As someone who oversaw the liquidation of a 45-year-old printing business in 2012, I’m fully aware of the issues facing newspaper, periodical and book publishers. But when it comes time to shell out my own cash – hard-earned or otherwise – would I opt for the hard-copy book or the digital version?
A few weeks ago I was faced with that very dilemma when I found myself in the Travel section of my local Chapter’s while waiting for a suit to be hemmed next door. (Chapter’s seems to stock a lot of crap other than books but so far I have yet to find a decent single-breasted 46-Tall.)
The iconic photo of Machu Picchu on the cover of The Rough Guide to Peru caught my eye. It seemed like something I could probably use since Peru is the first country I will visit after leaving North America in September. (I have three weeks to kill between flying into Lima and hooking up with a group to trek the Inca Trail and experience Machu Picchu in person.)
At $25.99 a pop The Rough Guide series of travel books certainly aren’t cheap. But then unbiased, time sensitive and niche-oriented information does come with a price. At least that’s what I preached to clients for 25+ years as a publisher of horse racing programs.
But as I stood in the aisle holding the brick-sized book it dawned on me that I’d have to read it before leaving home as I’ll be “travelling light” and lugging another pound of paper across North America is simply not an option. As recently as a year or two ago most indie travel websites were advising backpackers to tear out and take only the most important pages of their guide books and chuck the rest. There’s something about destroying a $25 book that doesn’t sit right with me so I pulled out the iPhone, opened the iBooks app, and within seconds had found, purchased and started to download the digital version of the same book. Oh, and the cost? Would you believe $11.99 – or $13.55 after tax and US exchange? The download was complete before I made it to the bottom of the store’s escalator.
I’m no expert in “Rock, Paper, Scissors” but to me, price and convenience will trump paper-in-hand every time.