What the Tech: Will people choose e-book or hard copy of Harper Lee’s new book

Tamara Fike has been waiting to buy this book from the moment she heard about it, and she wanted it just as Harper Lee intended.

"I like to feel the book," Fike said. "It's an experience for me to have it in hand.

Lee's "Go Set a Watchman" may be the best way to judge how Americans prefer to read best sellers. A majority of people buying it are from the generation that grew up reading hardbacks.

"People are so wildly sentimental about "To kill a Mockingbird," author Ann Patchett said. "That's a book they re-release in hardback, and it immediately sells out."

Patchett is an insider when it comes to authoring and selling books. She's a best-selling author who opened what you might call an old-fashioned book store in Nashville.

"People want to have a hardback of the book they love. This isn't a book that people, I don't think, will be reading as much in a digital format," Patchett said. "People want the hardback, and they want the first edition."

But some prefer the convenience of reading a book on their phone, tablet, or e-reader. It's usually a little cheaper too.

Barnes and Noble is selling the hard cover for $16.71. You can download it from Amazon for $14 and get it immediately.

I asked my Facebook friends which version they'll buy, and it was more than 2-1 digital.

Elizabeth Potts, a former librarian, surprised me by saying she prefers digital.

What about revenue? While publishers make more from the sale of a hardback than digital, the books cost more to produce.

Patchett told me authors would much rather sell a lot of hardbacks.

"For a hardback of mine, i get $4.05 a copy," Patchett said. "For an e-book i get $2.35 per copy."

But she told me that, at least for her, it doesn't matter what people buy as long as they're reading.

And before you think digital is going to hurt publishing, consider this. Last year publishing revenue jumped by about half a billion dollars since the final Harry Potter book was release seven years ago.

Publisher's Weekly reports that last year printed books sold better than at any time since e-books exploded in 2010. Hardback sales are rising, and e-book sales dipped a bit in 2014

Related Articles