E-books vs. Real Books

Terry BorderAn open letter to the people who keep telling me you only buy REAL books, not e-books, and insist that you’ll never go over to “the dark side” and buy an e-reader.

Let me start by saying this feels like an outdated sentiment to me. Don’t you think it’s just about run its course? C’mon, e-books ARE real books. Everybody knows that by now.

Also? There’s no dark side. I love books as much as anyone — my credentials as a voracious reader are solid. But honestly, a story can be told in a hardcover book, or a softcover book, or with pixels or e-ink on a screen, or someone could be reading it to me as an audiobook… and it’s just as good. The experience of the book, the world I get lost in… it’s equally satisfying, regardless of the medium through which I experience it.

I love printed books and e-books and audiobooks, so I’m not playing favorites here. Nobody is forcing you to accept digital technology (although I’ll bet you had no trouble embracing it with movies and recorded music). It really doesn’t matter to me if you ever buy an e-reader or not. But it matters to me that you characterize it as the dark side. Ho hum. Can we find something new to say?

This is a “both/and” world, not an “either/or” world. For a long time to come, we’re going to have printed books right alongside digital books. Many of us will continue to buy both. They’re all “real” books. There’s no reason you can’t embrace both, no reason to demonize digital technology.

And if you’re a writer, there’s reason to think e-books are the best thing that could have happened to you, because people who have e-readers seem to be buying more books overall, both digital and print. Everyone wins!

So, can’t we all just get along? No more “dark side.” No more “real” books versus whatever. Let’s all just enjoy books in the medium of our choice.

Although I can’t help but mention… if you’ve never tried an e-reader, you’re truly missing out on one of the great joys of 21st century life. Just sayin’.

Your thoughts?

P.S. That awesome image is by Terry Border, found on his website, Bent Objects. Check out his latest book, Bent Object of My Affection. His books — the paper and ink kind  — would be terrific gifts!

  1. torch0246 says:

    what about the feel don’t you miss that? Some people claim to not remember the character whats your prospective on that?

  2. Brian says:

    nice post. what can you say about “book sculptures”? ‘real’ book lovers hate those artists because of what they did to those books. I believe there are a lot of copies for that books but they insisted that artists should not do that even to a single copy of that book. I don’t know why. They can’t tell me why.

    here’s a link of book sculpture samples: http://www.designsoak.com/book-sculptures-guy-laramee/

  3. Sanah says:

    Great post !
    By the way, could you please refer to me any site where I can read books for free ?

    Sanah. 🙂

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  5. Very nice, I dont come across many people that have the writing skills and grammer skills as you do i give you props i enjoyed reading it and i am not the easiest person to get happy GOOD JOB !!For more on 🙂

  6. Karla says:

    I honestly have not tried an e-book for the sole reason that I have no reader (call it Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc). I did read however one book at my computer and like you Rachelle, the experience was as good as a physical book. Now, why I do not buy e-books and a reader? Well, I knit and most of the books I buy are about knitting, spinning or related. While would be tremendously useful to have an e-book on the go when I want to knit, I often need many books on hand to reference back and forth. If there is a feature on any electronic device that allows me to open many books at a time,then I am sold (and begging you to tell me!). Also, the other reason I like having such books in printed form is because I love sharing my books with my fellow knitter friends and family. How could I share an e-book without infringing copyrights? To me, books are a legacy that when I am not around.. my family will know what ‘mom/grandma/great-granny Karla’ used to read. How can that be achieved with e-books? Unless I create a library where I print the book cover and share the file location (hum.. honestly, not happening in my case). If you don’t care about sharing the book, having other to know what you read and don’t need many books at the same time.. then e-books are just as great as printed books. Now, If every physical book I bought had the e-book option for a moderate fee (since you are already buying the printed one, you know…), I would TOTALLY buy both! Wouldn’t that be Awesome?!

  7. Ren says:

    I prefer an actual book, but I’ve enjoyed stories on both audiobook and e-reader before. I agree with you. The story is good no matter what medium from which you read it, but I can understand where a reader’s familiarity and comfort come into play, but that has more to do with preference than the book’s quality.

  8. TNeal says:

    Just getting around to reading this and some of the comments (between NFL plays on Fox).

    Obviously a popular post with plenty of responses (glad I’m not you on this one).

    For me, Kindle makes traveling and reading simpler. Lots of choices, not much weight or space.

    A story’s a story no matter what the medium.

  9. Ceciia says:

    I will always prefer books to an electronic copy, but being realistic and nomadic, I can’t always accumulate them and ship them always home. That’s when an E-reader comes handy to carry my books and not worry about leaving them behind or paying shipment.

  10. Each has its place. E-reading is not going anywhere (although, e-readers may as I-pads and tablets become more household items). Love the image!

  11. I’m a huge fan of all things book related! The ereader is a wonderful invention for easy reading in bed or for traveling, but when you’re soaking in the tub it’s time to switch to the good old hard copy. (Wouldn’t want to accidentally drop the ereader into the tub.)I travel for business and when I’m spending 5000 km/month in my car audiobooks are the only thing that keep from me from gnawing my wrists open with my own teeth! All things book are just good!

  12. Both/and. I am MORE LIKELY to try out a lower-priced electronic book from a writer who is new to me than to risk paying for something I might not like as a hard-copy.
    My home-library shelves are already full, and some paperbacks are quickly decaying. The expense of hardcovers is often out of my league; I purchase a few I am already certain to re-read.
    I love having an entire library available on my Kindle. It’s easier on my hands and my eyes.
    Some people really respond to having physical “trophies” to show how much they’ve read, and as a writer I can certainly relate to wishing to have something tangible to show my work.
    Like many who’ve already commented, I find value in many forms of storytelling. I like audiobooks and podcasts as well.

  13. Naomi says:

    I am SO relieved to hear someone else say this. I love books, and I read almost exclusively on my e-readers over the last year (I actually own both a Kindle and a Nook, just because there are some books that only come out for one or the other). I have a chronic pain disorder, and if I have to lift a paperback the size of the ones I often like to read, I can’t get lost in the book because I get distracted by the pain. A few ounces less worth of e-reader and I’m fine.

    In ancient Rome, they published books in buckets, each of which carried a scroll which contained a chapter or so’s worth of text. Do we have “lesser” books than they did, because we changed from reading scrolls to reading bound paperbacks and hardcovers? If not, why do people think we have “lesser” books because we’ve changed from reading them in paperback and hardcover to reading them on a machine? It’s the content that matters — always has been, always will be, which is why I’ve got Caesar’s Gallic Wars on my Nook. I think Caesar would’ve been forward-thinking enough to approve.

  14. Amy Sorrells says:

    My son is such a voracious reader I can’t keep up with his reading appetite . . . and neither can our public library! Enter his new Kindle, purchased in September. I can’t keep the kiddo off of it. He still has a list of books he wants to always collect in paperback and/or hardback, but nothing beats the Kindle for him, or us, or the authors who benefit from all his downloads. As an added bonus, he thinks the classics & other books often available for free are pretty cool, so that gets him reading other genres he might not otherwise.

    As a writer, I don’t care how readers (eventually) read my (books). As long as people keep on reading, it’s all good! 🙂

  15. Joanne Wiklund says:

    Wow! Rachelle, what a great discussion! I’m an Indie author who will be doing a book signing (without books!) at a major book retailer this weekend! My ebook has been online since June and it’s been a very learning experience, both technologically and emotionally. It’s hard work to put an ebook online, very difficult dealing with people who blame us for the fall of the print empire! This discussion has given me information to deal with the reactions of people who attend. I will be giving out book marks with information on them so people can know how to find my book. But guess what? I’m also dealing with people who want print books, and I’m considering it also. I love libraries, I absolutely love paper as a journalist, but the ebooks are most of all fun both to write and to read. I read my own book on my own computer, downloaded from Amazon and it was a hoot! Thanks, Rachelle, for prompting this major discussion!

    • Timothy Fish says:

      If nothing else, print books give authors something to sign. Sure, we can sign bookmarks or flyers with the image of the book on it just as easily. I saw something somewhere where this guy had this bright idea that people could sign their Kindle books through his website. But it isn’t a signature at all. That’s has even less value than an author sending a read an e-mail message. When readers get a book signed, I think they want to end up with a signed book.

      • Joanne Wiklund says:

        Mr. Fish: I won’t be signing any bookmarks. I see this as an opportunity to make new friends for my writing. I will be talking with people about books in general, talking about what they like to read.

        If people take time to meet with an author, it often is really more about them. Some people just want to know how you have done this, because they too, have something they want to say and want to know either how to get started or to share what they’ve written. I can only speak from my own experience, but to meet someone who values what you do and they themselves do is a good way to spend a couple hours on a Saturday afternoon when it’s snowing.

        Thanks for responding. J.

  16. What you say is quite true. I haven’t purchased an e-reader yet, but I’m planning on buying one this month.

    I’m an English teacher, and I think I will always prefer reading from the “old-fashioned” kind of book; however, I can see two very real advantages of an e-reader.

    One, I think the e-reader is ideal for traveling. I won’t have to pack my bag with 6-8 books anymore! Two, there are some books that are only available as an e-book. Several times I have tried to purchase a book only to discover that I can’t because I don’t have an e-reader!

    So for those two reasons, I can’t wait to buy my first e-reader!

    • Tirzah says:

      You can download an ereader to your PC…it’s harder to read on (too bright) but it’s doable.

      Smashword ebooks can be read in HTML as well.

  17. tara tyler says:

    reading books on my ipad is fine, but i still prefer a good cozy paperback! the ebooks i worry about are self pub. each one i’ve read has numerous mistakes. if the story was good i overlooked them, but i stopped reading several that were not ready.

  18. I love my Nook, and I didn’t think I would. I like that I can “turn” a page still. I buy all fiction for e-books. Like others, I like my non-fiction in paper. My new problem — I’ve used up 96% of the memory already. It’s so easy to get a new book!

  19. Brian says:

    The problem isn’t ebook versus physical book. The problem is where am I going to store all the physical books I buy. I already have eight bookcases full. I’d better sell some, so I can read other books.

    As for ebooks, I have a Kindle, but I still find ebook pricing outrageous. Why would I pay $20 for an electronic book?

    The other problem is that there are so many other forms of entertainment competing for my dollars. I can stream movies and TV shows on Netflix for less than $10 a month. I can buy a good bunch of apps for my iPhone for less than $5. Why can’t I just pay a monthly fee and rent books? Oh, I kinda can with my Kindle, but the selection is limited. And the library rental system is a disaster. Yeah, just like Netflix is limited with its available selection. And folks wonder why people pirate.

    So what is a reader to do? I end up mostly buying used books. My local library sells paperbacks for 25 cents. This is a lot easier than pirating.

    But back to the ebook insanity, the other craziness is the ridiculously low rates publishers pay for ebooks. What does a writer get for giving up all that cash? I’m still not sold on ebooks as a writer unless I was going to self pub.

    So there you have it. The solution remains to buy used and build another bookcase. Of course, I could make money by selling my used books to my local used bookstore. Then, I can read for free.

  20. Janet says:

    The Dark Side? Seriously? LOL

    I agree it isn’t an either/or – good/evil – one way or the other choice. I have nothing against ebooks and think it is a perfect medium for some genres.

    For example, I belong to a book discussion group and fairly often the selections are paranormal romances. No offense intended to the authors thereof, but these are not books I am likely to read and re-read a million times, so I consider them “disposable.” Since I’m also environtmentally conscious, I prefer not to collect stacks and stacks of these paperbacks. Perfect application for e-books, I think.

    On the other hand, there are some titles that I will probably want to keep in hard cover until my dying day because they are so meaningful to me. Whether that’s because of the impact the book had on my life, because it was given to me by a special person or because it is autographed by an author I truly respect and admire – I want those books to be hard copy so I can experience them over and over again with ALL my senses.

    From an author’s perspective, I also think there are some books that cannot be marketed effectively in e-book format. I think this is especially true of health-related non-fiction. These are the impulse purchase paperbacks that people see when they’re waiting to pick up a prescription, or in the check-out line waiting to pay for over-the-counter supplies. My first book, “Normal Is So Overrated,” was written for brain injury survivors, who (as I know too well from personal experience) are not adept at searching online to find a book on the topic when they are early in recovery. Yet, that is when they and their caregivers would most benefit from reading it.

    I am having this disagreement with my publisher right now. He wants to only make it available in e-format “to start with” so he can see how it does before investing in the cost of printing and shipping hard copies. My position is that it will be difficult to generate demand for it if potential readers don’t know it exists. Since it is definitely a niche market book – and looking for it in e-format would be a difficult challenge for my target readers – not having it available in both formats almost dooms it to failure. (Or, at the very least makes for a tough, tough marketing campaign.)

    I would love to hear everybody’s comments on this type of situation. Do you think there are books that will sell better in paperback than as ebooks and vice versa?

  21. Peter DeHaan says:

    I read someplace that consumers of e-books, on average, actually buy more printed books then their e-adverse counterparts.

    And for the diehards who will never switch, do they still listen to music on 8-track or watch TV with an antenna using a black-and-white set?

  22. Sue says:

    I am a voracious reader as well, always have been. I own a Kindle along with stacks and stacks of printed books – hardback and paperback. As a reader, I love a printed book – the feel of it, the smell of it, the whisper of turning pages. As a traveler, I love my Kindle. So much lighter and smaller. Instead of carrying six novels on a plane, I can carry them all and choose what I want to read when I want to read it. I also have it with me at the doctor’s office and car mechanic’s waiting room.

    My biggest shout-out for e-readers is for a completely different reason. My father, from whom I get my love of reading, has lost most of his eyesight. Not even large print books are big enough for him to read. But he can adjust the font on his Kindle. For the first time in years, he is able to read any book he wants (that is in e-reader format). It seems such a small thing, but for a lover of books, to be able to read again is huge.

  23. I’ve never tried an e-reader because I am a bit of an old-fashioned girl. But I don’t have anything against them. In fact, I just bought my dad one for Christmas.

    Hmmmmm, note to self: when your dad starts reading books on an e-reader, maybe it’s about time you got on board, too?

  24. I have a few concerns about ebooks – first, I mark up my books (many are reference). When I need a passage or a quote I stand by my library and thumb through the books I think contains the passage I want – it is fast and easy to do that, way harder with an ebook to thumb through books.

    Also there are so many ebook readers, which is the best? If I choose one, that limits me from others and they are not compatible. What if a bookstore changes their formatting on an ereader, one can lose data. Or, what if a bookstore goes out of business or bankrupt, what happens to the ebooks.

    Granted a house library can burn down or water damage or some other thing can also happen to a hardcover book.

    Still, I’m resistant.

    • Meg says:

      These are reservations for me as well. I’ve done some research on the different e-readers, trying to figure out which ones offer what, what features I will actually use, what they’re compatible with (formats, other devices, libraries, etc). So far I just feel like I don’t have enough information and confidence in the product to make a purchase. I think I’ll wait it out a bit until things settle down a little more and then make a more informed choice.

      I also worry about “the next new thing”. If the e-reader becomes defunct in the near future in favor of some new gadget, will we have to buy all those books again? If Amazon or Barnes an Noble go belly up, do we lose our digital libraries?

      I’m just not sold on the e-book quite yet. I can imagine eventually purchasing a basic one for casual reading (the types of books I’d read first at the library before purchasing), but I can’t see giving up print books.

      • Rachelle Gardner says:

        I think most of us still have a sense that we want hard copies of books we really want to keep in our permanent libraries. I hope I don’t ever lose my electronic library, but it’s possible – probably more likely than my house burning down and losing all my books. So I tend to buy the print version of any book I think I’ll want to keep and refer back to.

  25. LC says:

    I have never heard e-books referred to as “the dark side” before, but I find it ironic since digital devices usually involve much more light than paper does. For me, the important thing is the story or the information. I don’t need to feel the paper or the weight of the book. As a matter of fact, I quite enjoy not having to hold up the weight of a book.

  26. I love to read all kinds of books. I use our local library voraciously and have run out of shelving space at home. I’ve heard a whisper that there’ll be a Kindle in my Christmas stocking and I can hardly wait!

  27. I’m chuckling; dark side conjures up disturbing images of Mary,our local librarian,going head to head with Darth Vadar. (My money is on Mary.) And I’m a fiction on the Kindle, NF in print gal, too.

  28. Donna Pyle says:

    Well said! I held out for a long time getting an e-reader simply because I love the feel and smell of a book. But my e-reader goes with me on every trip and it’s much lighter than 6 hardbacks!

  29. I’m certainly late to the party! I love this post. Digital books aren’t going away, they’re only going to increase. I still love paper books, and I’ll still buy the paper book if there is only a dollar difference. But I have so many stacks by my bed that I can appreciate an ebook.

    And I’ve found some terrific self published books that aren’t less by any means. Esp. that Celestrial series by Addison Moore. Maybe you’ve heard of her.

  30. I AM a “real” book lover… but…

    an e-reader is on my Christmas list this year:-)

    Mostly because I hate missing out on the “.99” or free book specials, especially on new authors I haven’t read, as it’s hard to spend $15 on a book when you aren’t sure you’ll even like it.

    I’ll still buy “real” books though, especially ones by my fav authors. I like to reread them every once in a while, and I also love to “lend” them out to introduce others to great authors THEY have never heard of. And they look cool on my overflowing bookshelf:-)

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      At least when you’re considering spending $15 on a Kindle book, you can download sample chapters first. For me, that’s enough to know whether I’ll like it enough to keep reading.

  31. Rose Gardener says:

    I regularly download e-books because it’s quicker and easier than waiting for a parcel of books to be delivered. But I find it takes me longer to get around to starting them and that I read in small chunks to avoid eye-train. When I have a printed book in my hands I relax into it and forget everything for hours, pausing long enough only to think, ‘one more chapter before bed.’ Both have merits but the experience of reading print and electronic books is completely different.

  32. Reba says:

    Interesting post. I must say when I saw the first Kindel in Borders book store I figured it would put a hurt on the book sales, and not shocked when it killed a few book stores. But To say e-readers and such is ‘the dark-side’….no, It’s just the new side. It reminds me of Star Trek Next Generation with all their computer gadgets, but on few occasions you will see Captain Picard reading a hard cover book in his quarters. So I hope the hard/soft cover books that we hold and turn the pages ourselves does not go away, if it does…well, it’s our own fault.
    I do hope to sell my books on e-readers and such, but also keep selling the actual soft cover book that I can sign for my readers.
    I think we can have the best of both worlds, if we try.

  33. Dawn Groves says:

    Hey Rachel,
    Thankyou for a spirited, no-nonsense response to the well-meaning luddites of the world. I appreciate the reasoning behind wistful thoughts of yesteryear, but ultimately it’s a no-win attitude.

  34. Adam says:

    Music sounds better on vinyl. Books sound better when you can hear the binding creak…but even an old school bibliophile like me is excited about the digital book revolution. Here’s why:


    • Timothy Fish says:

      There’s probably an app that will make your MP3’s sound like vinyl.

      • Adam says:

        Probably, but digital can’t do warm like analog can.

        Just like digital can’t offer the feel and smell of a book. Doesn’t mean that I won’t load my kindle with paperbacks for beach or travel reading, but, after spending all day looking at a computer screen, I have no desire to curl up with a good machine.

        • Rachelle Gardner says:

          I’m smiling, because at the end of every day, I still curl up with a good book. And it’s always on my Kindle.

          I’ve never thought of it in terms of curling up with a good machine. It’s a book! The moment I start reading, I cease being aware of the medium.

  35. Anna Labno says:

    I don’t agree. I bought Kindle at the beginning of this year. I have read only one book. I don’t like to read using an e-reader. It’s not the same experience for me. What I like about Kindle, is the dictionary feature. But that’s about it.
    But I don’t own KINDLE Fire.

  36. Rondi Olson says:

    I love my Kindle and prefer it to paper books. I can have dozens of books with me when I travel and they all fit in my purse. I can connect to the internet anytime, anywhere and purchase almost any book I want. I can lay on one side or the other in bed while I read and not have to flip when I turn pages. I can buy more books and my husband won’t notice a huge pile growing on my nightstand. 🙂 Yea e-readers!

  37. Dawn Allen says:

    I was slow to adopt the e-reader idea. Not out of a prejudice against it but because I loved the feel and smell of my books. Then I tripped over a stack of magazines in our home and complained. Hubby suggested if I got an e-reader we could put our magazines on it instead. My birthday present was a Nook. I began with magazines but moved on to books. I still occasionally by paper and hard back books but most of my book purchases now are electronic. I love the ease of it.

  38. Call me a young dinosaur (still in my twenties) but I’m completely unsold on the idea of e-books/e-readers. I’ve played with my brother’s kindle and it just left me feeling cold. Not to mention I look at enough computer screens in my day that I would really rather not look at another electronic something-or-other.

  39. Brianna says:

    I read e-books and real books, and honestly, I’m starting to prefer e-books. My next big purchase will likely be a Kindle Fire. I have a Kindle and love it. I am slowly weeding out my regular books collection with the exception of my childhood books and some old favorites. I rarely buy an actual book, unless it’s for my writing library. We have a wonderful library system in Vegas that allows me to check out both e-books and regular books, as well as movies, music, and audiobooks.

  40. I wrote my first novel in a stream of creative juices, not knowing anything about genres or word counts or best POV or really anything. When I finished it was 155,000 words of Bible-era fiction in the first person. No agent or editor will touch it, and I can’t for the life of me see how to cut 60,000 words out of it. As a POD book, it would cost $30.00. But, I’m now doing a final proof-reading prior to e-self-publishing it. I can price it at $2.99 or $3.99 and get a few sales.

    I’m a fan of the e-book revolution. It’s good for readers, it’s good for writers, and (if the publishers weren’t so head-in-the-sand) it’s good for publishers. I have about 4,000 print books in the house, and won’t be parting with too many of them. But this Christmas we plan to buy and e-reader and see what it feels like to read a book that way.

    • Timothy Fish says:

      That’s only about 510 pages. Even with POD, you could set the price around $15.

      • Timothy:

        The $30.00 was what a POD small press editor told me. Possibly that included some pretty good mark-ups and not what a writer-seller could set the price for. I haven’t done the POD layout yet. E-book in December, hopefully POD book in January. I hope you’re right about the price.

        • Timothy Fish says:

          It really depends on who you go with. Some of these companies are putting the Suggested Retail Price higher as a way to make their setup costs look lower. If you do it yourself, you can set the price at whatever you want, but the POD printing cost of a book like that may be as high as $12 per book.

  41. Mandy says:

    I work on the computer ALL DAY as a writer/editor for a nonprofit. I found that my eyes were too tired in the evening to read print books — especially since the paper isn’t bright white. The Kindle allowed me to increase the font size and I rediscovered the joy of reading! I don’t mind paying as much for e-books because I’m still purchasing a book that I can enjoy over and over again.

  42. Well said. I agree we need to embrace both sides. As a writer, it is imperative that my books are available in print and electronically. I cannot agree that eBooks and hardbound books are equally satisfying – but, I am just as addicted to the electronic written word as to hardcopy I can carry with me. Can’t live long without either.

  43. Yes, yes, yes! I wholeheartedly agree (and had written a blog post along similar lines that I have scheduled to post tomorrow!)

    This is another medium, not a replacement for printed books.

    For me, I have purchased the same amount of printed books since I got my Kindle last Christmas, but I’ve also read twice as much because of the ease, cost and availability of e-books on my Kindle. I’m in book heaven, truly!

    If you truly love the written word, there’s no reason not to try an e-reader.

  44. Agree. Although I don’t own an e-reader yet, it’s the story that’s in it that counts, no matter the form of presentation. Advantage to a regular book? No battery required. Advantage to e-reader, you can carry hundreds of books with you easily.

    : )

  45. Jo says:

    I’m going to have to disagree; it is going to become an either/or situation. Every e-reader sold damages the print industry. Every e-book purchased in lieu of a paper book makes it proportionally less likely for companies to actually print more physical copies. Virtual media destroys the print business, the plastic-makers, and other industries, putting people out of work and ultimately limiting our options as consumers. One day, only collectors or the very wealthy will have physical libraries of tangible books for their personal use.

    • Timothy Fish says:

      I really don’t see that happening. Printing is so readily available to everyone these days that as long as you have permission to make a copy you can take send a digital file off to a printer and they will print as many copies as you want. If print books do become unavailable, it will be because people aren’t buying them.

      But let’s suppose that what you say is true. The question is, do we care? Realistically, I don’t see any reason why we should.

      • Jo says:

        I have friends in the print industry, and I see the business rapidly declining as everything goes paperless. So to me, this is a reality. As to whether we should care, that is individual. I personally do, because I know some of the people these industries employ. As a nation we claim to be concerned about unemployment, yet we do everything we can to put entire sectors of buisness out of work. Thousands of people replaced by one who can click “upload data”. I understand the bottom line and the desire for “efficiency”, but it’s only easily said for those unaffected.

        • Timothy Fish says:

          Back in the days when the computers on our desks had less power than today’s graphing calculators, people were worried that computers would put everyone out of work. We do things differently today, but it requires far more people to keep computers running today than may have been put out of work by them.

        • Tammi T. says:

          My husband is in the “print business” and was laid-off at the beginning of this year due to the business slowing. This is basically the only livelihood he has known his whole working life. Thankfully, he was called back a couple of months ago; however, the business is still slow and he has been trained in other areas of the printing business so there are other things for him to do when the printing aspect of the business is too slow.

          I love reading and I do have the Amazon Kindle app for my iTouch; however, it is only used when I don’t have a hard copy of a book to read (which isn’t very often).

      • J E Gilbertson says:

        You are kidding right? “The Question is do we care?” Well YES. I care.
        My neighbor brought me a first edition poetry book only yesterday. I was so thrilled to hold that book in my hands! Do THAT with your e book.

        • Timothy Fish says:

          J E,

          As long as there are people like you who want to hold a real book in their hands, there will always be real books available. My point is that if we ever reach a point where there are no real books available it will be cause there is no one who wants them. It is like 8-track tapes. No one realy cares that they are no longer available because they all want something else. That doesn’t bother me at all.

    • J. Edward Romeo says:

      Lots of straw men you are putting up there.

      Limiting choice? How exactly? Physical books aren’t going anywhere, at least in the short term. And if they do in the future, it is because the vast majority of people have found something they prefer more.

      I guess you could say that the automobile put a lot of Cowboys and farm hands out of business, since only collectors (and novelty ride providers) still offer horse and buggy rides… but for every job lost at the ranch, one (or more) were created for making automobiles.

      I am not the Lorax, but speaking for the trees, if the e-Reader puts a lumberjack or two out of business, I will not be sad. But rest assured, whether it be in the manufacturing of e-Readers, or IT jobs for the software, or computer guys to to keep the hardware up and running, there are just as many jobs being created.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      I can sympathize with you if your livelihood depends on the print business. Yes, that’s a business that will be changing – not totally ending, not by a long shot. But the need for it will decrease as we print fewer books. Sad for those whose jobs have always been in printing. But I can’t help think of similar situations in the past, and ask the question: Just because the automobile was putting all those saddle makers and buggy manufacturers out of business, was that a solid reason to resist the automobile? No, those people had to find a way to adapt their skills to a new world.

      I’m not being callous here; after all, I’m in a profession that is being asked to completely re-invent itself over the next few years. We either adapt, or we’ll be out of business. I get it. But this is not a reason to resist the changes.

  46. Abigail Stokes Palsma says:

    I hope Santa brings me a Kindle this year. Among other wins, I would have less to carry when I travel.

  47. Julie Nilson says:

    I think I’ll be buying both types of book for a while. My Kindle is great when I already know the exact title that I want–for instance, I read a review of a book that I thought I’d love, so I picked up my Kindle and purchased it immmediately. Awesomeness.

    But a lot of my book purchases are still impulse buys, and that’s more likely to happen with a print book that I can pick up, read the back flap, have the cover catch my eye, etc.

  48. The electronic age has changed everything. For those of us who still like the physical book, they will be able to print that for you. They will no longer print a big batch of books. You order it that way, they print it and send it to you.

  49. Erin says:

    One thing is for sure: You were right that e-readers mean people buy new books. I am such a sucker for kindle books. With “real” paper-and-ink books I had to either go to the bookstore or wait for Amazon to ship, but now, if I find myself with an hour of free time, I can get a novel in 10 seconds… and trust me, there are many, many times that it happens. My guess is that I buy 2-3 times more books on my Kindle each year than I ever bought before. And, this is a good thing for authors!

  50. RayS says:

    I have tried reading on my PC, my cellphone, an Ipad and a Kindle Fire. I still greatly prefer paper. Perhaps it’s my reading style: I read very quickly and skip back and forth on the page(s). I find that extremely awkward to do with ebooks.

    As a writer/publisher, however, I realize that many people like ebooks I publish in both formats.

    • Tirzah says:

      Reading on the kindle does take some adjustment (at least for me at first). Switching back and forth is a bit difficult too.

      I did make the font larger on the kindle—and once I did that I was much happier with it.


      But I have teh gray screen kindle. Don’t like the color one much.


  51. It isn’t the container we get lost in, it’s the story. I thought I’d miss the feel of a book but soon realized that when I’m pulled into a story I’m not even aware of what I’m holding in my hands.

  52. Tirzah says:

    I love my print books because I can instantly flip to my favorite part and reread. 🙂 Any favorite is getting bought in paperback.

    But on my Kindle–I experiment more on books, I try self-published, novellas, odd opp books—I try the samples and buy them sometimes.

    And ebook gives me a bigger bookstore.

    But you can’t beat a print book for those lovely cold nights when the electricity is out again and the Kindle battery is dead. 🙂


    I wish I could share my ebooks–but then again I almost never share my print books. Horrible experience with one girl dropping my book in a jacuzzi–why was it near the jacuzzi? Another put Dorito orange finger prints in my book. And many have dog eared the pages–I detest that.

    I got so I only loaned out the books I wasn’t that fond of. LOL.

    So maybe I wouldn’t loan them anyway.

    I love both. I’ve found so many new authors with my Kindle.

    I love that I can get it now—at 3 in the morning when I can’t sleep.

    I love my print books because I can throw them in a suitcase and just go.

    I also love I can pull them off a shelf and go to my favorite chapter right away and try to navigate the e-search.

    OH–though, if you are doing a book for Kindle, for the love of monkeys, please put chapters in for navigation. Some books will only go back to the front and I have to arrow forward. Dno’t like the search function on my Kindle.



  53. I’ve had my Kindle for a year, now. While I’ve not run any statistics, it feels like I’ve bought MORE books in the last year than in any year prior.

    If the Kindle price is significantly lower than the printed price, and I do not expect to use the book for reference (annotating/highlighting while reading and/or holding up as an example during a talk, etc.) then I’ll buy the Kindle version.

    But quite frequently I’ll read the Kindle version and realize I need the printed form. So I’ll buy that, too, without regrets (why regret liking a book so much that I want two copies?!?)

    Same content, different purposes.

  54. THANK YOU! (Said the previously e-pubbed author, and the voracious reader with shelves full of print books and a Nook chock full of digital ones!)

  55. Jan Drexler says:

    I hesitated at getting an e-reader because my eyes get tired staring at a computer screen all day, but when I realized the difference in the screens I was a convert.

    Not totally, though. I’m a both/and.

    I love the convenience of e-books – their portability, availability and accessibility (I own e-books that are out of print and hard to find in hard copies).

    But there’s nothing to compare to the physical experience of a book in hand.

  56. Books in any form are great and I don’t think we need to be afraid that one will replace the other, at least not for a long time. In my experience, e-books are great for kids, especially for those who claim to dislike reading, because it’s a digital experience for them and can be less intimidating than picking up an entire book (do I have to read this whole thing?). It’s also more “fun” because it’s more like a game to them. I love regular books, but I’m more willing to try new authors on an e-reader because they cost less. Plus, the e-reader is great for travelling.

  57. katdish says:

    I’ve been so spoiled by my Kindle. I was recently sent a hard copy of a book for review and I’ve actually been tempted to buy the digital version because that’s my preferred way of reading these days. For me, there are certain books that don’t transfer well to digital–The Invention of Hugo Cabret, for example was a delightful adventure to read. Both of my kids loved that book, but I don’t think it would have been the same experience via e-book.

    As to audiobooks, I think you lose a bit of the magic of the story when you listen to one as opposed to reading it in my opinion. But that mostly only applies to fiction.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      The audiobook experience is definitely different. But it has allowed me to “read” so many books I’d otherwise never have time to read, since so much of my time is spent reading for work. Audiobooks have revolutionized reading for me, just as much as the Kindle has.

      Having the “reader” as an intermediary between me and the material can sometimes be a detriment, but I usually think it adds to the experience, rather than detracts.

  58. Rita Monette says:

    I love my Nook Color. I’ve had it for a year, and tend to read more with it, because I can lay in bed at night and not even have to turn the light on to disturb my hubby. My panic about e-books came yesterday when I had misplaced my reader! All my books gone! Well, it all ended well. I found it. Then I realized my books were gone anyway. I could access them with another reader or on my computer. Whew!

  59. ed cyzewski says:

    Oh, wow, there are a lot of comments here! I don’t think I noticed anyone who mentioned this yet:

    E-books create an opportunity to reimagine what we can do with print books. Two of my favorite print books are Jesus for President and Refractions because they are fun to hold. However, when I read for pleasure, and E-book is perfect. There will be different uses that emerge, but if anything, we have some great opportunities to try out new things with the different formats.

    My one concern with these multi-use tablets is the possibility for greater fragmentation in our reading. I’m a big advocate of a single-use device such as my Nook Touch since I can only use it to read books. I like being able to focus on one thing–reading my books.

  60. Cynthia Robertson says:

    I don’t get why anyone would be bothered that I prefer paper books. I’m not bothered by my friends who read on an appliance. Why should I get called ‘semi-elitist’ because I prefer the paper experience?
    Reading on a screen is a different experience. When I am done with a rewrite of my novel or short story I always print it and do another read through. I always find things I didn’t find on the screen.
    Also, I don’t enjoy having another thing I have to charge up before I can use it. Or that I must worry about getting wet. Or that someone might steal off my desk at work. I already tote around a cellphone and laptop for my job. Do I really want to add yet another electronic thing to the list? I know I could read books on either of these, but I don’t like to read on a screen. I like that I can just toss a paperback in the backseat of my car and not worry someone will break the window to get it or it will fry in Arizona’s heat. I like that when I am on vacatrion I can just leave the paperback I bought (across the street at the drugstore) beneath the umbrella when I am ready to get back in the ocean. It’s always still there when I get back out. If my hands are wet and sandy, it doesn’t matter. When I am done reading it I can hand it off to someone else and pick out another one at any number of nearby places. The idea that I might ‘run out of books to read’ while on vacation is ludicrous. It’s never happened. They are for sale in airports, drugstores, hotel lobbys…in short, everywhere.
    I have shelves of books in several rooms of my house. I enjoy looking through others shelves…it tells me something about them. I love the physical tactile realness of the library and book store.
    These are all preferences. I don’t really care how others feel about it. Read what ever you want in whatever form.
    I won’t go out and spend $125 for an appliance to read on. I’ve tried it and didn’t like it. Bleh!

    • Timothy Fish says:

      Very good point. How you want to read is your business. People shouldn’t resort to name calling when they disagree with you.

    • J. Edward Romeo says:

      Since it does not bother you what others are reading on, then you are not the “elitist” that is being spoken about.

      There are those who prefer print, that “look down their nose” at people who read on a device like a Kindle. Those are the “elitists” that are being spoken about. But since you don’t… the label does not apply.

      Though, I will say one thing… I get a kick out of your comment about “getting an idea about a person” by looking through their books. This to an extent is at least semi-elitist, because you judge a person based on some self standard of what is “good” So, if I leave my Shakespeare books from high school prominently displayed for you to see, that makes me a better person than if I choose to some author you may not know or be less than enamored with? Really?

      • Cynthia Robertson says:

        Don’t try and put words in my mouth, Romeo, I never said anything about “getting an idea” about a person from looking at their books. YOU said that. I simply said it “tells me something” about them. That can be as ordinary as what their likes and dislikes may be with regard to reading. I get a kick out of you reading so much into my comment and then misquoting me so you can make some point that has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with your own assumptions and opinions. And then attempting to label me…a person you don’t even know.

  61. Originally I think the fear was that e-books would completely replace books, and all those bookshelves would be empty. The library would be a small room with a bunch of computers for us to browse on.

    But having had a Kindle for two years, I can say for sure that paper books will never go away. Not even close. There are some types of books that don’t work well on e-readers. And every now and then, it’s a fun change to read a paper book rather than hold my Kindle. It definitely is a both/and scenario.

  62. Nathan Rudy says:

    I really prefer to hold the book in my hand, to feel its weight different from other books’ weights. I like to feel how far into the book I am, and even occasionally to feel the binding crack (my wife hates that).

    I find it difficult to read books on an e-reader, but can’t say I won’t ever read on an e-reader. There was a time when I said I’d never read news online, or magazines, but now I do it exclusively unless I’m somewhere without Internet access. Or with lots of water. Like a lake. Or a bath.

  63. Joe Pote says:

    I guess that I still prefer hard-copy books, when I think in terms of just sitting and enjoying a good book on a cold winter day.

    I certainly reach for a paperback when wanting to read while relaxing in a tub…certainly would not risk that with an e-reader!

    I also prefer hard-copy books for reference materials, where I’m likely to do a lot of flipping back and forth.

    However, it is hard to beat the convenience of a Kindle for many situations.

    Certainly for travel the Kindle is handier. I can carry as many books with me as I want and conveniently purchase more along the way, without adding any weight or volume to my luggage.

    For reading in bed, I prefer the Kindle. I don’t have to physically turn pages, so I prop my Kindle on a pillow with my thumb on the page-turn button. Best of all, my Kindle cover has a built-in reading light, and both the light and the Kindle shut off automatically after 10 minutes with no page turning. So, no worries about falling asleep with the light on.

    No matter how many books I am reading simultaneously, they all open to the last page I was on when I closed it, so need fear of losing book marks.

    If I can’t remember who a character in a novel is, I type their name in for a quiok search, and instantly see every place their name appears in the book.

    And, with instant access to a dictionary, I find I am much more likely to actually look up the definition of a word I am unsure of, rather than glossing over it and assuming I know well enough from context clues.

    Oh, and yes, while driving I love listening to audio-books!

  64. Jaime Wright says:

    There’s not a lot of times in life you can have a foot in “both” worlds and be pleased. My Kindle app on my phone has saved me numerous times during work events where there’s breaks between meetings with nothing to do! My paperback/hardbacks are my old friends who greet me at home when I snuggle under my comforter, smell the ink (I actually do this!), then dive into pages of succulent reading.
    Gosh! This blog gave me shivers today. The rich resources available are so cool!

  65. Ann Bracken says:

    In my case having an ereader will end up costing me more money. Why? Because I love print on paper and if I really love the book I’ll want it physically on my shelves, not just on my ereader. As a result, I puchase the book twice.

    That doesn’t mean I’d give up my ereader though. Being able to carry hundreds of books around is wonderful, especially when travelling. Plus, it allows me to try out a book and see if I want it on my shelves.

    Amazon allows free lending to prime members, much like having a library at your fingertips (granted, the selection isn’t huge and is based on agreements with publishers). My public library has an app for borrowing books on my ereader as well. That will help keep the costs down.

  66. Robin says:

    I have always been a voracious reader. But, I’ve lived the last 18 years overseas and it is hard to lay my hands on new English language books. My Kindle is truly a wonderful gift! I can instantly download new books to my collection. Also, the portability of the Kindle is one of its greatest features. I can slip my Kindle in my purse, and have it to read on the bus, when waiting in lines, and if I stop for a chai latte at Starbucks. I am so glad for the invention of e-readers!

  67. Like many are saying, I prefer the feeling of a print book in my hands. I also like seeing the progress as I read through a book. I know that’s possible on an e-reader too, obviously, but it’s just not the same.

    I haven’t transitioned yet but suspect I will in the next 5 years or so, especially when carrying around a bunch of books become unfeasible (like when I have kids…).

  68. Kim says:

    I agree, mostly. I absolutely adore books, and I’m getting my first e-reader for the holidays this year (I put the request in to every member of my family, so I figure I’m assured of at least one). I also have an account with audible. When things get tight financially, I’ll eat Ramen for a month rather than give up my audible subscription.

    I do think there’s more of a difference between audiobooks and books you actually read on your own, though. The distinction between ereader and actual physical book seems, to me, to be rebellion against technology (akin to the way people talk about the death of letter writing with the rise of email). But when listening to the audiobook, you’re essentially required to accept the reader’s interpretation of the story. I’ve noticed countless times that a reader will say a particular line of dialogue differently than I imagined the character saying it, and it can fundamentally alter the trajectory and interpretation of the scene. That isn’t bad or good, but it is a real difference between hearing books and reading them.

    When you’re holding an ereader or a book, you can reread a passage multiple times-whether for clarity or because you love the scene (I do this constantly)-but doing that with an audiobook is much more difficult. Again, not good or bad, jsut different.

    I generally use audiobooks as a supplement to physical books/ereaders. If I like a book so much that I want to read it multiple times, I’ll buy the audiobook so I can listen to it on my commute and still have my reading time at the end of the night to explore new authors and works. At the end of the day, whether its hardcover, soft cover, audiobooks, ereaders, or the tiny screen on my cell phone Kindle app, any product that gives me another opportunity to read is fantastic.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      I listen to audiobooks on my iPod and find it very easy to re-listen to passages, and I often do it. I also sometimes listen to an entire book twice through, simply for the pleasure of it. I love my audiobooks!

  69. Christen says:

    I agree that it’s a world where we can have both! Often, my husband will have a book on our iPad and I’ll have a hardback. Works great for us! Thanks for this post!



  70. I’m with you. Both/and/all/reading anything I can get my hands/eyes on.

    The only reason I don’t have an e-reader yet is because I’m so indecisive and want to wait until I’m sure which one is absolutely perfect for me.

    Releasing my 2nd e-book in February (hopefully), and for the first time, I’m getting more excited about my e-books than the ones I have in actual print. Woot!

  71. Jane Steen says:

    One more thing nobody else seems to have mentioned – I think I’m a little OCD because I’m very distracted by the physicality of a book. The size, smoothness or otherwise of the cover, font, feel of the paper and so on are constant distractions when I’m reading. Some types of binding annoy me (rough-cut edges, anyone?) And don’t even get me started on what happens if there’s a sticker on the cover that’s hard to peel off… Or a pretentious author photo.

    And if I’m borrowing from the library, there’s those food stains, underlinings and sarcastic remarks, torn pages, cigarette smoke smells…and the very worst (absolutely true story) the book with BOOGERS on about every fifth page.

    My Kindle has taken all those distractions away and left me free to concentrate on the author’s words. Plus I can balance it on my knee and read while knitting. And adjust the font size to accommodate my aging eyes.

  72. THANK YOU for posting this. I’m getting so weary of people talking about ebooks/ereaders as if digital technology is the enemy of the publishing world.

  73. When Kindle was introduced, my husband was seated by someone engrossed in one during a flight. He excitedly announced that he was going to buy me one because my book collection was swelling again (after a relocation that had eliminated many written treasures–my loss, the good fortune of the recipient). I said, “Don’t bother. I like to hold a book in my hands. I like studying the cover and then diving head first into the story or highlighting and making notes in the margins of reference books.” Two years later, I gave in and purchased a Nook because we were traveling extensively and I could no longer pack a stack of books due to airline weight restrictions. Although I am an enthusiastic e-reader convert, I still purchase print books for gifts, reference, and those by local authors. Occasionally, however, an alluring cover in a bookstore will draw me in, and I must hold that print book in my hands.

  74. Exactly! A book is still a book, regardless of its format. I have an ereader and love it. I also keep buying paper books. They’re not mutually exclusive.

  75. Timothy Fish says:

    I have a Kindle and love it, but the I’m beginning to prefer real books even more. I made a Kindle cover from a book and that helped because part of the problem was that it was too thin for my hands.

    I’ve heard many people compare books vs. eBooks to cassette tapes vs. CDs. I don’t think that is a good comparison. With recorded music, the experience doesn’t change, it is still vibrations coming from a speaker of some kind with a device generating the sound. It looks different when we start talking about record music vs. live music. I listened to a woman playing a flute at church along with a recorded soundtrack of piano music. The flute made the recorded music sound like… recorded music. Digital books have their place, but they can never reproduce all of the experience of reading a book.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      I’ve never enjoyed holding a Kindle in my hands all my itself. I’ve had covers for both my Kindles, and they give it the weight and feel of a book, especially because they have a “cover” that closes. Also my 2nd generation Kindle cover has the built-in light so I can read while others are sleeping and not disturb anyone. It’s fabulous.

  76. Wendy says:

    I’m asking Santa for a Kindle Fire. 😉
    ~ Wendy

  77. Six months ago I’d’ve made all the same arguments that many of my fellow posters have: young’uns need real books, Kindle doesn’t “feel” the same, etc. I took the plunge, myself, though, after nearly half a century of reading dead trees, and I have to say that the water’s fine here. My own book is only out in e-book format, in fact; at some point I hope to have a physical version, but for now if they want a signed copy they’ll just have to go to Kindlegraph and request one.

    A Kindle loses the tactile joy that is a physical book, to be certain. On the other hand, you can carry several books at a time in one (which cuts the size of my bathroom reading stack way down), and you can mark places in the book without physically altering a page, and you can call upon the beauty of a dictionary anytime you wish without putting the first book down. Plus, and minus.

    The e-book price thing is an interesting thing, and I still bow to those with more experience in the field than I who say that the “don’t worry; e-books will price themselves out of value soon enough” argument isn’t valid. I’ve seen it, in fact. Take any emerging market and there’s always price fluctuation. But today you’re seeing e-book pricing leveling out and, in some cases, rising slightly again. As an author, I really don’t care about the price point of the book. I care about how much royalty I receive from each copy sold, and if I can get the same amount from a $4.99 self-pubbed or small-pubbed book as I can through a $14.99 traditionally-pubbed book, what does it matter to me? My costs in the book are sunk, anyway. Why wouldn’t I want a lower price point to sell more units?

    Quite an interesting topic today, Rachel!

    • Timothy Fish says:

      The price people pay for something often helps to form their opinion. If a person buys a $500 table, they will treat it like a $500 table, even if the quality is just as good as a table that is selling for $3000. The same is true of books. If people buy a book for 99¢ they will treat it like a 99¢ book, even if the content is just as well thought out as that of a $50 book. If we want better readers, we need to charge more for our books.

  78. Jane Steen says:

    I have a Kindle and am thinking of getting a nook as well. I also buy paper books all the time.

    Here’s my question. What about the books that are only being released as e-books? I’ve heard of this happening, and it makes me wonder where that leaves the “print only” diehards.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if before too long, books that are typically expected to have a short “shelf life” in bookstores (which includes most new authors, I’m sure) will be released as e-books only, with a paper printing to follow later if they are successful enough.

    And what about all the new indie authors releasing their books straight to Kindle? Among all the sub-par books published this way, there are bound to be a few gems, great books rejected by publishers for marketing reasons. Won’t the strictly-print fans start to feel they’re missing out?

    I’d love to know what other commenters think.

    • “What about the books that are only being released as e-books? I’ve heard of this happening, and it makes me wonder where that leaves the “print only” diehards.” – My own book hasn’t yet been released in dead tree format, which leaves the six “‘print only’ diehards” who’ve asked me about it out of luck for a while. Ah, well, those royalties would’ve–oh, bought me a nice lunch, or something. Then again, my book is a debut novel from a guy with a famous-sounding name but no following of his own, so who in his right mind in the trad-pub world would invest in that much paper for it? I take what I can get, build my rep with what I have, and go on to the next (and better) book–due out this month, incidentally.

      “Among all the sub-par books published this way, there are bound to be a few gems, great books rejected by publishers for marketing reasons. Won’t the strictly-print fans start to feel they’re missing out?”

      Well, to answer your direct question, probably not. There’s a lot of disgust still in the dead-tree traditionalist readership world for indie authors. I’ve seen it in the Amazon forums; I’ve seen it over at Goodreads. Their loss. Like you say, there are an awful lot of good (and even some mediocre) reads among the horrible ones out there, just as there are some horrible reads among the good reads out there from traditional publishing. Reading is an inherently personal, subjective experience (as nearly every agent who rejected me pointed out) and the fact that I don’t LIKE Tom Clancy’s work doesn’t mean much of anything. The good news about Indies is that the price point is so much lower that you have plenty of room to experiment even on a tight budget.

      • Jane Steen says:

        Thanks for the reply, Stephen – I’m waiting for the day when a book only available as an e-book suddenly goes Harry-Potter-scale viral, mostly because I’d like to know how long it’ll take to get the print version out, and how many people will buy e-readers just to read it!

        Good luck with your latest book. Maybe those six diehards have e-readers by now.

      • Timothy Fish says:

        I have yet to see a book for which it makes sense to only release it in eBook format. But there are plenty of books for which it makes sense to release it in paper only.

  79. Marielena says:

    My humorous post on Savvy Authors about this old dinosaur entering the world of e-publishing. Help! :-)http://bit.ly/u9jjuV

  80. Paulette S.Easton says:

    Young readers and children first learning to read need real books. Build the foundation of reading and writing. The possibilities are endless. Once they are older,they can move on to all the gizmos and gadgets. All that “stuff” is great,but libraries are still free. Aren’t they?

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      I agree with you, Paulette, that kids should start out reading and learning to enjoy “real” books.

      But all the “gizmos and “gadgets” are more than just “stuff.” They are our children’s future. And we can be old-fashioned all we want when it comes to our own choices, but we won’t do our children any favors by failing to get them ready for their future. They’ll need to be comfortable with all kinds of digital technology to succeed in school, jobs, and life.

  81. Jack LaBloom says:

    The love of horses didn’t keep ranchers from enjoying the benefits of owning an automobile, nor should the love of printed books keep readers from enjoying the benefits of owning an E-reader.

  82. I never leave home without my kindle. I keep it in my purse.

    I never know when I will be stalled in the journey. (Even if it is only to the grocery store.)

    My kindle is a sanity saver.

  83. Husband told me to order a kindle back when the airline started charging for taking suitcases.

    Husband loves to travel. I need my books. I always took a carry-on size full of paperbacks when we traveled.

    I love the gray background on the kindle how easy reading it is on my eyes.

    However if I am studying I need my bookmarks and I do not know how to do that on the kindle. So I don’t buy cook-books or even download the free ones. If I can get a pdf and print it out that is different.

    If I already have a paper book on writing, that I like and it comes available on the Kindle (free) I grab it.

    I like reading novels on the kindle but at this point, only when I am traveling.

  84. Christine says:

    I was one of those readers that thought of electronic reader as the dark side and refused to own one. That was until my new boyfriend bought me a Kindle last Christmas because he knew how much I enjoyed reading.

    Having owned it for almost a year now, I can honestly say that it’s a neat concept and good if you are short on space to store books but that is about all.

    I use it on occasion, mostly because it was a gift given out of love, but for me, you can never sustitute an electronic reader for a book. It is not the same. Yes a story is a story but a book is not a book. The world is so fast paced. There is always something new or better because of our technology. But for me, just give me my hardcover or paperbook book! 🙂

  85. s.p.bowers says:

    I think it’s hilarious some people still have this problem. I’ve found that most people who truly love reading love books no matter what format. Different books or situations work better in different formats. Of course some books are must haves in all formats.

  86. Lynn Rush says:

    I used to be one who fought the e-book. Now I have book a Nook and a Kindle! LOL. Funny how things work out. I like all versions. I’m mostly a Kindle girl now, but still buy paperbacks of my FAVE authors (usually I’ll have both Kindle and paperbacks of my FAVES)

    Great post 🙂

  87. Nadia Damon says:

    I am often abroad and miles from the nearest bookshop, so before e-readers, buying a traditional book would mean a five-hour round trip – with no guarantee the title I was after would even be stocked. The number of parcels which have gone missing over the years means that I can’t really rely on PO boxes either! As you can imagine, this has been a constant source of frustration for me.
    I was one of those people who valued the look and feel of a ‘real’ book and never thought I could be converted, but I love having a mobile library in my bag – and certainly don’t feel that reading via this medium somehow diminishes the experience.

  88. Either/or…I must say I am one of the holdouts on the e-reader, although I do read on my computer, I just haven’t bought an e-reader yet. I’m having trouble making up my mind which one I want. I figure it’ll clear up a lot of space getting stacks of books I want to read into a compact reader. I love how I can get a book in an instant instead of waiting 2 weeks or longer when I order one through the store. I only worry books will disappear from it because Amazon or B&N will change the rules in the middle of the game. Still, I have friends with e-books out and I’m missing so much. I guess I’m really a both/and…so what will it be Kendal or Nook?

  89. kiff says:

    At first I was not a fan of Ebooks. But the constant disappointment not finding books that i want to borrow available at the lone library in my area,and not available for purchase at the varying books stoors across the country, has left me no choice. I am now the kindle’s biggest supporter.

  90. TC Avey says:

    While I LOVE to hold a “real” book, to fill the pages and see the book resting on my shelf, I have to admit having a Nook is beneficial.

    I ran out of shelf space a LONG time ago and my Nook helps read the books I love while saving space.

    However, there are still books I prefer to physically have.

  91. I will always prefer physical books. Ebooks are great and, as an author, I think it’s wonderful that there are different options for everybody to embrace. I don’t see ebooks as evil, but I personally am happier with the feel of a book in my hand.

  92. Neil Ansell says:

    Personally, I’m slow to adopt new technology, and actually I don’t know anyone who has one and have yet to see one for myself. I’m in no rush.
    I really don’t understand why people are so passionately for or against them. It’s a small plastic box that you can read a book on if you want to. It’s not the dark side, but…’one of the joys of the 21st century’…really??

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Neil – yes, really. For a voracious reader such as myself, someone who is always on the go and likes always having reading material with me, my Kindle is a joy. It would take a long time to enumerate the reasons I love it.

      It’s similar to the way the iPod changed my life. I’m also a music lover and spent years with a Walkman, Sony Discman, etc. It was so amazing to me that I could hold thousands of songs on a gadget smaller than my hand. And I still love it.

      Yes, these are some of the small joys of this new technological age. I’m not comparing them to, say, the joy of family and the *really* important things in life. But they do bring added pleasure to life.

  93. Lisa says:

    A very good post, I couldn’t agree with you more.
    I have always loved to read, but now that I’ve started High School, I hardly have the time anymore. When I was younger, I didn’t like Audio books, but now they are my only way to keep on ‘reading’. My Swedish teacher hates that fact that reading and writing have gotten onto such a modernized level, and actually threatens us to give us bad grades if we use an audio-book instead of reading it ‘normally’. I simply don’t understand why people are being such control-freaks about it – it is still the same story and gives almost the same feeling as when you’re curled up in your bed with a cup of tea on a snowy or rainy evening with a book in your hand… Yes, sometimes it’s even more magical to have someone else read the story out loud to you, just like your parents did when you couldn’t read yet. I hope your post will open some people’s minds. 🙂

    Best wishes,

    Ps.: I am sorry about my bad English, I am trying to get better 🙂

  94. I’ve always loved paper books and always will. They are my favorite. That said, my eyesight isn’t what it used to be. For years I had to skip reading a book I really wanted because the print was too small. Then I got an iPad. It took me awhile to get used to it, but now I read almost all of my books using a Kindle app for my iPad.

    I now have immediate gratification. If I hear people chatting about a book online, I download sample chapters. And Rachelle’s right. I am buying and reading more books now.

    I also use my iPad to read my own manuscripts-in-progress. It just takes a little work and I’ve downloaded my WIP in iPages, where it reads like almost like a Kindle book.

    I wish all books were printed in type big enough for me to read, but they’re not. For me, e-books have given me the opportunity to read anything I want. They’re wonderful!

  95. Masonian says:

    I once was a stalwart Luddite decrying eReaders as some sort of faddish, or worse, Orwellian trickery. Even going so far as to say “You can pry my wood-pulp books from my cold dead hands”

    But this Christmas I wonder if perhaps my tech-loving dad will send me an eReader as he’s joked in the past.

    And I wonder if I won’t just enjoy it, but will become an e-Evangelist.

    Darn addictive technology. 🙂

  96. Keli Gwyn says:

    I’m a fan of paper and ink books, but I have a Kindle and am learning about the many benefits of e-books. My husband is usually a late adopter of new technology, but he actually gave me the Kindle as a gift before I decided to get one. I’d told him I wasn’t sure I’d like reading a book on a screen instead of a printed page. He countered that quickly, reminding me with a knowing smile that I read my manuscripts and those of my critique partners on screen all the time.

    I like my Kindle for fiction, but I still prefer paper for non-fiction. I predict the day will come in the not-too-distant future when searching and highlighting in an e-book will be so easy that those issues I currently have with reading non-fiction on my Kindle will become non-issues.

  97. April says:

    I really, really, REALLY wish books were like Blu-rays. You buy the fancy new version and you get the old version too as a bonus. I.e., you buy the Blu-ray, you also get the DVD. You buy the ebook, you also get the paperback (or buy the hardcover and get the ebook, if you go by price).

    If that’s how it worked, I’d totally be all over it! As it is, I don’t want to have to buy the same book twice. So I just buy the dead tree version (prefer the feel of it) and look wistfully at e-readers (wishing for their convenience).

  98. Arlee Bird says:

    If I could afford an e-reader I’d probably get one, but right now finances are tight. In the end though I think I’ll always prefer “real” books–I trust them more. Technology becomes so obsolete like my cassette tapes. Spent thousands on them and now what. Same with CDs, videos, and remember 8-tracks?
    The digital storage–how permanent is it? How easily can it be lost or damaged in some way.

    I have books that I’ve owned for as much as 50 years and have others that are even older. Fifty years from now where are my e-reader books?


    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Arlee, I totally get that. If I were the kind of person to keep things for 50 years, I’d always want the hardcopy books. But in reality, while I own hundreds of books, I find I get rid of many boxes full every year, to make room for the new ones. I probably only have about a dozen books from more than a decade ago. Maybe this is why I’m okay with the digital format.

  99. Stephanie McKibben says:

    Well said Rachelle! My thoughts exactly. I buy e-books, paperback, hardcover, audiobooks, whatever! If it’s a book I’m interested in I don’t care about the format.

    Sure I have preferences for some stories. If it’s 1,000 page epics I listen to them. If it’s a funny love story it’s in paperback.

    Your right that those who don’t have an e-reader are missing something. I can carry 300 books in my purse. How can you not love that?

  100. Rick Johnson says:

    I too am an and/both reader, and use my Kindle extensively while traveling. I guess my main concern as a writer is the lack of royalties ebooks generate. It’s hard enough making a living at this business, and royalties seem to keep going down as technology goes up.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Rick – exactly. And yet you have writers here saying e-books are too expensive. They seem to only want to pay for the medium but not actually PAY THE WRITER. Hmm, I feel a blog post coming on. 🙂

      • J. Edward Romeo says:

        I don”t think this is entirely accurate (though it is certainly true in some). I think most people that lament about the price of e-Books do so, not because they do not wish the writer to get paid, but because of the seemingly heavy handed way the publishers deal with e-Books vs the physical edition.

        Now, please bear in mind, I am not a published author, so some of this is based on assumptions and a bit of oversimplification just to illustrate.

        The writer has a deal with the publisher. The writer receives, X amount for each book sold.

        Based on that, publisher sells “the Book” for Y dollars to distributors with a “suggested price.” From that point forward, how much the book is actually sold for makes up only the profit that the retailer makes.

        In the case of physical books, the publisher doesn’t seem to care (or probably actually LIKES) that the books are discounted in order to sell more books… after all, it doesn’t change how much THEY are selling the book for, the reduced profit affects only the retailer.

        Contrast that with the eBook. The writer is still getting their same royalty, the publisher is getting their same wholesale price, but inexplicably, they try to force the eBook to be sold for no less than the MSRP.

        This leads to the confusion and oversimplified argument when trying to figure out why the eBook cost more of “Why is this since the eBook cost less to distribute?” All the general consumer is seeing is that a print edition is on sale $7.99 (just for example) but the eBook is being forced to be sold at the $12.99 list price.

        The presumption is that the writer is getting the same amount (since the wholesale cost doesn’t change), but that distribution is considerably less (since you don’t need to print or ship), so it would seem logical that publishers would make MORE (and thus so would the writer) if they PROMOTED rather than doing things to dissuade people from going with the eBook edition, which is what they seem to want to do.

        Are there people that just don’t get it that the author wants to make a living also? Sure. But I think the majority of people are just tired of having to “pay up” because the publishers seem to be so afraid of the digital marketplace.

        • Timothy Fish says:

          I see a number of things wrong with your assumptions. First, publishers do care if stores are selling their books at deep discounts. If stores discount books too much and consumers become conditioned to paying lower prices, they will expect the publishers to keep the prices low, even though the consumers can afford to purchase the books at higher prices.

          Second, while there are no “printing” costs associated with eBooks, there are delivery costs. These include costs associated with storing copies of the book on a server and paying people to maintain the equipment. It also includes the cost of sending the data over through the network.

          There are costs involved in typesetting the eBook. There are tools that will automagically do this, but if you take the time to do it well, it can require as much or more time than was required to typeset the print version.

          On top of all of that, publishers only make money when the successful books are priced high enough to cover the losses of the unsuccessful books. So prices must be set at the point where a publisher will make the most money from that book, whether they are making a 1¢ a book or making $20 a book. The production and deliver costs cannot be allowed to define what the price of the book should be.

        • Meg says:

          These are all very good points. These are questions I want answered. It’s been said that readers shouldn’t be concerned about these sorts of things, and only how much they’re willing to pay for a product. But, personally, I want to know where my money is going. I want to know what I’m paying for and how to account for the difference in price of the two formats. I want to know how much the writer, publisher, and retailer is getting in each case. As it stands now, my perception is that e-books are overpriced. If someone proves me wrong with concrete facts and figures, I may be more willing to pay those prices for e-books.

          • Timothy Fish says:

            Meg, that is an unrealistic expectation. When you buy a new pair of shoes, do you also want to know where the money is going? Besides, the publishing industry simply doesn’t work that way. You cannot look at the price of one book and divide it out to each person who worked on it. Consider that if a publisher were to publish a book and sold only one copy, then that copy would have to cost something like $50,000 if the publisher wanted to make a profit. On the other hand, if the publisher is able to sell 10,000 copies then they need only $5 per copy to make a profit. But the publisher is taking a risk with each book. They don’t know how many copies they will sell, so they can’t set the price based on that. Not only that, but if they were to set the price at $100, for a book that will sell only 500 copies, they might drive the number of books sold even lower. Instead, they set the price at the level they think people are willing to purchase the book, knowing they will take a loss on some books, but expecting that those books that sell thousands of copies will make high enough profits to make up the difference.

      • Iola says:

        I’m guessing that most of the people who are complaining about the price of e-books are American. Perhaps they’d like to spare a thought for the rest of us. The Christian novel that has a recommended retail price of $US 12.99 to $US 14.99 will be almost twice that price by the time it arrives in a Christian bookshop here in New Zealand. That same books usually available on Amazon for $US 9.99. So, with apologies to my Christian bookshop owner, I am buying more e-books now (not to mention all the free Christian downloads).

        But some books, especially non-fiction, I will continue to buy and read in hard copy. As others have commented, the Kindle doesn’t work so well for these, although it is great for fiction.

        My hard-copy books get loaned to friends, whereas my Kindle books don’t because none of my friends have a Kindle. So if they want one of my Kindle books – they will have to buy a Kindle, or buy the book. This is probably to the benefit of the author.

  101. Grandma’s apple pie, a quiet dinner by candlelight, snuggling by the fire, sitting in a tree, and an old yellow dog= Paper book.

    The subway ride to downtown, a cup of Starbucks, waiting in line to see a rapper, and texting your best friend= E-book.

    There’s a special romance that some of us have with paper books that we just can’t grasp with E-books. But E-books are so convenient and many are even free. Both are good. IMHO (had to text that in there), the reason people who love paper books don’t like E-books is because the advent of the E-book could destroy grandma’s apple pie.

  102. PeeOnYourShoe says:

    E-books, fine. But what’s next? E-print books DIRECTLY in our brains?? How could we share, lend, exchange what we read? Doesn’t the feeling of a real book, its smell, participe to the emotion we experiment? I’ve nothing against e-books. Nothing against e-rehearsals, e-actors, e-songs, e-lives, e-pleasure… What? It’s only e-rony! 😉

  103. I love that you said its an “and/both” world. It opens up to so many more possibilities. I like both printed paper books and love my Kindle Fire.

    AND I own a tiny new and gently read bookstore.

    The e-reader provides portability, convenience and many low prices for e-books. I have ‘loaned’ books over my computer Kindle site for a 14 day period and when the time expires I get it back. I can read my books on my laptop, Kindle or iPhone wherever I go. That’s the best of both in the book world, imho.

  104. I love that you said its an “and/both” world. It opens up to so many more possibilities. I like both printed paper books and love my Kindle Fire.

    AND I owe a tiny new and gently read bookstore.

    The e-reader provides portability, convenience and many low prices for e-books. I have ‘loaned’ books over my computer Kindle site for a 14 day period and when the time expires I get it back. I can read my books on my laptop, Kindle or iPhone wherever I go. That’s the best of both in the book world, imho.

  105. Sra says:

    Yeah, what some people have said goes for me too. Most of my hesitation about e-readers has come from not trusting the technology enough. My books on the shelf are never going to mysteriously disappear because of a virus or a bad wire. I’ve had my ipod erase my entire music library at random. I don’t trust e-readers to not do the same thing.

    • Timothy Fish says:

      A house fire or a flood could do the same thing. What Amazon is doing different from what Apple did in their day is that they store the books you buy on a server, but you can also keep your own copies. If you were to lose everything in your Kindle, you would simply download everything again and it would be back like it was. In fact, even if the publisher changes the content of a book (for corrections, perhaps), you will have access to the one you bought, so it won’t say one thing one day and something else the next.

  106. Dustan says:

    I struggled with this before I bought my Kindle. It was out of travel necessity that I purchased it. However afterwards I realized something.

    Have you ever walked into a place or opened a box and got a whiff of a smell that took you back ten or fifteen years. How about a song that made you ache in the pit of your chest?

    For me, that was the book and I never knew it. I love two smells mixed together: paper and coffee. I LOVE the feel of the page on my finger. To hold it, caress it, sleep with it. hah

    But, I’ve come to realize, after realizing I read more with my Kindle, that those things were just hits at what I really loved.

    Story. Reading. Learning.

    When you are taken back years by a smell it isn’t the smell you miss, it’s the memory attached to to it. In the same way it isn’t the Paper I love, it’s the experience attached to it.

    Now I’m a kindle reader, but I guess I should admit to buying the paper sometimes just to take a whiff. 😉

  107. Thank you! What makes a book a book are the WORDS, not the medium. I’m getting sick of this semi-elitist attitude that physical books are “real” and superior–and I was in the “print books forever!/I need to feel the paper/etc etc” camp until I actually got an e-reader, and now I’m resentful of any print book that’s big or heavy.

    I read physical and digital books. Both are more suited to certain kinds of stories. Everyone else can read whichever way they prefer, as long as they drop the superior Luddite B.S.

  108. Zealousgirl says:

    I’m a recent convert to e-reading. I thought that I’d NEVER like it and reading on a screen (after working on one all day) would be horrid. BUT I found it so easy (ipad with book format) that I didn’t even notice I wasn’t reading a paperback anymore and the best thing: you can read in the dark. Love it!

  109. Graeme Ing says:

    Great article, and I agree totally. We have a room dedicated to our library because my wife and I collect books, especially hardcovers. But we both own a kindle and rabidly read books on them. Printed books won’t disappear, because they are still great to findle, to smell the pages, feel the weight, and ever tried donating an ebook to a charity collection bin?

    There is room for both for sure. This isnt a black and white either/or world any more, as you said.

  110. E-readers are really new where I live (Kindles became available about 3 months ago) and I haven’t got one yet. I’m a little reluctant because I read mainly in the bath and I don’t think e-readers and baths are that compatible…. The library can handle a few fat books being returned; I doubt an e-reader would be so obliging.

  111. michael says:

    kiolia, I had a book in my hands before I could crawl. My mother would place me in the room she was in and give me a comic book or “Life” magazine and I would turn the pages to look at the pictures. I would cry when I bent or torn a page.

    Today, it is getting more common for children to have an e-reader. Interactive children books are popular with all ages. And no baby cries when he tears a paper page.

    One of the reasons I got a Kindle was I wanted to reread Dashiell Hammett’s “Maltese Falcon.” But my copy was lost in a sea of filled boxes that had spilled out into a storage bin. Normally, I would have bought another copy, but since I had four copies of “Maltese Falcon” somewhere in that storage bin, I bought a Kindle and can get to any of my nine hundred books in seconds.

    Kathleen Roush, you can lend books on the Kindle. I have done it. The problem is most publishers refuse to let Kindle and others do it with their books.

    Sorry, if it seems I am picking on you print fans, I don’t mean to. But as Rachelle is trying to say, all formats can co-exist. You don’t have to find anything wrong with e-books to explain why you buy print.

    When the modern paperback was born, booksellers and publishers were upset. Yet both formats survive. As long as there are good readers such as you buying print books, there will be publishers selling them to you.

  112. I have a Kindle and am reading some ebooks now, but I still prefer the overall experience of the “real” ones. Especially like being able to flip back easily and find a little detail I wanted to review. I have an easier time finding those things in a real book than an ebook.

    • April says:

      YES. This is one of the main reasons I prefer print (though there are other reasons, too). I flip back a lot, and it’s much easier to do so with page flipping than finger flinging/button pressing.

    • Meg says:

      This is one of the big reasons for not embracing the e-reader for me as well. I know that I’ll want to flip back, find a quote that stood out, or review some part of the book, or whatever. It’s just how I read. I imagine that’s not as easy to do with an e-reader, at least not as easy as with a physical book.

  113. Beth K. Vogt says:

    While I still differentiate between “real” books and ebooks (all in fun –books are books), I am definitely a both/and reader. I’ve fallen in love with my Kindle, which I bought after my husband begged me to do so. He was weary of the multiple To Be Read piles all over the house. Well, the TBR piles are fewer, but they are still there. And I have hundreds of ebooks on my Kindle.
    Both/and — works for me.

    • Amy Sorrells says:

      Hey, Beth, what a great idea–buying a Kindle to clean up/eliminate those five towers of books on the floor next to my bed! Maybe my husband will buy me one for that reason, too! 🙂

      • Beth K. Vogt says:

        Amy: Please note: My husband begged me to buy the Kindle for myself — as both a business and entertainment investment –more of the latter, really. And it definitely decreased a little bit of tension between us.

  114. Kristen says:

    Although I keep playing with the idea of buying a Kindle, I’ll always love printed books more. Having my fingertips touching the paper is like getting a little hug from the book, and don’t get me started on how much I love that new book smell! 😀 I have a huge bookshelf in my room filled to the brim with books, and even more in my dorm room. When I move into my own place, I plan on someday having a library specifically for thousands of books on floor-to-ceiling bookcases, but until then I’m quickly running out of space.

    I can definitely see the draw to e-readers! I’m running out of room to put all of my lovely treasures, and let’s face it: it’s a drag trying to tote books around on vacation! Plus, I always run into the problem of “WHICH book do I bring? How fast can I get through them? What if I finish this part way through the trip and have nothing else to read? Well…I better bring two. But then the pages will get all bent up and the binding will bend all funny…better put them in a seperate box with some packing peanuts… But now I don’t have enough room. Oh no!” This last summer I took a trip over the pond to England and by the time I hit the ferry over to Ireland I had finished all three of the books I had brought and needed to buy another one! With an e-reader I could just bring that one, thin little machine and all my books would be at my fingertips. No more mid-vacation reading crisis!

    I’m seriously thinking about buying a Kindle, but that definitely would NOT mean I would stop buying “Real” books! I would buy the majority of my books in paperback, and get my favorites (or new releases) on my Kindle so I could always have them for traveling purposes.

    Such a great and lively debate, though! It’s just way too silly to take an “either/or” stance on this topic when our world’s big enough to support both sides.

  115. Meg says:

    I can’t say I’m completely against e-readers, but I am one of those that prefer printed books. I imagine I’ll buy an e-reader one day, once I have a better understanding of how it will function in my little world, and also when the price of digital books comes down. In my personal opinion, the price of digital books are still quite high considering that the cost of printing and distributing is taken out of the equation.

    Full disclosure: This is coming from someone who is a regular patron of my local library and who doesn’t even have an mp3 player. So, as long as they’ve been around now, I still haven’t embraced music and movies in digital form.

    I think there’s something to be said for having something physical, like a book, a CD or a DVD. You own it – it’s there, you can hold it in your hand, it’s not going to mysteriously disappear in a flurry of ones and zeros.

    I’ll probably get around to buying an e-reader one day, maybe even an mp3 player. But, just as I do with books that I’ve read at the library, I will still want to buy and own hard copies of my favorite stories.

    • Timothy Fish says:

      You can burn your eBooks onto a DVD as a backup, if you really want something physical.

      As for prices, you aren’t alone in the belief that eBook prices should be lower. That attitude is probably what will eventually kill the eBook market. The price of printed paper versus digital bits is of little concern when setting the price of a book. I recommend you read How Much Should a Book Cost. In fact, in actual cost to the publisher, it may cost a publisher more to provide a book in electronic format it does to print a hardback and yet so many people have the attitude that hardbacks are worth $30 while the same book in electronic format shouldn’t be more that $3.

      • Meg says:

        It may be of little concern to you, but it is a concern to me. Do you have sources for the information in your article? Until I have concrete proof of the cost and profit of each format, my attitude about it will probably remain the same. If I’m going to spend $10 for an e-book, I’d rather have the paperback.

        I’m all for paying the writer, I’m just of the opinion, and I could be wrong, that the publishing cost has gone down with e-books. Is the author getting any better deals on e-books sold? While I don’t have a Kindle, I have the Kindle app on my PC and have downloaded a few e-books, mostly from authors that are self-published or books that fall in the $1-$3 category. I’m reading a lot of books by people I probably wouldn’t otherwise because they’re not big names.

        Bottom line: I’m not personally willing to pay that price for an e-book. And, knowing me, if I don’t have the choice of paper vs. digital at those prices, I probably just won’t read it and choose something else instead. There are lots of books out there to read.

        • Timothy Fish says:

          Here are the publishing prices Rachelle listed some time ago for a Trade Paperback:
          Editorial: $5,000
          Packaging (cover design & production): $3,500
          Typeset & Interior layouts: $500
          Printing & binding: $12,000
          Marketing: $6,000
          Warehousing: $3,000
          Sales: $5,000
          Total: $40,000 not including the advance

          Assuming the publisher puts the same level of effort into an eBook, we can make the claim that the prices for a Kindle book are the same, with the exception that the publisher isn’t paying for Printing & binding or for Warehousing. To simplify the math, let’s assume that the publisher will either print the book or will make it available for Kindle, but not both. In many cases, the publisher will make both available, but the publisher must be concerned with the overall profitability of the book, not with which customer is paying for each of the listed items.
          Total for Kindle book: $25,000

          If the cover price is $13.99, the publisher receives approximately $6.30 for each trade paperback sold. To break even, the publisher must sell 6,349 books to break even. Some books sell more than this and some sell less, but on average, a successful publisher will sell more than this for the books in his catalogue.

          Now, consider the Kindle book which is also set at a price of $13.99. For illustrative purposes, let’s say the author is receiving 8% of that price. So, after the royalties are paid, the publisher will get about $3.78. To break even, the publisher must sell 6,614 copies of the Kindle book, which you will notice is 265 more than what they needed to sell of the trade paperback.

          • Cat Faber says:

            I don’t understand.

            Okay, so we’re talking the publisher getting 6.30 in each case… but paying the author 8% royalties for an e-book but zero royalties for a paper book?

            Are you sure that’s how it works? I thought authors got royalties for paper books too.

            But supposing author royalties are a special e-book cost that paper books don’t have, 8% of 13.99 is $ 1.12, and $6.30 – $1.12 is $5.18, not $3.78.

            And 25,000 (cost to make the ebook) / 5.18 (profit per e-book if sold at $14) is 4,827 books (since you can’t sell a quarter of a book.) While 40,000 (cost to make the paper book) / 6.30 (profit per paper book if publisher really pays author no royalties) is 5,350 books. They have to sell more of the *paper* book, not the e-book.

            So e-books either require fewer sales to make a profit, or could be sold at a lower price, whichever way you want to look at it. By your own figures.

            E-books don’t cost as much as paper books to make. Royalties are paid for every book. The importance to a publisher of a good accountant, however, can’t be overstated.

          • Timothy Fish says:


            I’m not sure what number Rachelle used for royalties on the print book, but if the bookstore is getting 40% of the retail price the remaining 60% would be $8.39, so my assumption was that the $6.30 figure had the royalties taken out of it. To keep the prices consistent, I removed the royalties from the e-book figure also.

            You are correct that $6.30 – $1.12 is $5.18, but publishers don’t receive $6.30 for an e-book. For a $13.99 Kindle book, the publisher receives $4.90 and $4.90 – $1.12 is $3.78. Presumably, the reset of the money goes to keep the Amazon.com operating and for the cost of delivering data over the cellular network.

  116. BK Jackson says:

    I love having the both/and selection. Now I can buy all my fiction in e-book format, and save my physical book shelf space for non-fiction (which doesn’t translate as well in e-book format).

    I love being able to tote around 20 years worth of reading in my purse. *-)

    • Timothy Fish says:

      Very true, but I have to admit that I find it unexpected. Back before Kindle, we were talking about the potential success of eBooks and I expected that non-fiction would have greater success, but ink on paper is a more natural way to view the charts and graphs that fill non-fiction books.

      • Joe Pote says:

        For myself, I have found that most things that I intend to read linearly I prefer on the Kindle.

        Anything that I plan to use non-linearly, flipping back and forth for referencing different sections, such as a Design Specification, or a Bible Commentary, I prefer in hard-copy format.

        It just works smoother.

        Oh, and I keep two versions of the Bible on my Kindle, for use while traveling, but when home, I really prefer my hard-copy study Bible with all my pencil notes in the margin.

        • Rachelle Gardner says:

          Joe – exactly like you, I prefer fiction on Kindle and non-fiction in hard copy. (Linear vs. non-linear.) I also have the Bible on my Kindle so I don’t have to lug it with me when I travel. But at home, I use my printed copy.

          • Ditto and ditto to Rachelle & Joe! I love, love my Kindle, but I also love, love my 6 full-size shelves full of paper books. I hadn’t thought about the linear vs. non-linear semantics before, but I do prefer my non-fiction in paper and my fiction on the Kindle. I also like that my Kindle is half the size and weight (or less) of an iPad – much easier to hold just for reading. I like the e-ink technology, too, since it gives my eyes a break from the computer-type screen. In short (or is this long by now?), I love the both/and world of reading!

  117. Kathleen Roush says:

    The only thing I don’t like about e-books is that book-sharing is not possible. I cannot tell you how many books someone has shard with me and me them over the years. I love reading on my iTouch – almost everything I’ve finished lately has been electronic, BUT I still miss the sharing…

    • It’ll happen. It’s already starting to in the library world, and considering it seems to be the number one complaint from people regarding their private digital libraries, it’s only a matter of time before all the e-reader companies allow it.

    • Sure you can lend your e-books out to people, at least if you bought it from Amazon. Once you buy one, there’s a button to do so on Amazon’s page. Granted, the library situation is going to be an interesting one in the future, but personal lending is already happening.

    • Joe Pote says:

      Lending works great on the Kindle, provided the borrower can finish the book in 14 days.

      I recently discovered another great way to share Kindle books, with a close family member. My mother-in-law and I are both voracious readers with similar taste, and have enjoyed sharing books, over the years. Since I acquired a Kindle, she has lamented the inability to share books, as we used to.

      So, we recently bought Mom a kindle for her birthday.

      We set her Kindle up on my account. So she now has free access to all the e-books I’ve bought over the last year. If she buys an e-book, it gets charged to my credit card, and she reimburses me for her purchase.

      It has worked out great!

  118. kiolia says:

    If I hadn’t grown up in a house full of my parents’ real books, I don’t know if I’d be the writer I am now. I was pulling down Crichtons and Ludlums and at the age of 6 and reading them (not understanding them entirely at the time, of course) because they had cool stuff on the covers and people got shot and swore at each other in the stories. Think my parents would have handed me an e-reader at that age with that sort of reading list? Would I have been near so interested in browsing my parents’ library if it was just a list in a Kindle instead of 3-deep stacks of paperbacks? I acknowledge that ebooks are great for sales figures, but for plain old longevity, the wonderful moments when you dig an old book out of a drawer that you’ve wanted to re-read and keep forgetting, and the ability to expose my theoretical kids to a library that doesn’t run on batteries, give me paper every time.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Kiolia, that’s a great point about having books around for the kids to randomly pick up and browse, nurturing their love for reading. This is why our home has hundreds of books on the shelves, and I keep restocking with “teen” books for my girls. We also have two Kindles, stocked with hundreds of books.

      And yet… my parents didn’t have a single bookshelf in the house. They may have bought me a total of 5 books in 18 years. But that couldn’t stop my innate love of books and reading. I got them from school, from friends, and from the library. I begged my parents to drive me to the library, and as soon as I was able, I walked there by myself.

      So if it had been the Kindle age and all the books had been digital, I’d still have grown up loving to read.

      • I thought I’d never want to go electronic, until I discovered that ereaders don’t use a backlit computer style screen but something called e-ink which is easy on the eyes. Since I bought my ereader, I’ve had access to books that would never be in my local bookshop and read more books and more interesting books than ever before. It’s opened up a whole new world for me.

        Note too, that any book you buy on Smashwords can be shared easily.

      • My home had only adult books which I read even as a child. I did not know about libraries until I went to a Catholic High School that had one. Yet I, too, became a voracious reader. I read print and listen to audio books and love both. Often, I’ll buy a book having heard it on audio and buy it in print if I’ve loved it enough. Until now, I’ve avoided the e-book not knowing if the Kindle or Nook is a better option and if there is a common platform to read book on either machine.

  119. Just bought my first ereader today. The Kindle. I decided to get an ereader for my birthday present this year because I’ve sort of wanted one since I first learned about them in 2003. My birthday was in May. So yeah, it too me until almost Christmas to decide which one…

    I don’t do touch screens well, no heat in my fingertips or maybe my nails are too long. I’ve played with every device available for months because I am a writer and have lots of writer friends who have ebooks and print books and I want to read them all. But there’s this storage issue with my book shelves…

    The essence of a book is the story created through the words on the page. However that connection is made, between author and reader, is good. If massive rain forests remain standing because the story is now in pixels instead of on papyrus, this is good.

    I’m just learning my kindle, and it is easy…

  120. Katie says:

    Great post! I agree that ebooks are really good, but for me, I just love the FEEL of a book in my hands. So, out of the two, I much prefer a paperback book over an ebook.

    But as you said, its “both/and”, and I am the proud owner of a Kindle that is filled with books! 🙂

    • Ann Fowler says:

      I also love the feeling of having a book in my hands. Yesterday, I saw an online poll at Frinzee.com about real books vs. e-books. I voted for real books, I like real books more than e-books.

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