Print or E-book?

I saw a headline from the London Book Fair today touting that, in the UK at least, print books are on the upswing. For two years running sales of print titles have gone up. Now, the article doesn’t mention if some of that rise is due to adult coloring books (which is what accounted for similar boosts in print in the U.S.), so maybe it’s much ado about very little, but…

I think most authors dream of holding their book—an actual, printed book—in their hands. Maybe as new authors grow up in the digital age, this feeling will diminish. Younger authors will be happy to have their work “on screen” (and I don’t mean a movie). And while I can say that my e-books do sell more than my print ones, at least thus far, I’d still truly love to see some of my digital titles in print format. Not for monetary reasons (see above) but for concrete satisfaction and a full sense of accomplishment.

More and more, readers online tell me they prefer “real” books. By which they mean physical, printed books. An e-book is, of course, also real, but the experience is decidedly different. Reading from a screen versus a printed page, scrolling rather than turning, even just the feel of it in one’s hands is very different. Our brains certainly take in a screen differently than they do something printed. It’s why they tell you not to look at a screen before bedtime—the interaction with a screen fires your brain up when, in the evening, you’re trying to wind it down for the night. Which makes me think that reading from an electronic device must be, to our brains at least, less relaxing than reading from a printed book.

The pros of e-books: less expensive (for both reader and publisher), faster to produce, easy to revise, one can change the size of the type to suit one’s needs, and one can carry a substantial number of them on an e-reader so that one can basically have a portable library.

The pros of print books: a different kind of engagement with the text, and that great book smell. In short, while on paper (har!) the e-book appears to have more advantages, there’s simply something satisfying about a print book. And people will give up a lot for that satisfaction, including a number of seeming conveniences. We’re not rational creatures, after all, at least not wholly. When logically we should think e-books make the most sense, we still find ourselves buying and reading physical books.

Anyway, I do have an e-reader that I sometimes use, but not nearly as much as I could. I’ll almost always reach for a print book before thinking to check my e-reader. I must have dozens of titles on the e-reader that I might never get around to actually reading, and I’ve heard the same from many other bibliophiles. They download e-books when they see a good deal (read: free, or maybe 99 cents if the books sounds interesting enough to risk a little money) and then promptly forget them. Leaves me to wonder how many of the e-books I sell remain in a never-ending TBR stack…

What about you? Do you buy e-books or print or both? Which do you read more of? Are there other pros and cons to either format? Let me know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Print or E-book?

  1. There is an intrinsic good feeling to holding a book in your hands. I still like an e-book because it can carry so many books around, and because I tend to read many books at the same time, but for those books I know I’ll be reading more than once, I do like the print book.

    1. Yes, I also find there is a distinction between which books I want print versions of versus those I’m content to own as an e-book. But I find it interesting that I put more “value” on the books I physically own. They’re worth more in a literal sense, too, but the value I place in them is more personal, sentimental, emotional, etc. E-books feel somewhat disposable to me. Read it and forget it. I connect on a different level to books I read in print.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *