Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
Last week on the Publishers Weekly site, I read something that presented yet another side of the print vs. digital conundrum: using ebooks as a way to generate interest in print.
Earlier this month, Vintage released Truman Capote’s classic novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s as an ebook for the first time. According to a PW article about the release, “The ebook edition of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which was published on May 15 along with first-ever digital editions of a handful of other books by Capote, is intended to drum up attention for Vintage’s re-release of seven of the author’s books, in July, featuring new covers and art.”
Curiouser and curiouser, I thought. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like p-books and ebooks are usually presented as diametrically opposed, as the publishing world worries about digital “cannibalizing” print sales. (We’re often guilty of it at this blog.) Print and digital are presented as an “either/or” proposition, not a “both/and” where print and digital coexist—and, like Vintage apparently sees it, can be used to promote the other.
I like this philosophy, and in my humble opinion it more accurately reflects the reality of how people read in their daily lives. My own promiscuous print + digital tastes were recently revealed when someone asked me what sort of career I’d like to have. I gave my usual response: The dream scenario would be to work with cookbooks, but realistically I just want to be employed come December. “Yeah,” she replied, “but aren’t most people using cooking blogs nowadays?”
Yes, I will Google a dish to see what comes up, and sometimes I consult food blogs, and it seems to be true that many people like the convenience of finding recipes online; a recent study suggested that the social aspect of many digital products fostered more engagement for readers. But cookbooks continue to be printed, and, to me personally, the almost coffee-table-book-like visual appeal of a well-done cookbook trumps the quick response of a Google search any day. I’ll use the Internet if I’m trying to come up with a quick idea for a recipe that uses odds and ends I’ve got around, but to plan an impressive meal for guests or even just to read, I much prefer food magazines or my trusty print cookbook collection. (And, to quickly find my most beloved recipes, all I have to do is find the most stained and wrinkled pages.)
Clearly, “versus” doesn’t do justice to the interplay between print and digital, and it’s nice to see Vintage offering its own take on it. For an industry that’s struggling to find its sea legs (or d-legs?), it might behoove more companies to think about what print and digital mean to them and to their readers rather than fixate on the vs.