Ebooks vs. Print Books, Revisited

January 13, 2014 Uncategorized 15

I came across this infographic from Daily Infographic while browsing Pinterest. (see below) It got me thinking… I’ve seen several reports recently about growth slowing for ebook sales.  I certainly don’t see paper books disappearing any time soon, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see mass market books largely disappear, to be replaced by trade paperbacks (in print) and ebooks (at prices rivaling current mass-market prices.)  In fact, I think the latter may already be happening, judging by the number of older books I’ve seen being re-released as trade paperbacks instead of the less-expensive mass-market format.
I’ve spoken or corresponded with people who are delighted to replace much of their print collection with ebooks, or who have stopped buying print books almost entirely.  I also know plenty of people who eschew or even disdain ebooks, and will only read print books.  But most of the readers of my acquaintance fall into a middle ground: we still love our print books, but these days, we’re doing at least some if not the majority of our reading on various e-devices.  My question is, why?  What is impelling a lot of us to read more ebooks?
In my case, there are three main reasons I’ve moved more and more to ebooks.  First is portability.  I got my first e-reader in preparation for a 3-week road trip to Canada in 2010.  I couldn’t afford space for a lot of paper books so an e-reader seemed like a space-saving alternative — and besides, it was cool.  I bought a Sony PRS-505, loaded it up with freebies (mostly classics) and a few purchased books, and spent the trip happily re-reading the entire Anne of Green Gables series, several other classics, and the few books I had bought.  (The only inconvenience was prying the e-reader out of my daughter’s hands; she hadn’t brought enough books for her own reading habit.)  I still love e-readers for portability. The idea that I can take hundreds of books with me on vacation fills me with satisfaction, because I know I won’t run out of things to read.
The second reason is price.  I honestly didn’t think I’d be buying as many books as I have.  I wrote several posts a few years back in which I railed about ebook prices. To be honest, I still think pricing ebooks equivalent to mass market or trade paperbacks is a bit much, since the consumer doesn’t have the right to resell or give away the product when they’re done with it.  But the thing is, there are so many promotions and freebies out there: not only self-published books (which, face it, can vary from excellent to OMG-why-am-I-wasting-my-time) but new and backlist books by established authors I trust.  The bargain prices are low enough that I don’t mind paying again for an old favorite I already own in print, or buying a book I know will lose if and when I switch formats.  (For the record: I did switch ebook formats this winter, when Santa brought me a Kindle Paperwhite.  My Sony reader still works, albeit slowly, so I don’t have to give up my ePub library just yet.  There are ways to strip the DRM and convert the files to mobi so Kindle can read them, but they’re technically illegal.) 
All that is not to say that I haven’t bought some ebooks at “full” price; I have.  But I’ve bought a lot more at bargain prices… and as a result, I’ve spent more money overall on books than I planned to each year, and my e-library has grown by leaps and bounds.
The third reason I’m reading so many ebooks these days?  NetGalley (don’t laugh!)  As a blogger, I am able to request electronic review copies from NetGalley and Edelweiss.  And like many bloggers, when I discovered this, I went to town, requesting lots of books because I didn’t think I’d get approval for most of them.  Turns out I get approved more often than not, so I ended up with a LOT of review copies to read.  My reading these days is split between review copies, most of them ebooks, and books I choose to read, with the bulk of my reading time spent on the former.  In fact, I’m pulling back on NetGalley requests this year so I have time to get to some of my very extensive TBR list.
So tell me: Are you reading more ebooks these days?  If so, why, and how do you feel about that?  And where do you think the publishing industry is headed: Will print and ebooks coexist, as the infographic suggests? Or are we kidding ourselves, and we’re really seeing the beginning of the end for print books?

15 Responses to “Ebooks vs. Print Books, Revisited”

  1. Pamela D

    I love ebooks. My husband and I have moved a lot. Having all my books on a tiny, light-weight kindle has been a blessing.

  2. A Belle’s Tales

    I love this fabulous and thought-provoking post! I do believe they can co-exist, and I Iove both print and ebook. Nothing compares to the feel and — I’m going to go ahead and confess this — smell of a real book. I love having my favorite novels on my bookshelves. With that said, I absolutely could not live without my e-reader for all the excellent reasons you give above and one more of my own: it’s a sight saver. I have trouble with my eyes; and I can change the font to a larger size, adjust line spacing, and enjoy the non-glare that my particular e-reader provides. It has doubled my reading time, and that makes this reader so happy! Ebooks are so handy for bloggers, too, with highlighting and bookmarking and notes. They definitely make reviewing easier. Thank you for this awesome post! Happy Reading 🙂

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Thank you, ‘Belle’! And you’ve pointed out one reason I forgot to mention, but it’s definitely true for me as well — the magic of adjustable font. As my eyes age, I’m finding I appreciate that more and more! I hadn’t thought of the highlighting and bookmarking, because I couldn’t do much of that on my old e-reader, but now that I have a Kindle, I’ll have to give those features a try!

      Thank you for your thoughtful response – I love a good conversation!

  3. kimbacaffeinate

    As you know I read over 300 books last year. I read almost all of my books in eBook format and the reason is a simple one….my eyes. Yep I now need glasses for small print and while I look adorable in my sexy librarian glasses they annoy me when I read for long periods with my reader I can adjust the font and toss the glasses. Another benefit I can read in bed while my hubby sleeps since it has a backlight. I choose not to keep track of my book spending habits. Some woman like shoes…me its books and as long as my other financial needs are meet..I buy what I want..although I always look for deals.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      I hear you! I’ve worn bifocals for the last 8 years (since my early 40s). I need the close lenses for reading and anything up close, and even then, small print can give me fits. And I forgot to mention the backlight, too – I use it the same way, while Mr. Bookwyrm sleeps. (That mid-life insomnia, you know!) Before my Kindle (all of a month ago), I used a flashlight!

      I’d much rather have books than a lot of shoes – what a great way to put it! I tend to think of books as my substitute for Starbucks. Coffee doesn’t like me, but I can always read! 😉

  4. Bea

    Up until I started blogging I read print books exclusively. I couldn’t imagine using an ereader but then I started reviewing and some books or ARCs were ebook only and then a friend introduced me to NetGalley and next thing I knew, I had a Kindle. 😀 Now, I love my Kindle and reading ebooks. Like you said, they are portable and convenient.

    I’m on a limited book budget so I’m always scouring for deals and rarely pay full-price whether print or digital. My library helps with that though their ebook selection is still limited.

    I do still read print though, I’m not ready to give it up entirely and I hate that mass market paperbacks are being phased out. The print in trade books may be easier to read but their size makes them awkward to hold and a nuisance to shelve. Plus of course they are more expensive.

    I don’t think print will die out soon but I do think it’s on the way out and I’ll miss it.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Your experience and that of the other responders seems similar to mine, Bea, in that we all love(d) our print books but have also come to love our ereaders.

      I really don’t think print will be phased out altogether. Some things are just better in print — textbooks with a complex diagrams, for instance, where you need to read the text on the page (or on a two-page spread) and look at the diagram simultaneously. A large monitor is big enough for that, but not even a 10″ tablet will really do the trick. Really beautiful photo or graphics books will probably stay available in print, and collectors editions of classics (like my leather-bound, boxed Tolkien editions.)

      It may be that fifty or a hundred years down the road, even those will no longer be produced, and everything will be digital. But there are still stairs and brooms, even though there are now elevators and escalators and vacuum cleaners and Roombas. Print has been a part of our world for a long time; I’m not ready to toll its death knell quite yet. I think we’ll see coexistence for quite a while to come.

  5. Jan

    I don’t think paper books are going anywhere soon either. But as I’ve mentioned on my blog several times I don’t really read paper books anymore unless they’re nonfiction. I must confess I just like reading on my e-reader, but also have most all the reasons others have mentioned. The backlight and variable font size, so many books available during travel and using the notes and marks on my Kindle are my favorites. Great post, Lark!

  6. My anxious life

    You know… I never wanted an ereader. I was all about staying with Physical books. The 3 years ago my mom bought me a Nook Color for my birthday. I was like ughh… but then started using it and really enjoyed it. I just upgrade this Christmas to a Nexus 7 since the Nook is getting a little outdated. I read majority of my books physical copies only because I get them from the library. For a long time libraries didn’t get access to all ebooks thanks to publishers. Last year though finally libraries are being given more access to ebooks. The publishing industries also were only allowing libraries to check out ebooks 26 times ( I think that’s the number) and then forced them to buy a new copy saying that’s how many times a physical book was checked out before being replaced. Libraries said that wasn’t right. I think that’s changed now though too.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      You’re right, there have been (some) changes in the library ebook-lending arena. There are still challenges, but libraries are adding more and more e-books — and more publishers are allowing libraries to lend them.

      As for the e-reader, I didn’t want one at first, either. I only got it because I was going on a long road trip. Now I really love it!