish-on-demand editions, but there doesn’t seem to be any information out there on what type of paper Amazon uses.

So the catch is that though Ebooks lack much of the charisma of the print version, they are more permanent. Nothing on the Internet is temporary. So long as there is power enough to keep the lights on what is put up there remains there in its pristine original form so that readers will have access to it, should they wish, long into the future when the paper versions of your work have long been recycled for their wood pulp.

Too much pride and a mistaken quest for immortality? Almost certainly. But those paperbacks in my library are browning a little more every day and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Best wishes,

Seb Kirby

Seb Kirby

Seb Kirby

— was literally raised with books: his grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham, UK and his parents inherited a random selection of the books. Once he discovered a trove of well-used titles from Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to more obscure stuff, he was hooked.

He’s been an avid reader ever since.

He is the author of the James Blake thriller series, Take No More, Regret No More and Forgive No More; the science-fiction thriller, Double BindEach Day I Wake; and Sugar for Sugar. His latest book is another psychological thriller, Here the Truth Lies.

Get to know Seb at:

And follow him on Twitter @Seb_Kirby

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