Saturday, November 24, 2018


The sales of e-books worldwide continue to decline, and their printed cousins are making a comeback.

For a while, e-books were becoming more and more popular, and their rise seemed unstoppable. Things have turned around quickly in the last few years. The swing back to the printed page is easily understood. People have reported a variety of reasons for going back to the physical object: printed books are easier to give as gifts, people are worried about screen-time, books are beautiful objects in themselves and have a pleasing weight to them that makes them seem more trustworthy.

I have just published my second novel, Be Do Go Have, and today received a consignment of books from the printers. It was actually a lot more impactful to pick them up and handle them than I thought it would be.

The Kindle version of the novel went live on the Kindle store two weeks ago, but there is something that a physical book has that something that exists on an e-reader only in the form of bytes and computer code can never possess.

For one thing, a book engages another sense, the tactile, and this is significant. When you can touch something, handle it and flick through it, it becomes more real to you and you can form an emotional connection with this object. This emotional connection is not possible with a file on your Kindle.  

There is another reason that I found it pleasurable to hold the physical book for the first time: for this, my second novel, I have done all of the design. I have had help and advice from Martin, the designer who did my first book, but largely the typesetting, book design and cover design – as well as the little four-colour image on the front and back – are my work. I learned to use Indesign this year, and laid the book out in this program. I wasn´t sure how it was going to work and surprisingly, to me at least, it looks really professional.

It appeals to my sense of independence; I now know that if I want to write, design and publish a book in the future I, on my own, can produce a quality product that looks as good as anything in bookshops. A few months after beginning the process of publishing, the books are already for sale in bookshops in Sligo and Leitrim. And that feels good.

A paperback book is a form of primitive but effective technology, one that has been around in its current form for about eighty years and in other forms for centuries. It is not something that is going to disappear. People are always going to want printed books, in one form or another. Mine are now here and it is a pleasure to be able to hold something tangible and physical. Seeing it in print makes it all the more real. 


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