Print paper books? Refuse? Ideas?

Here’s a little dilemma.

Last week I finished a two-year-long project, producing 17 books about understanding and doing business in 16 countries in Asia.

They were always meant to be e-books:  Kindle, iPad, PDF, etc.  Especially as I’ve been living in Singapore and New Zealand for the past few years, I really appreciate how e-books make it unnecessary to ship physical bricks of paper around the earth just for me to read the author’s words.

But now as I’m trying to sell my own books, all the smart people say I should set them up as print-on-demand books, to be available in paper for those who prefer to read paper books.

At first I was going to do it, through Amazon’s print-on-demand service.  But then I thought:

Do I really want thousands of these pages printed out on paper, to be put into paper boxes, loaded onto trucks, taken to airports, flown around the world, put back on trucks, into smaller trucks, to be delivered to people’s doorstep?  I’d feel a little disgusting encouraging that.

So here are a few options I could choose instead:

(1) – No paper books.  E-books only.  Maybe lose a few sales, but that’s fine.

(2) – Create paper books (on demand) but sell them at a ridiculous price point of $200, letting it be known that for every $200 book sold, $190 of it will go to carbon credits via TerraPass or something, to help pay for the real cost of all that paper and oil.

(3) – Something else?  Not sure.  Any ideas?

Feel free to email me at if you’d like to communicate directly instead of via blog comments.

Thank you!

12 thoughts on “Print paper books? Refuse? Ideas?

  1. Hi Derek,

    Some good points. I thought #2 was entertaining! Is it possible to sell a “printable” format that an individual buyer can opt to print themselves. If I want to read a book on paper (or face some challenges with using e-readers)) someone might want to opt for a hard copy. But agree that e-versions have many advantages.

  2. hey derek,

    I think the missing piece of the puzzle is the inevitable footprint that comes with disposable electonics as well: Non recyclable materials. Mining in third world countries with unending civil wars. There are pros and cons to both sides. I think paper books on demand are enough of an improvement from printing thousands of books that would end up in a dumpster to make it a reasonable choice. I’m a luddite though in this department, so I’m biased. I love your blogs btw, keep them coming.

  3. I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to give folks this option. Think of it this way: a) not that long ago the e-book option wasn’t even there so you had no choice at all but the paper option, b) most people are likely to take the e-book option these days anyway, c) those that chose the paper option will end up producing far fewer books than previously.

    These things progress slowly (though it’s been pretty fast in this case.)

  4. Could just sell yourself, have printed locally to you, using a green/eco friendly printer and post yourself?

    That may be an entire ‘other’ job though —

  5. I’m not sure about this. May be rent a book like concept. Instead of renting it out -people will purchase the book (book price is 50$ but they need to pay 100$) and read it. Then they must return the book to get their 50$ back. In this way, book can be re-used.

    Only thing is need to ensure, buyer won’t damage the book.
    Just my thoughts ! 😀

  6. Given your target market, a course might be better than a book. Business X has minimal time to decide on an intl partner — give them a fact sheet (they can print THAT), then deliver the rest in 5 email installments across a week. Excited for your project!

  7. Hi,
    I speak from the point of view of a very heavy reader. There are books I read in e-book format but there are others I want to read on paper. A book is not only an object with information is also an aesthetic object. The smell of the book, the cover, etc.., All contribute to the experience of reading the book. The books of my area of ​​expertise, I read them on paper to underline, write in the margins, adding ideas and syntheses at the end of each chapter …
    Furthermore, as someone already said, the e-book gadget also produce waste. Some of his componenes feed a dirty war in the Republic of Congo.
    We have the technology for recycling paper.
    Finally, those tasks as ‘to be put into paper boxes, loaded onto trucks, taken to airports, flown around the world, put back on trucks, into smaller trucks, to be delivered to people’s doorstep’, employ many, many people .

  8. Ship paper books surface mail only, maybe with an artificially longer delivery time. That would make most choose ebook, but if someone really wants or needs a paper copy, it won’t be too unfair.

  9. Although Amazon is keen on green labels
    their POD service is not (yet) providing very eco-friendly materials:
    But then, as they say: POD means no excess, so as a writer you offer your more traditional reader a service and isn’t that a writer’s primary concern?

  10. Hi Derek,
    not sure if paper is environmentally unfriendlier. Paper needs no electricity, no e-reader and can be shared by tens of people in an office. Also paper lasts longer, think of the old ebooks people bought for their palm pilot. Nobody can read them anymore. Probably the climate costs for e-readers are substantial, they are replaced every two years!
    Just buy a few carbon credits for the paper book but don’t hassle paper readers.

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