Printed books rule. They did when they started out, they still do now, and they will do, no matter what anyone says, even with the advent of eBooks. You know why? Because the nature of the book itself has changed, but the content still rules. It's the story we're after. We don't care what shape it comes in, we want to read it, to consume it. Where in the past a printed book was the only way to be able to achieve it, now a printed book has achieved an elevated status. When you can buy an eBook for $0.99, you want to have the printed version like a souvenir, like a collectible item, therefore instead of paying a typical $10-15, you're actually willing to spend up to $30, only, and this is the most important part, only if it's worth it. (I bought J.K. Rowling's THE CASUAL VACANCY for $35 without a hiccup when it came out, I didn't even look at the price.) This is what so many writers refuse to accept, especially those who self-publish. A book is a piece of art. Would you buy a sloppy painting? Nope. Would you buy a sloppily done book? Nope. Would you buy an awesome beautiful signed piece of art? Of course you would. Let me illustrate my point with the following examples.
When you love a story, you want to own it. It's a very simple truth, really. If you liked a painting of a green sloth eating oranges, would you buy it to look at it only once? No. You would not. It's too expensive to buy a painting to only look at it once. Let's say, you're really into sloths and oranges, I mean, you're obsessed with them, you love looking at them so much. Well then, in this case, would you buy such a painting? Yes. Why? Because you want to look at it over and over again. Same goes for books. Before digital books came into existence, printed books were the only versions people could buy, this is where mass market paperback idea came from. People wanted a cheap way of buying a story and be done with it. Why buy hardcover when you might not even like it? Exactly. Digital books finally solved this problem. Now readers can sample authors before investing their money in hardcover books. But, don't look at it like at a catastrophe. On the contrary, it's an awesome thing. It means, those stories that are truly good can sell at premium value in paper now, as opposed to before. Because it's the stories people want to read over and over and over again that will sell. Like that sloth painting. Is this idea painful? Oh yes, you bet, it's especially painful to authors whose stuff doesn't sell very well. Because the barriers to the audience choosing whose stories they like have fallen. That's why it's great. Now more than ever people are willing to invest money into a beautiful piece of art, if they love it. Is it scary? You bet.
The competition among printed books will only increase. The side effect of what I described above will be very unpleasant. The competition will heat up immensely, because people will be buying less printed books, choosing only those that are the absolute best. Before you start cringing at this idea, think, it's actually to your advantage. The goal now is to really produce a story that is worthy of being printed on paper, otherwise it won't stand a chance as a real printed book. If you self-publish, it's great news, because you can practice all you want and self-publish a gazillion eBooks, testing them on the market, before choosing to print the best of them, investing your time and money into professional formatting, book cover design, illustrations, and on and on and on. Make it really worth your reader's time to hold your book in her or his hands, and the reader will buy it, to hold it, to cherish it, to marvel at it. Because owning physical objects that are desirable is not going anywhere. This is why sales of printed books are not as stellar right now, and declining. People are finally becoming picky about what stuff they want in their houses, and they want less clutter and more beautiful stuff, that's all there is to it.
It's the experience that matters, not the product. Again, Internet changed the game. Authors used to be inaccessible people. I mean, the only way you could meet one was if you actually went to a book signing event with the author present. Now you don't have to do this. Now authors stage Google Hangouts, start forums on Reddit, chat with their readers on Twitter, interact on Facebook, and in general are much more accessible then they were before. Because of this, and because of the ease of acquiring a digital book, a printed personally signed book becomes more valuable. It's not just a collector's item anymore, it's an experience. You actually have to drag your sorry ass out of the house to go meet said writer at an event. Compare it to the music industry. Music CD's are no longer what people pay for, people pay to go to concerts, and there they buy t-shirts that they can only buy at that concert. Same with books. The fact that you went to meet an author is huge, and the signed book is like a testament to it, the physical evidence, if you will, a reminder of the even itself, a memory, therefore, a book becomes an emotionally charged object. It increases in value even more if each printed book edition is different, only available at certain events. See the trend here? This is why printed books will mostly only sell at such events. Yet you can charge premium for it.
Having written all this, I must warn you. It's a speculation of a rookie writer who is still in the process of self-publishing her first novel, SIREN SUICIDES, and later report on the numbers. Because I do plan to make my novels pieces of art, professionally edited, with every single chapter illustrated and covers meticulously designed. I tried this already with the little book of my tweets, BLUE SPARROW, attempting to make it beautiful, and so far in 9 days it sold 4 hard copies and 26 digital ones. It's nothing, of course, but it's just a simple book with 140 pages in it, with a sentence per page, and it sells! I will also make it downloadable off of my site for free very soon, this weekend hopefully. So please take it all with a grain of salt and feel free to disagree with me, I am simply sharing with you what my gut is telling me. But I think the future of printed books has never been better. Now you can throw your rotten tomatoes at me. Go ahead.