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 stand firmly on neither side. I generally prefer print, but find my Nook is better for long trips and is easier to read if I’m on the stationary bicycle. There’s also the issue that all-digital can lock out people on the lower end of the economic spectrum.
    I get irritated with people who insist that print books are dying and get all superior about it. They both have their uses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s a great position. And your point about all-digital is definitely valid. I like reading on my Kindle great. But if given the choice I’d likely go print more often than not. And yes, printed books aren’t dying yet. Just ask the publishers who are bringing in billions each year, mostly from printed books.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have migrated from all print five years ago to all digital today. Since November 2009, I have only read 4 print books to 96 eBooks. Go team digital.

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  3. Well, John… I own (low) thousands of printed books, and love them… Haven’t stopped buying them… But I’ve come to love reading novels on an e-reader…in the dark. I find making annotations, editing, and later organizing annotations or edits is a nicer experience electronically than with paper proof copies. I also compulsively mark typos in books I read, and with e-books it’s easier to gather those and send lists of errata to authors…

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    • Makes sense. There’s so much you can do on a device that is just not as easy on paper. And I don’t want people reading this to think that I’m 100% against e-books. I’m definitely not. I just prefer paper if I can pick. But I read all of The Hunger Games books on my Kindle and I have Stephen King’s 11/22/63 on my Kindle that I can’t wait to read. I’ve got somewhat of a mix of both, but plenty more books in print.

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  4. Hi John, nice blog great title. I have always loved the smell of new books, old books and just books! I have a kindle but I read many more real hard cover books than read on my kindle. The reason I love the kindle is I can take it everywhere and read a variety depening on m mood whereas bringing books with me is just not a thing to do.

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    • Thanks! I think we’re on the same wavelength here. I’m not anti-e-books at all. I just have my preference. I see it as being no different than reading a million books in one genre and occasionally reading another outside of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. eBooks only for me. The only thing I miss about printed books are the pretty covers since I read on a Kindle Paperwhite. Paper books are just too hard on my middle-aged eyes. Plus I am a bit of a book hoarder and I don’t know where I would put all the books I buy. I read at least 3 books a week.

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    • Hm. I understand not having enough room. I’ve only been buying books a few years and I’m already having to figure out where to put new ones. I’ve been lucky enough to figure it our so far.

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  6. To quote the (sadly) late Douglas Adams, “Lovers of print are confusing the plate for the food.” It’s the content that matters, not the format. What you read says more about you than whether you’re holding a print book or an ereader while you read it. Neither format is universally superior to the other, but both offer advantages in certain circumstances. I once showed an 87-year-old lady how to use a Kindle 2. The first thing she did was to crank up the fonts to about 18 point-type. She was delighted to be able to read books again. Readers should stick together, and quit arguing about formats. To quote the late (also sadly) Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?” The real threat to books and publishing is not the digital format, it is the plethora of other recreational options that don’t involve reading, like TV, movies, and video games.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree that neither is inherently better than the other and that it’s about the book and not the format. But I don’t think readers are battling it out to see who will ultimately become victorious just because there’s a conversation discussing both formats. I think the title and perhaps even the text within this post has caused people to assume that I’m all print books or nothing. I’m not. I simply have my preference just like I’m sure you do.

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    • Well said! We don’t have to choose. I read more e-books, because it’s more comfortable, but I do pick up a good paper book now and then.

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  7. Since high school (I’m in my 60′s now) I have read about 2 books a week. I love reading. I love reading books. Absolutely my favorite relaxing pastime. However, since I got my Kindle DX (the large ipad size) in 2009, I have read a total of about 5 paper books while my overall book reading has increased. Paper books just don’t work for me. Reading on my Kindle (and occasionally on my ipad) is just too comfortable and easy. And, of course, it is perfect when I travel.
    Finally, I do want to point out that I have started reading more classic literature. How can you beat COMPLETE WORKS of Dickens, Twain, Tolstoy, etc for less than $3.00 per set- we’re talking about 1000′s of pages each for money found in my couch. (there are some typos, but usually they are in good shape with Tables of Content to get you around the gigantic book. I do miss the fact that there is not much in ebook form of plays/drama- but they will come)
    And my bookshelves can now be filled with tchochkes or photos, etc. A win-win all around. And I don’t miss the paper books, because I’m reading even more than before!

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    • I understand that books take up plenty of room wherever they’re stored, but I’m lucky enough to not have to face that issue just yet. I have about five shelves empty at the moment. I may read on my Kindle more once they’re full. Just have to wait and see!

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  8. I usually use a text reader to read anything longer than 1/2 a page. If I didn’t have the digital player from RFB&D, I would choose Kindle.

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  9. I see the advantage in both types of book. The print book is my favorite as I like to own and collect books. I like their feel and smell and admire the works of art many old books exhibit in the text as well as illustrations. However, the kindle is preferred for reading in bed for the convenience. It is much lighter than balancing a heavy 1000 page book which I appear to be drawn to most of the time.

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  10. Can I cop out and say both? I love print. I love the feel of it in my hands. The weight and the ink. I even love the smell of the pages. I love the way the paper slips through my fingers as I turn each page. It’s nostalgic and comforting I suppose.

    But there’s something wonderful about eBooks too. I can easily read in the dark without disturbing my husband. I can carry my library with me everywhere I go. I can purchase a new book without having to stop at a bricks and mortar location.

    And, there’s a wider marketplace online. I do realize that wider marketplace means you have to wade through a lot of “meh” books to find the gems. But I think those gems are worth it.

    I will say that I can not stand magazines on a tablet. I think the experience of a magazine is compromised by the e-format. A magazine is mostly ads anyway, so once you take away the physical aspect, it ends up feeling like a tiny picture book online.

    The only way a magazine on a tablet works if if you utilize the platform. Embed video, provide links. Do something with it to make it more interactive. Otherwise it comes off looking like a tiny pdf with a page turn sound effect that’s less than impressive.

    Anyway, that’s just my opinion.

    Also, cool tattoo.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: 100th Post! | Write me a book, John!

  12. I can’t swear complete fealty to either camp. Print wins on aesthetics, for all the reasons you and others have listed: the feel of it in one’s hands, the smell of the paper and the ink, being able to admire it on a shelf. Print is a better medium for some books. If the book has illustrations, charts, tables, diagrams, and so on, you can usually see them more easily on the printed page than through an e-reader. (I have the older Kindle Keyboard. It’s horrible for illustrations. The iPad does do a better job, but print trumps them all.) If it’s the kind of book that you’d jump around in, like a dictionary, a travel guide, and many other reference works, go with print. It’s difficult to flip through an e-book quickly. And even when technology changes, you’ll still be able to read your print books (although you may need reading glasses to do so.)
    But, print isn’t perfect. The space issue has already been mentioned. I’ve discovered I have to start worrying about the weight of the books I’m reading, after I got a mild case of tendinitis in my forearms last year while reading a heavy hardcover book (dang it, books aren’t supposed to hurt you unless you drop them on your toe!).Some people have told me they aren’t going to buy any e-books because they don’t trust Amazon (or other vendors) not to delete them from their e-readers; they want something they can own forever. I respect that, but print isn’t invulnerable. I lost two boxes of books years ago when my basement leaked. Some of my favorite books from childhood and adolescence are self-destructing as I type this, because the paper is acidic. I’m hoping the authors release the out-of-print ones as e-books or self-published paperbacks or something, because else I may lose them forever.
    Most of the advantages of e-books have also already been mentioned. E-books are good for fiction or nonfiction that you’d read from start to finish without jumping around. I love being able to take notes without feeling like I’m damaging the book. In books with endnotes, I like being able to click the note, read it, and then click right back to where I left off reading (admittedly, not all e-books handle this well). You can look new words up in a dictionary without leaving what you’re readingβ€”super! I wish the text itself was nicer to look at. Okay, the iPad’s fonts are decent, but I rarely use it as an e-reader. The Kindle Keyboard’s fonts are adequate at best, but maybe newer models give you more choices.
    So for now, I go back and forth, not fully committed to either format. Which I don’t have to be, of course.

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  13. Thanks for liking my blog. I like print books best. One day I was reading something on my iPad and I tried to turn the page until I realized it was a screen and not a book. LOL This has happened more than once.

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  14. I will never get rid of my print books but also get books on kindle and also audio-books so that I can have them while I am shopping or driving or just about everywhere. But nothing will ever replace that flashlight under the covers with a good old paper book.

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  15. Print. Hands down. And I don’t even travel with an e-reader. My paperback (usually trade size) makes a perfect holder for my boarding pass. It’s my system. I’ve been using it for years.

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  16. Definitely printed, although e-books are convenient for travel.

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  17. I have to be honest, I have never even questioned whether or not I prefer printer books to e-books. I’ve always been team printed book. But I was a little more judgmental in the past about people on team e-book. Then it occurred to me that unlike other arguments at least we all have something wonderful in common, we love to read. And that’s what’s really important, especially in this day and age. I love your tattoo though, it’s really cool. Team Printed Book all the way!

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  18. I think print is the way to go, though digital books are a fine way to supplement the reading experience. Diversity is a good thing to have, so going one way or the other isn’t a good idea.

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  19. The printed book has been the love of my life…the smell…the worlds…the sheer pleasure of snuggling up and reading can’t be taken away. For a long time I resisted getting a Kindle because it just wasn’t that warm of an idea…however, when you have to wait somewhere for long periods of time, it’s nice to have around. Also, when a friend mentions a great book that you can’t seem to wait to get, or you get caught in a sequel and don’t have time to run out and get it, it’s nice to have the option of an e-book. But like you said John, there’s nothing like seeing those books all on the shelves. It takes your breath away. (and it’s a great sense of accomplishment too!)
    And yes, that’s the coolest tattoo ever!

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  20. Pingback: Picking Your Reading Device | Write me a book, John!

  21. I love both formats. E-books are so convenient for when I’m on the, particularly when I’m travelling, I just can’t afford the weight of 12 books in my luggage! I will always keep hard copies of my treasured books though. There’s something wonderful about the physical feeling of a favourite book in my hands.

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  22. For my own pleasure, I far prefer printed books. Pages between my hands are just more comforting. But I do own a Nook and have a Kindle app on my phone. You can pick up so many free and low-cost books that I couldn’t turn it down. And, since my own publishing career started in ebook format, it seemed logical that I should at least take a look at an ebook before publishing one. They are handy and easier to transport, but I miss the rustle of pages and softenss of cheap paper, and most of all the smell of a book, especially an older book.

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  23. Thank you for liking my post on this subject. This is a great blog, and it’s fantastic that you’ve already written a book. Keep on writing!

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  24. Thanks for dropping by my children’s book blog πŸ™‚ I am planning on self publishing as an ebook but also want to publish in print when the funding allows. The royalties thru kindle are brutal but I cannot deny they are the easiest way to sell the book I am making. And considering how swift it would be for a father reading his son a book and decide to purchase on that spot-ebook is definitely my primary route πŸ™‚

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  25. Call me old school (more like just old) but I prefer paper over ebooks, for the reasons you suggest. Or at least I would, had not pretty much stopped reading some years ago out of disgust at the sort of things that get published these days. They don’t write books for me anymore, which is why I wrote my own and am trying to get it published. But the problems besetting the publishing industry have far less to do with competing formats than the way publishing has allowed itself to become R&D for the film industry. The only thing that agents and editors will even look at anymore are mindless teen thrillers that can be summarized in a single sentence and turned into big SPFX movies that fill theater seats and sell popcorn. That’s where the money is.

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  26. I’m for both. I think both formats have their own benefits. There are different cultures, and preferences for each format (not to mention economic) but because of these differences if someone authors a book for all formats then the readership gets maximised in the market. Maybe authors should include codes to download their book in epub format or include a coupon for some money off a physical copy with every e-book purchase.
    The point is, I think there is value in both formats especially for the author and any and all potential readership. With the way the world, technology, and culture is constantly changing and progressing we should all embrace new ways to get our works out into the world and someone else’s hands.
    My advice to everyone is to enjoy your preference but include all formats.

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  27. Print is immune to technical malfunctions. The only threats to a real book are fire, theft, and being left unread.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I like both. Having moved in the recent past, I have to say that e-books have advantages. Still–I did move those print books because I value them.
    I also like to meet an author whenever possible and purchase a copy to be signed. This is something that would never happen with an e-book and the current technology.
    Chris

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    • As do I.

      I moved about three years ago. And packed all my print books. It wasn’t many back then and still isn’t today. But those boxes were still heavy. I’m nearing 200 at the moment.

      And yes, I think I’ve had maybe ten of my books signed by their authors. There’s an indie bookstore here that gets all the big name authors when they release new books. I just haven’t made it to many events.

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  29. As a reader, I’m Team Print all the way. When I read, I want to hold it, turn the pages, and smell the scent of the book. On the flipside, as an author I like the eBook better. The medium is easier to market and people are more than likely to drop the cash on a new author because of the lower price. If you don’t dig what the author had to say, you can erase the book and not have to worry about it sitting around on a shelf because you couldn’t resell it. More and more people are turning to the eBook, so I’ll swallow my pride (and love of paper) and roll with it.

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    • Hmm. The notion of selling any book hurts my heart. I have some books that I didn’t like at all and I’d NEVER sell or give them away. I definitely understand your different stances as a reader versus as an author. Your point is spot on.

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  30. I am old-fashioned and I much prefer print books. (But I like audio books while I cook – I still love being read a story.)

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  31. First off, thanks for following my blog! It’s great to see readers, writers and librarians unite! Secondly, I prefer the printed book. I feel they are more personal. They hold memories and are treasures to show off on a book shelf. However, I do understand the convenience of the eBook, and am not against them. eBook’s are great for frequent travelers as they are small and compact, but personally I’d rather fill a suitcase with books then read electronically.

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    • No problem! I love discovering new blogs I haven’t read before. πŸ™‚

      I’m glad you’re with me on this. Print all the way. I always hear how great ebooks are for travelers, but I don’t travel. And if I did it’s not like I’d take my bookshelf with me. So that convenience is nonexistent for me. I’m pretty sure my Kindle battery is currently dead.

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  32. Print. My kids have my ipad all the time and the only time I could use it would be after they go to bed and then, of course, I am too tired to read. I need my books to be accessible all the time. Plus I just love the feel of a real book.

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  33. I fall right in the middle. I love being able to read my books using my phone if I get stuck somewhere. I still by the paper version, because hello…power outtages SUCK if that’s all you have. I could probably open a library tomorrow with the books that I have ranging from kids to adult and romance to horror to historical fiction. My kindle was a gift as were the first few books on it, but with all the free books to download I’ve loaded for bear, I will never wonder “do I have a new book to read?” cause I have tons. My favorite authors I end up buying twice, but it is always worth it. πŸ™‚

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    • Hmm. I’ve never bought an author’s same book twice. Cause I’ve never reread a single book. So if I have the print version and I read it then there’s no reason. Interesting, though!

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      • My favorite authors and books I re-read, it’s like visiting old friends. Some people do comfort foods…I do comfort books. I’ve worn out 3 copies of The Hobbit and LOTR trilogy that way, when times get tough…it’s time for Tolkien. πŸ˜‰

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      • Haha I just realized I HAVE reread one book. Mine. I’ve read from start to finish four times. Yes, I absolutely love it. πŸ™‚

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  34. At the tender age of 48, I am an Analogue Man. Print book, even though there are advantages to e-books.

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  35. The real thing has to win everyday… The feel of pages and the smell of ink cannot be beaten

    And thank you for liking my ‘Why We Should Write post’ πŸ™‚

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  36. I’m a child of the sixties. Physical books will always be a part of my life, but I too, have a Kindle. Some folks think the printed form will soon be dead. IMO, the advent of e-books has increased readership by making it easier. Good post, John. And BTW, thanks for nod on my recent blog article.

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    • Who know, ebooks could potentially end printed books as we know them today. At some point. But that time isn’t now and likely won’t come close yo fruition for a long while. And no problem!

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  37. definitely print, I hate reading on my iPad!

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  38. I like reading books on my Kindle. If I really like a book and want to highlight parts of it, I’ll buy the printed version, also. There are disadvantages to the Kindle. Still, I much prefer reading my Kindle rather than holding a book, turning paper pages, and finding just the right lamp to sit under. I don’t believe e-Books wil ever outsell printed books. I could be wrong. But DO NOT ignore eBook readers. We want our electronic copies even if we buy both versions. I hope we will always have bookstores with cafΓ©s, too. I know many of the smaller bookstores are already extinct. Long live Barnes & Noble. By the way, best-selling authors charge almost as much for their e-Books as for their printed copies. Is that fair? I know. Life isn’t fair. Blessings to you…

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  39. Ebooks. I love print and prefer it as a medium for reading, but eBooks have way too much going for them to not utterly replace print books in the not so distant future. No tree-chopping, no bulk, take your entire library anywhere, no publishers scrapping unsold books, no shipping. In schools, my kid will probably miss the “joys” of lugging 50+ pounds of books bursting from a backpack across campus. I’ve moved a few times and easily the biggest pain in the arse is moving my book collection. I’m not sure how many metric tons it weighs, and it looks great on the shelves, but I don’t see myself adding to it since I received my kindle. I have recently accepted that clinging to paper books will be like getting upset you can’t find anywhere to develop your camera film nowadays. πŸ™‚

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    • Haha this was great to read. But I’m not so sure ebooks will be taking over anytime soon. Maybe eventually? But not like it’ll be 2015 or something. Thanks for your input!

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  40. Print books all the way! Literally one of my hobbies is rearranging all the books in my “library” constantly–by author, or title, or genre/category… I just LOVE to “play” with my books. And they’re there forever. Whereas an ebook I feel like if my computer acts up I could lose all my books. And when it’s just a digital file of words on my computer, I feel like it has no substance. I do download free ebooks if someone has really recommended one to me, and I do love using Gutenberg and such to get out of print books that I can’t get other ways, but I’ve yet to actually BUY an ebook. Nothing can make up for the feel and look of a book that I can physically hold and read and stack and organize and love.

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  41. Team Printed Books, duhhhh. πŸ˜€

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  42. I absolutely love printed books. Having the physical object feels more special to me than having a weird coded message that I have to download. However casual reading online is fine for me. Classics or stories that I love I NEED to have the book. It just doesn’t feel right reading Romeo and Juliet or the Hunger Games on an e-book.

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  43. I’m team both! I love holding a physical copy of a book, but I can’t deny the easy access to thousands of books on my kindle. Firmly planted on either side.

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  44. Sorry, I’d have to go digital. Mostly because self publishing is much easier in digital form but also to save space.
    Love the tat BTW

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  45. Print! There is nothing more soothing for the soul than sitting down and reading an old paperback πŸ™‚ We already spend too much time staring at a screen for hours, whether we are watching TV, on social media, or working on a computer… why would you want another screen to stare at when its time to relax with a good book? Besides, studies have shown that artificial lights from computer screens may reduce melatonin levels and affect sleep, so grab a book instead!

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  46. I’m team… BOTH! I don’t mind reading fiction on my e-reader, and if I love the book, I’ll go and buy a copy for my shelves. Non fiction, however, I always prefer a printed copy of it. Whether there are facts that I want to remember or learnings to take away, I want to be able to easily flip back. There are few pieces of fiction that I’ll read multiple times, but the ones that I do, I own a printed copy.

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