I have to admit that initially I thought everyone would want an e-book over a printed book because printed books are bulky and expensive. Yet after turning my most popular e-books into print-on-demand books, I’m starting to see twice as many sales through print-on-demand as I am through e-books. Although there’s no definite proof why this might be, here’s my theory.
E-books are especially popular for romance novels since nobody can see what type of book you’re reading on a tablet. Romance novels have always been popular with many women and now that they don’t have to hide the lurid covers of most romance novels, reading a romance novel in public is easy. This may also be why the odd subcategory of romance novels involving falling in love with monsters and mythical creatures has taken off. Dubbed “monster porn,” these romance novels involve women romancing vampires, werewolves, aliens, and ghosts. E-books are especially popular for fiction that you’ll likely read once while letting you read in public without revealing what you’re reading.
My most popular e-books are reference books so it’s likely people want a printed copy in front of them so they can quickly flip through the pages to find the information they want. Looking for information in a printed books is more familiar than searching through an e-book, even though an e-book is actually faster and more accurate. However the big drawback with an e-book is that you can’t easily see two facing pages.
So based on this non-scientific results of my own experience, I’d conclude that e-books are especially good for fiction (and romance fiction in particular) due to its low cost, anonymity while reading, and lack of needing to refer to the book over time. Print-on-demand books are particularly good for non-fiction because it allows readers to view more information and open the book faster than loading a tablet and searching for contents within an e-book.
If you’re writing fiction, e-books are cheaper ways for people to satisfy their reading needs. If you’re writing non-fiction, print-on-demand seems popular for reference works despite the higher cost of print-on-demand books compared to e-books.
Of course, it’s free to create print-on-demand books and e-books so you might as well do both just to increase the chances of a sale. Just be aware that the type of book you write will partially determine whether more people will want to buy it as an e-book or a printed book.