Print vs. E-Book: Which side are you on?

ImageOne of the wonderful things about technology is that it causes us to ask questions that we had never previously thought of. The print vs. e-book question had never once been asked prior to the 2000s. But it’s a question that every bibliophile has struggled with at some point in recent years. I know I have. Before I discuss which side of the stick I happen to fall on, let’s delve into the battle a little bit first.

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Print

The printing of books hasn’t changed all that much since the advent of the printing press. The process has become easier and cheaper as technology advanced. No matter the price a particular publisher sets for the print edition of a book, the actual cost to print is essentially the same for all publishers. It isn’t as though one publisher has the printing technology of 2005 and another of 1900. Printing is printing and although the price of books is constantly changing, printing is still printing. For instance, I know exactly how much it costs to print my book.

Also, a print book is a physical object. You can hold it and dog ear your pages and highlight and then put it right back on your shelf to read again in the future once you’re finished reading. That means something to many readers.

In just a few short years print books, and thus publishers, have taken a hit from the e-book market. There of course was a time very recently in which all books were printed. Now only about 70% of book sales fall into this category. Think of owning your own business and losing nearly a third of your business before you even have time to react to what’s happening. This is exactly what happened in the last decade to the publishing industry. If you keep up with publishing like I do then you know that for the longest time there were the Big 6 publishers that maintained a stranglehold on the book world. Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster, and Random House. Well, as you likely already know, in 2013 Penguin and Random House completed a merger that combined two of the world’s largest publishers. This was done out of necessity, for both publishers, due in part to Amazon’s major role in the the book market.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves because I haven’t read anything recently about any more major mergers happening soon.

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E-Book

The little guy who has turned the publishing world on its head. The advantages of e-books are numerous and can’t be denied. A digital version of a book is cheaper than a printed version. There’s no paper or ink or printing or anything but a file to be downloaded. A single e-reader or tablet can hold thousands of books without ever needing to give any away to make more room on the shelf. Reading on a device is often more suitable to the eyes than reading straight from paper. (Just think of reading something on your phone in your room at midnight versus reading off of paper) Lastly, everything you can think to do in a printed book like take notes or highlight or save your page can now be done on just about every e-reader or tablet that allows you to read e-books. Let’s face it, a huge percentage of the American population has access to a device on which e-books can be read. I mean, who doesn’t have a PC, Mac, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Nook, Kobo, Galaxy Note, or Galaxy S? We all do, which means we all have access to the cheaper version of the exact same books available at your local bookstore or online.

Where do I Fall?

After examining printed books versus e-books the conclusion may be clear to some, if not most people. And it is for me. I’m willing to pay whatever the difference is between the digital and printed formats. Why? Because a printed book is a physical object that I can forever admire on my shelf. I can’t admire a file on a smartphone or tablet. I personally have more than 160 printed books and less than 20 on my Kindle. NOTE: I did not buy my Kindle, it was given to me as a gift.

I’m Team Printed Books, what about you? Tell me in the comments!

By the way, this is on my left forearm. I HAVE to be all for printed books.

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190 thoughts on “Print vs. E-Book: Which side are you on?

  1. I used to read large numbers of print books and had a beautiful library of volumes. But I learned that when you move house this then becomes a very weighty problem. The advent of e-books has been a blessing in this sense but I still like the feel of a large tome in my hands. My wife has just bought me a beautiful hardcover book about Australians at war. It is a magnificent volume and would grace any library anywhere. My interest in the above title comes from my being an ex-serviceman.
    But I have to admit that the convenience offered by e-books his hard to surpass. As others have noted, it is great for bedtime when I can read for hours with the lights off and not annoy anybody else.
    One of the great boons of the e-book is that perhaps it has opened up the world of books and reading to many more people. The cost of e-books v printed books is very attractive and so those how could afford only a few printed books in the past, can now enjoy reading to their hearts content.
    Another great advantage is that when I have finished a book and have nothing else to read, I can just hop on my phone and with virtually one click I have a new delight with which to wonder off into a world of make believe.
    But, as for which format I prefer, I will continue to stand aside from the debate. I love both forms for my personal reading. But as a would be author, I have to admit that e-books offer my a far better chance of being published. Whether or not the readers like what I publish, well that’s in the lap of the Gods, but I’ll try and be interesting.
    All I can say in closing is, no matter what your preferred format, just keep reading.

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  2. yes, there is something about holding books that feels good, and to buy a book and have it there on your bedside table is totally different from having it on your tablet. Personally, I have downloaded lots of e-books on my tablet, but I don´t read them, it doesn´t call my attention. While the books that I bought, that´s a different story, I can´t wait to go over them… I guess that people who enjoy reading will always have this feelings… I just hope that new generations don´t lose the habit of reading on printed books…

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    • I think if the publishing industry adapts accordingly, then printed books should be just fine for a long time. But if they don’t, well, who knows what might happen.

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    • I like getting real books, just because it’s fun to wait for them to show up in the mail, or to actually drive down to a bookstore and get caught up browsing and taking in the atmosphere. The other thing, I’ll buy a book and forget it, but then later notice it on my bookshelf that is a lot harder to do if you have a bunch of books on a kindle. I found myself looking over the books on my kindle thinking to myself why haven’t I read that already?

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      • I wrote out a super long comment in response to your first one, but when you commented again my app deletes it. So now you get this.

        But I’ll always prefer printed books. I’ll still get some books on Kindle every once in a blue moon.

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  3. I prefer printed books, because I am less likely to electrocute myself when I drop them in the bath – my favourite place for having a long read!

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  4. Personally I love trees. I remember my ridicule of my Arts One prof in my first year at UBC when she was basically having orgasms over an original copy of Shakespear second folio. My words to her were “its a dead tree, I liked it more when it was living.”
    But I look at my own shelf and my prized collection, nothing so rare as folio 2, but there is a Dune Encyclopedia and a complete first print edition of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. I remember the first time I spotted those books, all given to me by a friend who knew my love of those authors, and how I felt just to see and touch them. There certainly is something about a physical book. It ‘exists’ in a way an e-book can’t even pretend to.

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    • I love your first sentence. But then you kinda come full circle by the end of your comment. But I like trees too. I wish we had more down here during the summer.

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    • It’s a form of reincarnation for trees. A tree becomes a book, and lets a author live on through the stories in the book. In a way the author and the tree become intimate with the reader, in a way a Kindle good never do. Now I know I have lost it.

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  6. I don’t know the exact stats (I did try to Google it) but I recon, with the obvious exception of library copies, the average book is lucky to be read more than twice in its lifetime, if at all. In that light, It’s hard to imagine that sentimentality alone is a good champion for the cause of the printed book. My neighbors have about two hundred on prominent display in their living room. I asked them once how many of them they had actually read and they sheepishly confessed it was probably a third. That said, 75% of my own book intake takes place in my car, compliments of Audible. The rest I read on my trusty Kindle Paperwhite, which, while not made of paper, is nevertheless a tangible object and caters nicely to instinctive need to hold, love and cherish. But I am no antagonist of the printed book, merely a creature of circumstance and habit. If people are reading, I’m good.

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    • I haven’t heard an audiobook in probably ten years. I have a Kindle with a dead battery. And four paperbacks on my bed right now. So I think it’s obvious where I stand. Though I just want people reading.

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  7. My pitch was that print / eBook each fill a need, but it’s growing to be a niche. If I have a coding problem I’m off to a wiki somewhere. I have need for neither a print nor a en eBook on that case. Some people are arguing that community fiction will come into its own over teh next few years. Wattpad comes to mind. Crowd-sourced workshops to refine stories till they’re ready for acceptance, etc.

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    • I see what you’re saying. But I just don’t see books becoming a niche in the near future. If people were not buying any kind of books, then that’d be one thing, but that’s not the case.

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  8. It depends on the type of book. Books that are special to me I want to own. Ideally in first editions and signed by the author. I own roughly 450 signed first edition and unsigned hardbacks, plus quite a few paperbacks. But I’m a voracious reader. I get through around three books a week (more when I take a break from writing), and quite frankly, I’ve run out of space. My clothes live on my sofa because books have even taken over the closet. Now I buy ebook first.

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  9. Pingback: Print vs. E-Book: Which side are you on? | Winona Rasheed's Book blog & More

  10. Print for me! I’m not putting my first book on Kindle because it’s such a gorgeous work of art. I love the smell of a book (especially a very old one) and taking it to bed with me.

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  11. Team Printed Books! I’m a traditionalist; what can I say? I would look even weirder trying to smell a Tablet than I do rifling through pages of a physical book and smelling them.

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  12. The romantic reader in me likes paper books. I like the cover art, the feel, the practicality of them. And keeping a new friend around. Paper is what I read. The author in me is live and let live. When it comes to paying the bills, I approach books as a professional, a royalty is a royalty. My book sale ratio is almost 1:1 paper to electronic. It is a market you can’t ignore. I am currently looking into producing an audio book. I love the art of writing, but daddy needs a new box of mac & cheese.

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  13. I think there’s a place for both paper books and ebooks. We have to move with the times.

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  14. I can see the ebooks as one is traveling it is lighter and can be read anywhere. Where as the paper back or book I like looking thru the pages and marking my book up in the side edges depending on what I am reading. I like to use post a notes on my pages. I guess you can probably do that on ebooks as well. But I guess I am a paper lover. I guess it just depends on what you are doing. I like to read in bed.

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  15. I just discovered your blog after you visited mine. I look forward to reading more of your posts. Great blog! On e-books vs printed, I still haven’t come to a definitive conclusion. One thing that does bother me is the dominance of Amazon and proprietary formats for e-books. It’s not like you have to use special glasses to read physical books from Amazon, but in a way that is what you’re stuck doing when you buy a book for your Kindle, can’t see that as being good for books. I’ve been thinking about getting a Kobo instead. Lately I’ve been annoyed at how much money I spend at Amazon I went to local mom and pop store and bought “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.” Paid a lot more for it, but it felt like I had done something right.

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  16. love this. Me, too. I love printed books, obviously.

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  17. Pingback: Hachette v. Amazon: You’re not going to like my thoughts | Write me a book, John!

  18. books lol – no questions asked there. Yes, i do have a kindle and I do love it for travel and such but nothing quite compares to having a book right there in your hand – and if i like the ebook enough, i’m still likely to try and get my hands on a hard copy of it anyway

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  19. I actually prefer e-books. I do appreciate the romance of print books, the tactile sensation in your hands. There is a great romance to that and as an author, I feel it is extra special to hold a book in your hands. However, I move to a different country every two to three years. It is not practical for me to move a library of books. I usually live out of a suitcase or two. I can fit an entire library on my Kindle and download books in my preferred language at any time.
    Also, for authors who are publishing in small press houses or self publishing, print books make very little money and are terribly expensive to publish. E-books provide a more economical solution for authors who want to control their own work. I also like trees and anyone who has ever had the misfortune of being anywhere near a paper mill can testify that the romance of printed books dies pretty fast when you are smelling the chemicals used to make them.

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  20. I love reading from my phone and tablet for ease of transporting it wherever I go. I do, however, have an appreciation of books in print and continue to add to my bookshelf. When my phone dies, my paperbacks will still be there for me. 🙂

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  21. First, thank you for liking my post, ‘Back In The Saddle’. I use both print and e-books for my books. I want to be available for both reading formats. I have so many books that we have to get rid of many due to the fact that there is no space to store them. I will be keeping the books that I am most interested in. I also have a few on my e-reader. Like you, I like paper books, but the more I read books on my iPad, I find that I enjoy that as well because I can read a few books at the same time.

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  23. Oh I once held a presentation about this topic at uni 🙂 The ebook or ereader has a lot of advantages indeed, but also many disadvantages. When everything would become digital in the future, we perhaps wouldn’t have any libraries anymore, only digital libraries which is kind of lonely because a library is an important public place for me. I have spent half of my childhood and my teenage years there. It was a place of knowledge, education and imagination where people would gather to read together. That would ve quite sad for me if it was to disappear :/
    I also use an ereader, but it also was a gift.

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  24. I also like a tangible book! I have a kindle for when I travel because I don’t like to lug around the book with me. I’m proud of my book collection, I like to be able to see what i’ve read sitting on my shelf, not in a device. Kindles are for convenience. 🙂 Happy reading.

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  25. Personally, I have a hard time reading Literature or anything I need to really focus on in ebook form. There’s just something about having a physical object that helps you to focus. Also, I like to be able to easily flip back to the table of contents, or the start of the chapter, or the map at the beginning, etc. When reading a physical book, I often stick my finger or an extra book mark in these pages so I can quickly flip back and forth, but with ebooks I can’t really do without breaking the continuity of my reading. I have less trouble dealing with “light reading” in ebook form, although if it’s something I really care about for any reason, I would much rather have a physical version. Also, i find that I keep forgetting the title or author of a book I’m reading in ebook form because I don’t see the cover every time I pick it up….
    On the other hand, I just studied abroad for a semester, and it was such a weight off my shoulders (literally and figuratively) not to have to try to choose and fit in whatever books I wanted to bring. I just packed one physical book and my freshly-stocked kindle. It was also a great help, since I didn’t want to buy too many books while I was abroad. I was able to get many of the books I needed for class on my kindle, most of them for free. As I mentioned, it was very difficult to try to take notes and write papers on something I read in ebook form, but it was definitely worth the money and the space in my suitcase that I saved.
    Other great things I love about ebooks: So many classics are available for free! And whenever I start to feel guilty about how much of my floor space is covered in books, I can still get something new to read without adding to the piles. Also, I can keep my kindle in my purse and bring it around with me everywhere, something I would never subject a delicate book to.
    All in all, ebooks will never replace physical books for me, but they definitely have their advantages in certain situations.

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  26. I was previously entirely for printed books and I fought shifting over to ebooks as long as I could. I still pick up printed books, but ebooks are just too convenient.
    My suitcases are no longer half-filled with books when I leave for a trip. They’re all on my phone. It’s also easier to read at the gym with an ebook than a book too because I can make the font larger. And, as you mentioned, they’re also cheaper (although not always… used books on Amazon are often cheaper than Kindle versions of books).
    All that being said, I still prefer printed books.

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  27. I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs really nice,
    keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back
    later on. All the best

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  29. Pingback: Is Amazon Good For Books? | Write me a book, John!

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