The Disadvantages of Digital Publishing

book image by Pali A from

There has been an increase in recent years in the availability and use of digital books. Many authors have allowed digital versions of their work to be created, and the rise of the e-book is revolutionising the publishing industry.

However, there are disadvantages to digital publication that authors should consider before allowing their work to be shared or sold in this format.

Ease of Theft

One of the most common arguments used against digital publishing is the ease with which unauthorised digital publications may be shared. Pirating printed books is very difficult, but when a work is stored in digital format, files are easily shared, distributed, and copied--often with a loss of revenue to the rights holder (See Reference 1).

A Changed Reading Experience

When J.K. Rowling refused to allow e-book publication of Harry Potter, the experience of reading a book on paper was one reason she gave (See Reference 2). Author Anne Fadiman agrees: "I think there's no substitute for the look and feel and smell of a real book--the magic of the paper and thread and glue" (See Reference 1).

Aside from missing the experience, cherished by many readers, of holding and reading an actual book, readers also read digital books differently, moving more quickly through the text without pausing to savour the language (See Reference 3).

Cross-platform Compatibility

A traditional book, once printed, is accessible to anyone who can read the language in which it was written. Digital books are different. Certain formats are accessible only to individuals who have the necessary hardware or software, which is often expensive. Digital books created for one platform cannot necessarily be read on another. Furthermore, the digital publishing industry is dominated by a few huge companies. According to "Publishers Weekly," "a trio of giant companies---Amazon, Google and Apple---[are] making plans that will forever change the way we find, buy and read books" (See Reference 4).

Lack of Respect

Digital publishing is often confused with vanity publishing, and the lines between the two have become increasingly blurred (See Reference 3). The ease with which anyone can publish anything digitally eliminates much of the prestige of having a book published in the traditional market. According to Karen Wiesner, author of "Electronic Publishing: The Definitive Guide," "e-authors get very little respect. ... I know I considered e-authors 'not' really published until a friend of mine got e-published" (See References 5).

Income Considerations

Digital publishing is still uncharted territory in many regards with respect to how professional authors are compensated for their work (See References 1). Furthermore, as Lev Grossman points out in "Time" magazine, authors in the digital marketplace increasingly compete against writers who expect little or no compensation for their work, creating a challenge for writers who make their livings with their work (See Reference 3).