Reading Rage Tuesday: Ebooks vs. Paper Books

31 July 2012 by 66 Comments
Fight at The Junction, Bristol

Ebooks are better! NO, TREEBOOKS! NO, EBOOKS! TECH JUNKIE! DINOSAUR! RAAAAGE

I have to admit that, when the Kindle first came out, I was one of those snooty assholes who did everything I could to antagonize the people I knew who owned them. (Me? Antagonize people? Surely not.) “I like books,” I sniffed, looking solidly down my nose. “I don’t want to read on a device. I want the feel of paper, blah blah blah.”

In my defense, the people I antagonized started scuffles just as often. “My Kindle is environmentally friendly. Look at those loads of paper you’re wasting! You’re helping deplete the ozone! And it’s so handy. I can take an entire library with me anywhere, blah blah blah.”

Several years passed, and I remained firmly in the treebook camp. Until I bought a Kindle. Stars help me, I love my Kindle. I love it so much. I even prefer to read on my Kindle; still, I do enjoy reading paper books, too. I got a really lovely copy of a book from Two Dollar Radio that’s deckle-edged and fairly swoon-worthy.

These days, I look at the book vs. ebook debate and I wonder, what the hell was I ever fighting about? What is anybody fighting about? Why is this debate even a thing?

So, I started looking into some of the points that people make for either camp. I think some of them are rubbish. Of course, I plan to tell you why I think so. This wouldn’t be a reading rage if I didn’t go off about my opinions, right? Right. That’s kind of what I do best.

“Real books” are just better. They provide a better reading experience. They smell nice. They’re pretty and have nice cover art.

No, e-readers are better. You can store your library in them. They’re convenient. You can change font size and take notes.

This shouldn’t even be an argument in the debate of treebooks vs. real books, and I have to confess that I have probably made this very argument–hell, both of them, I’m an ebook flip-flopper–myself. It’s incredibly subjective; one person’s “better experience” may be another person’s worse experience. If you still like to read paper books, I’m super glad for you. I don’t ever want you to stop reading paper books if you don’t want to.

Me? I want to use my Kindle until it dies, and then replace it with a new one. (I’m not one to upgrade my technology just because a new version comes out. I’ll use this Kindle until the battery craps out or until it refuses to display books to me. Then I might have a little ceremony, bury it, and put up a stone book as a marker.) I like all of the features. I like, now that I’ve gotten used to it, how it only displays one page at a time. I like how I can squish into the couch and get comfortable, and I don’t have to move my arm to turn pages. None of these things, though, is an objective argument for why the Kindle is the best way to read–it’s just the way that I like best. In this case, the papercut does slice both ways.

E-readers are more environmentally-friendly. They weigh less and use electronic media.

I can’t get behind this idea at all, as much as I love my e-reader. Individual e-readers may not cost as many resources to create and ship as the books you can store on it, but there are other downsides. E-readers have a much shorter lifespan than a book, especially in today’s electronic consumer culture, where we upgrade our electronics far more often than is technically necessary. Ebooks are made out of plastic, which isn’t biodegradable like paper; eventually, the technology that runs them will become obsolete, and customers will be forced to upgrade devices. Books will never be obsolete as long as people can read. There are other, more sustainable materials out of which we can make paper, like bamboo; we can even make ink that is environmentally-friendly. Soy ink does well in applications with porous materials, like non-glossy paper. Plus, pulping and recycling books, which does happen in the industry, cuts down on having to fell as many trees. Books can be passed on or sold to secondhand shops, which extends their lifespan considerably–or, by using the library, you can share a book with hundreds of other people.

I also wonder about things like: are the materials for the batteries mined using slave (or nearly slave) labor? How much power will an e-reader use over its lifespan, and is the battery as efficient as it could be? I think there are many concerns when it comes to touting an e-reader as more eco-friendly. I’m not ready to leap onto that train just yet.

Small bookstores and print books are going to be the salvation of the publishing industry. 

I’ve heard this argument before, and every time, I have to think–really? I mean, I love small bookstores. I don’t want them to go away. If they do go away, though, it’s because people have decided not to spend their money there; I hate to say it, but it’s a perfectly legitimate choice for people to make. It’s not as though someone is saying, hey, you can’t exist. I personally think that small bookstores have a lot that they can offer without having to “save” them by arguing people out of buying ebooks when they’d rather read ebooks. If people prefer ebooks, or if they’re not shopping at small bookstores, then the onus isn’t on the customer to make sure these bookstores stay in business. The onus is on the bookstore to make us want to go in and madly fling our money at them.

As for print and small bookstores being the “salvation” of publishing, that just makes me laugh when it comes from publishers. Again, love me some small bookstores. (Especially ones that sell used books. If I owned a small bookstore, I’d definitely draw people in with used books.) Publishers, however, should be completely in love with ebooks, but they’re not! I don’t understand this! I’m not talking about as readers, or as preserving literary culture, but as businesses; if I were a publisher, I’d be pushing the almighty crap out of ebooks. It’s the same product that they’ve always produced (books), but now, with lower overhead and the ability to distribute infinite copies to meet demand. If anything is going to “save” the industry (and with it raking in billions of dollars, and with enough readership to go around to support dozens of small presses that are popping up, does it need “saving”? See also, The Oatmeal’s state of the music industry), it’ll be ebooks.

A computer file is not a “real book.” 

Yes, it is. They have the exact same content. Being totally unable to enjoy that content unless it is printed on paper, glued together, and bound in more paper is called a “fetish.” It’s like being totally unable to enjoy sex unless you’re bound up in duct tape and ball-gagged. (Clarification: I’m not saying that all people who prefer paper have a paper fetish, just people who totally deny the validity of reading ebooks because they’re somehow not “real.”)

I don’t have any problem with people having fetishes, really, as long as they don’t hurt anybody else. Just don’t look down your nose at someone who pulls out their e-reader. I’ve been that person, and I’m still ashamed of myself.

People who read bound books are just unhip and need to quit holding back progress.

Some technology never becomes obsolete. Is a violin obsolete? Sure, you can synthesize different instruments, but that doesn’t render them useless, or even not-as-good. Book-making still exists as a craft, even if mass-produced books aren’t quite as lovely as hand-bound or artisan-bound books.

Ebooks are too expensive and they’re not worth it at all.

Now, I have to agree with this point. Right now, ebooks are too expensive, due to a lot of factors. I don’t buy very many; however, I fully expect that to change in the future. The ebook market is new and I think that supply and demand will even it out over time, as long as prices aren’t kept artificially high to deter them competing with bound books. I believe that ebooks can be profitable at a lower price point when they’re allowed to compete fairly (as I’ve discussed here and here); I don’t think it’s inherent in the technology itself that the books currently cost almost as much as print.

Conclusion: I don’t think this debate has a winner.

In the end, it really boils down to a matter of preference, and it’s impossible to win a debate about preference. I, personally, am perfectly happy to lay this debate down and go frolic in a meadow with my reading mode of choice. Or, you know, curl up on the couch. Either way.

What do you think? Did I miss any important points? Which do you personally prefer, and why? COMMENTS.

 

 

Susie

Susie is the Bitch-in-Chief at IB and is also a contributor at Food Riot. She's an ice cream connoisseur, an art fanatic, a cat-mommy of three, and a wife. She runs the @thebooksluts Twitter account and may be slightly addicted.

66 thoughts on “Reading Rage Tuesday: Ebooks vs. Paper Books

  1. I prefer paper, but I think that’s mainly because a., I’m a weirdo Luddite, and b., I don’t have a Kindle (just the app on my laptop) and carting around my laptop/reading from it is a drag. If I had a Kindle, it might be different, I don’t know.

    I love books (totally might have a paper fetish) but a main reason might be the portability – and if I had a Kindle, I’d have that. (And for the record, I thought cell phones were a silly waste of time until I got a smartphone, and…well…everyone knows how obsessed with that I am now.)

    So currently I lean book-wise, but I’m not completely unswayable.

    • Hey Army, why don’t you try the Kindle app for Android? I’m using that all the time (I don’t own a Kindle either). I know the screen on a smartphone is small, but it means I’ve always got my library of books with me – always – which means I’m reading much more than before.

      • I can’t – not enough storage on my phone. I even bought a larger SD card in the hope that would help, but apparently it needs more internal (or whatever the storage is called that’s not the card) storage than I have available. My phone has very little storage capability, and I use all the apps I currently have so don’t want to delete any of them. I know, it’s the worst. I love my phone, though. And can’t afford a new one, anyway. Sigh.

  2. I think the only argument you missed is one in favor of books – if something happens and the world reverts and we lose the ability to …uhrm, I guess, wield electricity somehow – massive electro-magnetic boom, anyone? – then our electronic devices will be worthless and we’ll have to revert to paperbooks (or pBooks, as I’ve taken to calling them). However, living in a very small duplex, and being an obsessive bibliophile, there are stacks and piles of books EVERYWHERE and I’ve been doing my best to convert to mostly eBooks if only to save space. But I do worry about “what if…?” because I don’t want to lose my collection… :-)

    • I do wonder about that, too, and that’s another reason I think ebooks should be less expensive (besides ALL OF THE OTHER REASONS I think that :D). I would be less pissed if I lost a $5 ebook that I had already read a few times than if I lost a $10 or $15 dollar ebook that cost the same as a paperback.

      • I’m currently researching solar powered chargers and crank flashlights. I might have seen too many episodes of the Walking Dead.

        However, until the zombie apocalypse, I am quite happy to buy both e and paper books.

  3. “Why is this debate even a thing?”

    Exactly. Neither “side” is right because there isn’t really a right in matters of personal preference. Different products exist because people like different things. I personally prefer my ereader because it lets me carry around a whole library but I still read paper books sometimes. I don’t think paper books are going away anytime soon; nor should they. At the end of the day, I tend to purchase whichever format is cheaper and/or more readily available.

  4. You know – I had many of the anti-Kindle arguments when they first came out. Plus, they were EXPENSIVE – remember how much they cost at first? It was insane! And you couldn’t borrow library books, so that was a major issue for me.

    Once the price dropped and you could get library books, I was all over it. Now, you could pry my Kindle out of my cold, dead hands. I still like the way that books feel and smell and a well-bound book is a work of art, but the TINY font! Oh, the tiny font, how it hurts my middle aged eyes. I’m so used to being able to adjust the font, that print books are hard to read. At least the last few have been – maybe because they were “grown up” books and YA books have better, bigger, clearer font, I don’t know.

    For me, the main issue was space – I just don’t have any more for more bookshelves and my book life was a constant struggle of getting rid of old books to make room for new books. Although one of my main objections to eBooks is that I can’t swap them like I could with used paperbacks – but that’s all made up for by being able to carry them around on a little, light device. It’s so much nicer being able to read a 1,500 page book on the Kindle than it is to have to try and hold up a five pound book while I lie in bed.

    I do have to laugh when people who don’t want an eReader use the argument of “I like books” though – do they really think that people who have eReaders don’t? Even amongst the most voracious readers, reading rates tend to go up after you get an eReader.

  5. When e-readers first came out, I didn’t want one. Got one as a gift almost 3 years ago and didn’t even use it much the first 6 months I had it. Then…well, then I was pregnant and I have eczema that got really bad on my hands, so turning pages was next to impossible. Husband (being as awesome as he is) said “hey, why don’t you charge up your reader and try that again?”

    So I did.

    I read more using my reader than I did before (and I read a lot before) because I can go anywhere (um, even the tub, I just put it in a ziploc bag) and sneak in a few sentences.

    I don’t know, I have a little cover with a light so I can read in bed without having to fidget or be uncomfortable or uncovered. No more papercuts, DICTIONARY!, insta-bookmark, highlighting without ruining it. Yeah, there’s no re-sale value but I’m a hoarder of books and music anyway. [shrug]

    • Yes, I’m replying to my own comment. >.<

      Reading the other comments reminded me of a ridiculous conversation I had a few weeks ago. A friend of mine was talking on facebook about Stephen King's UR and how listening to the audiobook reinforced for her her decision to never own a kindle/ereading device. Then she tagged me because she knows I love my reader and I don’t know if she was trying to start something, or what? Anyway, it was stupid. She proceeded to essentially use most of the arguments preaders do above for why she was superior in her love for books, whereas I (and the other mutual friend who asserted that she owned a kindle because she loves books) had a love for reading, which was in some way inferior.

      The whole thing just made me mad, and (as you said) made it appear as though she just has a paper fetish.

      • “listening to the audiobook reinforced for her her decision to never own a kindle/ereading device”

        Does not compute.

        How is listening to an audiobook in any way comparable to reading on an e-reader? I hate audiobooks as well, but that’s because I’m a visual person. If I try to listen to an audiobook, I start thinking about things that need to be done around the house instead of focusing on the story.

        • I can only listen to audiobooks of books that I’ve already read for that very reason – the possibility of a wandering mind. Which kind of defeats the purpose.

          Well, and I can read about 11 billion times faster than I can listen to someone else read -the only time that it really works for me is when I’m trapped in the car for long periods of time.

  6. I have the Kindle app on my phone and computer. I use the phone app for Kindle singles. I like being able to use those but I still love holding a book. Also going to old bookstores will never be something I can stop doing. That sense of discovery.

    • That is definitely one thing that I miss now that I do most of my reading by eReader – the browsing through bookstores, old or new and finding unexpected treasures. I’ve replaced that somewhat by following blogs and downloading samples, but it isn’t really the same as spending a rainy afternoon wandering a used bookstore.

      Recently, I didn’t want to shell out $12.99 for an eBook that I’d only read once and they didn’t have what I was looking for at the library, so I headed out to the used bookstore that I used to haunt and spent a happy afternoon browsing the stacks.

  7. Great post! I’m still on team paper books, but I am curious about if I might enjoy the e-book experience once I try it. I just can’t bring myself to abandon all those beautiful paperbacks! I’m more of a book collector though and I love owning paper books, even if they do just sit on a shelf. It’s not quite the same effect with digital files :/

  8. Thank you for this. I am soooooo tired of the argument. Let’s move on already. Some books I can’t get in ereader format and I am happy to purchase those in pBook format. A good read is a good read no matter what…

    • I have to admit, I get slightly annoyed when new books aren’t available in ebook format, hee. Just because it costs considerably less to make an ebook than it does to fund a print run. (shakes fist)

      If it’s an older book that hasn’t been scanned in and converted, I’m not quite so unhappy. Plus, I can buy it used. I really don’t have the money to buy very many books, so I generally buy treebooks that have already been loved (ew, that sounds gross).

  9. I own a Kindle and I love it. It’s great for traveling and always having the book I’m reading with me, without even having to think about it (Kindle app on the phone, phone always with me).

    I prefer treebooks for the smell and feel. I love turning pages. I walk into a bookstore, and the first thing I do is inhale deeply. Every time.

    Even if I didn’t love my Kindle, I would still support erasers because of the opportunity the Kindle has given my legally blind mother. She was an avid reader before her eye disease hit, and at some point even large print books were too hard for her to read. For years she could only listen to audiobooks, which was fine, but she really loves reading words on a page. Now she can do that again, and that means a lot to her, and by extension, me. Go, ereaders.

    It really is a personal preference and an argument that can’t be won. I just avoid the argument because I don’t care how people choose to read–they’re reading, and that’s what’s important. I agree with everything you’ve said here.

    (I typed this all on my phone. If there are typos, blame autocorrect. Haha!)

  10. I enjoy both. I have the Kindle app on both my iPhone and iPad, and I love being able to pick up where I left off on either device so I don’t have to tote the iPad (or a print book) everywhere. On the other hand, I still have too many pbooks for my bookshelf in my apt. I think having the added convenience does help me read more. I read almost the entirety of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides on my iPhone during lunch breaks at work. I’ll probably go for The Stand next. :)

    • My treebooks, too, are too many for the shelves–and we have MANY SHELVES. Ours are just stained wood bracketed to the wall… and we need a couple more :(

      • My apartment is basically the size of a postage stamp, so I really don’t have room for more. But used bookstores are amazing when I can get hardcovers for 99 cents and paperbacks for like 60 cents, it’s kind of hard to pass up, especially when ebooks cost SO EFFING MUCH. And I kind of hate borrowing books from the library because I never end up reading all the ones I take out and I don’t like giving them back when I’m done. (hence aforementioned problem, I suppose)

  11. I prefer good old fashioned tree books. I don’t mind kindles, and lots of my friends and family have one. I can really see that they’re very useful for holidays (although I would worry on a sandy beach holiday) and for people who live in teeny tiny flats (like I used to). Still, I have never felt the need for a kindle. When I say this though, people seem to think I’m trying to start a debate and come out with all the stuff you’ve said above. I don’t want a debate! I just want to sit in the corner with my beautiful, smelly old penguin classic!

  12. As a U.S. service member stationed overseas who travels frequently, I actually try to avoid paper books because I know that when I eventually move, I’ll either have to get rid of them, or they’ll count against the weight allowance of personal items I can ship back to the continental U.S. I still get paper books for my kids because their electronics have a record of bad survivability–not to mention, children’s books are colorful, illustrated, and sometimes come in pop-up editions.

  13. I had an e-reader when the Kindle Fire first came out,and I very much enjoyed it. However, I became so disillusioned with Amazon and their hidden or sneaky policies and lack of real customer service that I sent it back.

    I hope to have an e-reader again some day, but I am spoiled. I want one that is back lit, and the only ones currently available require a credit card for even the basic functionality. I had the money in my pocket to purchase a Nook, but at B&N, I watched the customer service rep struggle for 15 minutes to get a customer’s debit card to work, and they finally gave up. She said “Sometimes we can get a debit card to work, and sometimes we can’t.”

    I am hoping this issue will be addressed by the FTC at some point. My commitment to the environmental issue is to only check books out of the library or purchase second-hand. I am dangerous in the used bookstore!

    • I wonder if one of those Visa gift cards would work? They’re technically credit cards and you could just put one in there with a few bucks on it and then use BN gift cards after that.

      Even though I have credit cards attached to both my nook and Kindle accounts, I tend to use gift cards so that my cc isn’t getting hit with a bunch of $.99 charges.

    • Our used bookstore has a section where it’s $1 for trade paperbacks and hardbacks, probably ones they’re overstocked on or have been sitting around awhile.. but they’re not all bad books at ALL, so I generally load up my basket from that section :D (it’s especially good when someone has had a book club reading recently of a decent title!)

  14. More on the green front briefly, isn’t paper a renewable resource (at least theoretically)? Plastic and whatever else an e-reader is made of, is not.

    I purchased an e-reader after my last move. I had moved too many times in too short a period, and lugging my books was annoying. Now I don’t even have enough room for all my books :(

    • Paper is renewable! I mean, trees take forever to grow, but something like bamboo grows a lot faster and paper can be made out of that.

  15. I like books, I really do. (I keep working on plans to publish mine through CreateSpace. I’ll get there eventually.) Unfortunately, I don’t really read them any more. I used to read a lot, when I was younger. I kind of tailed off. I’ve read more since I got my Kindle than in the preceding several years. Audible audio books (which I can play on my Kindle) also help since I can read at work without “reading.” Surprisingly, I find the Kindle a nicer medium for reading. I don’t have to mark my place. I’m something of a convert for text-based books. (Stuff with pictures is a totally different matter.)

    Re: price. Average price of a book sold on Smashwords is $2.99 (excluding free books, which I’m quite sure… well, I know they outsell paid-for books by a huge factor). What you really mean is that “ebooks from established publishers with a desire to downplay ebook sales and maximise their profits are too expensive,” I think. Ebooks, and not just ones you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, can be found for very good prices, way cheaper than the cost of a paper book. (I know, my $2.99 ebooks would need to be $5.99 paper books just to break even selling through CreateSpace/Amazon.)

    • Well, there are some difficulties with the whole realm of self-publishing for me, still, as I’ve said in previous posts; so, yes, when I say ebooks, I mean the ones that are published by established presses. I do find some indie presses selling their ebooks at good prices, and I snap those up whenever I see one I want.

  16. I read both eBooks and paper books. I’m far more likely to buy new fiction in eBook form simply because I don’t have to store it – I spent so many years moving around constantly and having to keep my collection pared down that I got into the habit of using the library for all fiction, and only buying nonfic/reference texts. So now that my fiction can be stored in the cloud or on a hard drive, I’m more likely to actually BUY it. Good for authors and publishers!

    That said, I still really like paper books. I spend all day staring at a screen, and even eInk doesn’t soothe my eyes the way paper does.

    But I do own a Kindle – originally got it to read submissions on – and I bought a Nook a few months ago to hack into a baby-tablet and use for testing ePub files. I like both of them quite a lot, and my Kindle gets a lot of use at the gym and when travelling.

    Mostly, I think that people should be able to choose how they want to read, and what format/experience they desire. I do think they need to be aware that eBooks are a license and not a purchase, and that prices need to reflect the changed utility of an eBook (you can’t resell it, but it also takes up less space – pros and cons!), but mostly, I think this will shake out as the market evolves.

    • I love how your press handles ebooks. Love love love. It’s so easy for me to enable my e-reading friends to go pick up a copy of one of your titles (looks over at sj)… not to mention for me to enable myself :D

      • Hee! Totally guilty here. I spend far too much on ebooks, but I am all over the sites that don’t charge a billion dollars and are DRM free. Not because I want to put them up on torrent sites, but because I feel more like I own them then.

          • Gah, thank you for the link! I will be all over that.

            It’s one reason that I really like you guys and Angry Robot. I love that most of their books are $8 or less, and you can even get omnibus e-editions (usually 3 books) for $12-15 – plus, you guys generally put out things I’m actually interested in reading, so to be able to do it without spending all of my available reading cash for one book is amazing.

            An example of how NOT to do it? A book I’ve really been looking forward to came out in the UK (only) a few weeks ago. I fired up my UK proxy, all ready to buy and download the ebook, but changed my mind when I saw that it was TWENTY SIX DOLLARS. YES! FOR AN EBOOK!

            Um, no thank you.

            • SJ – that’s for a normal novel-type eBook? Not…like, something with heavy graphics or whatnot? EGAD.

              Heck, I’m not even going to charge more than our usual $5 for the eBook that I spent 4+ hours fighting with the Mandarin display and diacritics in.

          • Yeah, it was for a regular ebook. ~300 pages and it did have a few illustrations (luckily, I have a friend in the UK that took pity on me so I didn’t have to wait until it comes out here in October), but it’s not like they were even full colour or anything. They just priced it the same as the pbook. It did go down after a few weeks (it’s still $14, though), but by then I already had it.

            It just left a really bad taste in my mouth for several days, because it’s horrible when you really want to support an author you love, but their publisher makes ridiculous decisions like that that make it difficult to.

            It’s also like (I think I may have ranted about this in the comments on one of Susie’s previous reading rages) when The Exegesis of Philip K Dick came out, the kindle price was originally $19.99. The same price as the pbook. I refuse to pay that much for an ebook. If I’m going to pay that much, I want to be able to put it on my shelf – and I have paid much more than that for physical books I want to have forever, I just won’t do it for a series of 1s and 0s that can be revoked at any time because of restrictive DRM.

            Okay, sorry – I’m getting all frothy again. >.<

      • Dawww, thank you! A lot of how we do things is based entirely on me being opinionated on precisely HOW it should be done. Ie) DRM? Screw you, DRM. I bought the story and I wanna read it how I wanna read it. I will pay a premium to do that in paper, but in pixel? I just want it to go on my devices easily and let me read it wherever, whenever. And to do so at a price that lets the author make a buck while not gouging me.

  17. I’ve never thought too hard about it. In the past I’ve “preferred” real books because I rarely buy books, and do most of my reading through the library. But now I belong to a library that belongs to some sort of ebook service, so they do have SOME ebooks available (and occasionally they have ONLY the ebook available) so I’ve begun experimenting with that a bit. I did buy a Kobo for super cheap as Borders was going out of business, and I do enjoy it, as far as the technology itself goes.

    For those books that I DO occasionally buy, I doubt I’ll switch to purchasing ebooks any time soon, at least until the price goes down considerably. I’d like to see them on par with MM paperbacks before I’ll consider spending my money on them. (Yes, I know there are lots of cheaper ebooks out there, but typically the ones I’m interested in buying — either books from my favorite author, or ones I’ve already read via the library and loved — don’t fall into that category.)

    So, I guess I don’t really have a reading preference per se. It’s more the availability of free sources, and how I’d prefer to spend my money, that’s the deciding factor.

    • I’m right there with you, really. That’s how I generally decide which format to buy, unless there are special circumstances–like if the book has a SWEET cover. I would buy a book for a cover. Or if I loved it so much I need to add it to my collection (as I will do with Zazen when I have the cash to burn).

      • I just had a thought that I’ve had before, but somehow slipped my mind when I commented the first time…

        I wish that, when you bought a physical book, you could get a voucher to get that same book in ebook form, either for free, or just a few dollars. Kind of how DVD’s and Blurays will sometimes (always? I dunno I don’t buy movies that often) come with “free digital copy.” Then I’d have the choice on how to read, not to mention a backup in case something happened to either my book or my device/files.

        I don’t ever see this happening because it would be pretty easy to cheat the system (buy a book, use the code to get your ebook, then return the physical book) but I still think it would be cool if there was a way to make it work.

        • You hit the nail on the head with the issues there…we’ve wanted to do this since Day One, but it would be too easy for people to simply download the free eBook if there were a QR code or open link printed in the book, and handing out vouchers is one more pain in the butt thing for bookstore employees to remember.

          Sadly, there’s no logistically streamlined, logical way to make it work, at least for a publisher without zillions of dollars of resources (Marvel has worked it out, but for us small presses? Not happening).

          So we’re restricted to only offering the eBook when books are purchased directly from us, because then we can verify that you bought the book. From an indie bookshop? Logistical nightmare. Sigh.

  18. Ebooks are just books, and a lot of the debate seems to forget that. Publishers especially don’t seem to understand, hence charging libraries $90 each for an ebook, or only allowing libraries copies to be transferred via USB and not wirelessly (wtf difference does that even make??)

    Personally, although I really like being able to take a lot of books traveling without taking up so much space, there are many reasons why I prefer paper:
    My paper books ALWAYS work and never lose their charge, nor do I need to close them when my plane is taking off and landing. I can also lend them to friends, and those friends don’t need a specific device to read them. Also, I can see what other people are reading on the bus AND when I go to someone’s house I can learn all sorts of interesting things about them from looking at their book shelves.

    Ultimately, it’s just a format. I wish publishers would figure that out and start treating ebooks like what they are, which is just BOOKS.

    • You mean they are not the devil scourge of the publishing kingdom?

      I don’t know why the media industries have been so wigged out about going digital. I know piracy is a concern, but everyone has reacted to it all wrong. Even publishers, by insisting on DRM and proprietary formats, kind of shot themselves in the foot–since Amazon is the most visible, affordable e-reader, that’s the one that many people are going to get. So many people will continue buying their books at Amazon, the right-hand of the devil scourge, according to the industry.

      Awesome plan.

  19. I’ve been considering getting an e-reader at some point, for a lot of the reasons already mentioned, but yeah, I do wonder about the trade-offs in terms of eco-friendliness and how socially responsible they are (i.e. are they made from conflict minerals). I’ve been thinking of just getting the Kindle app for my computer, but reading books on a computer isn’t the eye-friendliest thing (I spend waaaay too much time staring at a computer screen as it is…ever get those sudden moments of Aaaah-my-eyes-sting-so-bad-quick-shut-them-make-it-stop ?)

    Maybe a refurbished e-reader is the way to go…

    • I hear you on being wary of it. I bought myself one because I know we don’t replace electronics very often, and I’m crossing fingers there’s not some huge sourcing scandal that comes to light. (I would think Amazon would be smarter than that? But who knows.)

      I sometimes use the Kindle computer app for short works, like the Singles, and I find that if I set it to sepia and read it at fullscreen, it’s not as hard on the eyes. The brown tones reduce the strain.

  20. I don’t have a eBook for the same reason I don’t have a smartphone: I break things too easily. And if I get caught out in the rain, the book might get a little wet, but they’re (generally) easily replaced. Losing an eBook would feel like a hit (though they are cheaper now). Plus, if I fall asleep on the bed with it, I don’t want to worry about it falling over the edge.

    Though, deep down, I know that if I had one, I’d love it. I’m just a masochist that way.

    • Mine is proven pretty durable :D What I’m really glad about is that the screen isn’t glass. My screen has a wee scratch on it, but because it’s not backlit and it’s not glass, I don’t even notice it when reading.

      I should probably get a cover for it, or knit one.

  21. Pingback: Ebooks vs. Paper Books… « UKIAH BLOG

  22. Pingback: BookMachine Weekly BookWrap: publishing stories from around the web | BookMachine - the book publishing portal - events, views and publishing tips

  23. I LOVE my NOOK but good gracious the price is obnoxious. I find that a paperback is less than a e-book sometimes and that stinks. . . but I have hope that the prices come down soon. Plus I can carry all that stuff that I don’t want people knowing I read (and no I am not talking 50 shades crap because that stuff makes me weep in a corner for humanity) but just a horrible bio by Kitty Kelly or some such nonsense like that :)

    • Or having some obnoxious hipster book reviewer threaten to spit on you for reading YA when you’re over 21. Plus, I like to be able to start a new book right away without having to carry a back-up with me.

      Does your library carry eBooks? That’s originally why I bought a nook or a Kindle – at the time the Kindle didn’t support library books. If they have the book I want, I get a lot of “quick reads” and stuff that I’ll only read once from ther.

      • OMG YES . . .why is it so wrong that I enjoy YA even though I’m not a teen?? Yeah the library carries eBooks but they are always (ok usually) on hold and I get on the list at 143 out of 143 but I guess that is better than spending $12.99 over and over again.

        • Yeah – I had to wait quite awhile to get the latest Lauren Kate and usually have to wait to get anything on the bestseller list. Since I have plenty to read in the meantime, it’s no big deal. Sometimes it’s kind of a bummer when I finish the first book in a series and have to wait a month to get the next one – but worth saving the $12.99, as you said.

  24. A computer file might well not be a real book, as a book is a physical object that is bound on one side and opens on the other, with pages to leaf through. But a computer file can certainly be a novel, or a short story collection, or a poetry collection. Most of the published novels, short stories and poems today begin their existences as computer files, and remain as such even after paper copies are printed.

    I like your musing on the greyer areas of this argument. I’m still a paper book devotee, simply because one thing or another has kept preventing me from having sustained use of an e-reader. I don’t own a smartphone, iPad, Kindle or Nook. But I think when I eventually do pick one up, I’ll be fine at scrolling through my novels rather than leafing through them. I love the Kindle’s digital ink – it even manages to trick my brain into differentiating such texts from the brighter stuff I see and tire of on computer monitors, which was previously the biggest hesitance I had about the technology.

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