Book industry copes with growing e-book trend

Just off the University of Toronto campus, there’s a small publishing house that’s adopted a way to compete the growing tide of e-books. Heidi Waechtler works as a publishing assistant at Coach House.

“Coach House offers individuals who purchase our print books (directly or through a store) a free e-book format of the same title,” she said. “‘Bundling’ is becoming increasingly common among book publishers. Some charge an additional price, but others offer it for free.”

Waechtler explained that Coach House prints all its books in-house, something that only two other presses do in Canada. That tends to drive the unit costs to produce books higher than other publishers.

“Making all of our budgets balance is generally a challenge,” she said. Bundling helps Coach House stay abreast of the e-book trend.

At Toronto’s Book City location the e-book challenge is just as palpable. Manager Christopher Galloway works at the Yonge and St. Clair location.

“Half of our customers don’t read e-books at all and some of them have both,” he said. “The difficulty we have is that a lot of people will wait for the cheaper format as opposed to getting a hard cover.”

Proof of e-books’ impact on brick and mortar bookstores is evident in the recent announcements of Book City’s flagship Annex location and The World’s Biggest Book Store’s impending closings.

Canadian author Terry Fallis, 54, has written several books, including The Best Laid Plans, which won the Canada Reads prize in 2011. Despite his success selling the hard-copy versions of his books, Fallis remains optimistic about the steadily growing e-book trend.

“I actually think that we’ve sold more books in general because of the emergence of e-books,” he said. “It’s easier for people to make impulse buys when they hear about a book they can log onto their IPhone, IPad and 20 seconds later they can have the book in their library.”

Galloway, 37, added that although he knew some of the changes that independent book stores faced in relation to the publishing industry, the challenge remains actually getting customers to purchase hard copy books.

He also said that he wasn’t sure if the industry would simply shrink from a gradual decrease of hard-cover books or simply start off as e-books and go on to be made into physical books (i.e. Fifty Shades of Grey).

Fallis stressed the importance of reading as a means of keeping both hard copy books and e-books popular.

“What I try and think of is not what you’re reading on, but the fact that you are reading,” he said. “I think it’s reading that’s important, I’m less concerned about whether you’re reading a paper book or an e-book.”