Print vs E, Either-Or or And?

Susan Vaughan here. I posted this a few years ago, and am wondering if there’s still a debate.

I bought my Kindle several years ago because it was the only way I could read some authors’ books. But I was quickly hooked by the ease of reading on the device and the speed of purchase to download. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint, impulse buying is costing me more. This doesn’t mean I’ve given up on print. There are certain favorite authors I absolutely must read in print, and I love browsing a physical bookstore. I read both forms, often different books on the same day. Most of my books are in both print and digital, and my newest series, The DARK Files, is so far only in e-book form.

Considering my habit, I wondered what others thought. Writers are voracious readers, so I posted my question about print versus e to a few writer groups. I had no idea I’d receive so many responses—over two dozen. I should’ve known.Most replied that they read both print and digital.   Author Terry Shames (The Last Death of Jack Harbin) says, “For me, it isn’t versus; it’s plus.” She likes print and e-book for publishing and for reading. “I’m published in both ‘e’ and print. I’m happy that my readers have the choice.”

Nina Pierce (In His Eyes) adds that she likes the value of offering a full-sized novel at a reasonable price, but does like to offer her books in print “for readers who enjoy holding a signed copy in their hands.” Marnie Graff (The Green Remains) still wants a print book to hold. “There’s something about…the paper, turning those pages.” But she also reads e-books. “On a recent trip to England, I could carry a dozen books…and actually stow clothes in my suitcase.” Now here’s a summary of other responses.

WHAT READERS LIKE ABOUT E-BOOKS: –Normally cheaper to buy. –I can change the font size to suit me. –It’s easier to carry an arsenal of books, especially for vacations. –Access to reading wherever you go. –Books are easier to read when I’m eating. No having to use one hand to keep the book open! –An e-reader is great on the treadmill. I don’t have to hold a book open and can turn a page with a touch. –My keeper shelves are full, but my e-reader never fills up. –I read faster and buy more. –One-click purchase, immediate gratification. –If my novel has a “disturbing” cover, I don’t have to worry about fellow commuters seeing it.

WHAT READERS LIKE ABOUT PRINT BOOKS: –There’s something about the texture of a book that can never be replaced. –I love physical books especially for non-fiction. –I love holding the printed page in my hands, the smell of ink. –I’d rather browse a “real” bookstore than an online one, although I do both. –Highlighting passages on a Kindle is just not the same as on a print book. –When I read an excellent book on my e-reader, I purchase the print book to keep. –I love having signed copies from some favorite authors. –I get a certain pleasure out of having a “keeper” shelf that houses my absolute favorite fiction reads.Beaded to Death front cover

Janis Patterson (Beaded to Death) says, “You can’t compare them. It’s like planes and trains. Both will get you there (i.e., deliver the story) but the experience is different. It all depends on the circumstances.”

I’m glad to see that at least so far, it’s not an either-or issue. Many readers read both, as I do. Some publishers and retailers are going further by bundling print and e-books. They offer an e-book of a given title at a reduced price when a buyer purchases the print book. Author Thonie Hevron (By Force or Fear) sums up future possibilities. “One thing is for sure: publishing is on the move and changes are the new rule. I don’t think there is any final outcome to the industry. It will keep evolving, morphing into whatever the reader finds most suitable at the time.” Evolving is right. Today e-books can be enjoyed on almost any digital device. 

I’d love comments here on print versus e-books.

About Susan Vaughan

Susan Vaughan is the award-winning author of twelve romantic suspense novels. Sign up for her email newsletter at her website, follow her on Twitter @SHVaughan, and like her on Facebook. All four ebooks in her Devlin Security Force series will be on sale this month, May 25-31. Check her website for prices and links.
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30 Responses to Print vs E, Either-Or or And?

  1. dragons3 says:

    I love books. I love the feel and the smell of a new book and the colorful covers are a plus. I also love my e-readers (I have both a Kindle and a Kobo). About 3 weeks after I got my first Kindle, I was hospitalized for 2 weeks with pneumonia. Having my Kindle, with a number of books to keep me occupied, was a life saver. I’m buying more books in e-versions because they are often cheaper, so my monthly book budget goes further. However, I also buy physical books — usually used — or borrow from the library, too.

  2. C.T. Collier says:

    Loved this post! I read and publish both forms. I value passing along print books to friend who’ll like them and receiving their picks in return. That physical handoff is so satisfying! –kate

  3. Linda Baker says:

    I am one of those people who will read the back of a cereal box if all else fails. I get a lot of electronic galleys so I read on Kindle, iPad, occasionally my phone in a pinch. I still read print books as well and very often listen to audiobooks. I don’t have any real preferences anymore other than some series are always audio for me.

    • I haven’t listened to audiobooks in a long time. I used to, in the car, when I had a tape deck. Remember those? With a CD or other digital gadget, it’s harder to go back and listen if I missed something. Maybe I ought to try again.

  4. My Joe Gale books have been published in digital format only, and I wish that wasn’t the case.

    Readers who enjoy reading on a Kindle or ipad are happy, but those who have not made the jump are frustrated that they can’t find my books. Being e-only affects what events I do. Book festivals and some events are awkward when you have no print books to sell. I never know if people who seem interested in my books actually go home and download them.

    These days, most everyone published in paper also can offer readers the option of an ebook these days, so as Terry Shames says, there is no “print vs. e-book” in that situation. But if your publisher is e-only, you can’t offer readers a choice of formats.

    It’s been a learning experience for me.

    • Hey, Brenda, I agree with you. Book signings when you only have an e-book are just not as good. I tried several different ways, but it just didn’t work for me.
      If you have or can get the print rights to your books, you can print them yourself. Not too difficult if I can do it. LOL I discovered Bitty Booklets made by Laron Glover at https://ninthmoon.com/ They were really helpful before (and now even after) having print books available. Small foldouts that have the first 5oo or so words of your book, with the cover, info about the author and your other books. You might give that a shot until you can have print books.

    • Brenda, I’m sure it’s frustrating for you to be only digital. If your contract allows it, you could self-publish in print at Create Space or one of the other services.

  5. Pris Robichaud says:

    I was one of the first kindle readers, and was hooked immediately. I travel a lot, and love the mobility of the kindle. I can also purchase many books and load them on. When I have finished my books, I can obtain one immediately, at a lower cost.

    I read books also, and I am often sent an Advanced Readers Copy. The world of books is so wonderful, and to have this choice. I also read the digital copies of the NYT,. The WaPo, and most magazines. The morning’s political blogs are digital.
    Here’s to choice!

  6. Hey, Susan. My first books were in e-book format only until I got the print rights and then published them myself in print form. I have some fans for whom that’s the only way to go. I’m just in the process of getting the e-rights back to those first two books so I will have all of my books under my wings. I mostly read e-books. It’s just so darn easy to see the words. I don’t have to worry if I have enough light. And the ease of purchasing is magical. The space thing is an issue, too. Since we downsized into a smaller house, book space is at a premium. Now some friends only listen to audio books, and I haven’t gone there. Good post. I’ll share.

  7. sandy haber says:

    I like both, as well as audio books. Ebooks are fantastic for traveling, or waiting rooms, or restaurant lines but since you’re “not supposed” to deal with electronics before bedtime, there’s nothing like a paper book to help me get unwound from the day — I just have to be sure it’s not a thriller! I also find that, since I take a lots of books out of the library until I’m sure I like them, that since there’s a time limit on hanging on to them, I tend to read them faster — once it’s on my eReader there’s no real hurry!

  8. Deb Noone says:

    I fought and fought buying an e-reader. But when they went on sale, I did, because it was the only way to get some books. Now that is my go-to choice, only because I realized how much my hands hurt after typing all day, commuting (lots of drive time), and then trying to hold a book open. Having said that – I really miss print -still have book cases filled with “keepers” and still purchase print just to have the book.

  9. Nina Pierce says:

    My kids got me a kindle a year ago. It’s so easy to tuck in my purse when I leave the house and if I finish a book while waiting at the doctor’s, I’ve got another in the queue. I also love that I can turn off the room light and read in the dark in bed while Mr. Nina slumbers beside me. I’m totally addicted.

    I have many “keeper” print books on my shelf and I’m already looking at adding them to my kindle library so I can read them over and over. (But it bugs me when the digital version is the same price or more than the print version, so I’m prioritizing.)

    I will always put my books in print, because I do think many readers still enjoy holding a book in their hands. (And thanks for the shout out for my book. <3 )

  10. Lee says:

    I love books in both forms, for many of the reasons already listed above. One thing I do not like about e-books is that, even though I bought and paid for them, I can’t pass them on to someone else. (Yes, some do allow lending, but many do not.)

  11. Amber Foxx says:

    I like my Nook for many reasons. Lower prices on e-books. Easier to read at the table and lighter on the arthritic thumbs when lying in bed. Easier for traveling. It also has a note-taking function, which is great when I’m writing reviews, and a dictionary function–I can look up a word without getting out of bed or breaking the flow of reading. If the power goes out, I can turn on its glow-light and still read. (And I dislike dusting bookshelves. The fewer physical books, the less dust.)

    As a writer and happy Nook owner, I make sure my e-books are available everywhere, not just on Kindle. My books are out in paperback, but the e-books outsell them.

    I only buy paperbacks for reference books now, not fiction, but I have readers who only want paper, and a number of my college students have said they prefer paper books. If one of my classes requires a book that’s available as e-book or paperback, most students still buy the paperback even though it costs more.

    • Ah, yes, the arthritic thumbs…and fingers. My problem also. Interesting that your college students, who one would think would be all about digital, prefer paperbacks!

  12. Both. Though I will admit to a print bias for non-fiction. Particularly writing craft books. I need to be able to flip back and forth as I’m learning, and I find that easier with a print book. But, like you, the one-click buying feature has made me into a staunch e-book reader. I also appreciate being able to travel with many books all tucked away into my Kindle.

  13. Carlene Sidel says:

    I like both. I love browsing a bookstore and buying a book. I also like the convenience of being able to order a book via e-reader and having almost instantly. There is something about walking into a bookstore and seeing all the books that you can’t get anywhere else. My biggest problem with real books is probably the same one everyone has which is storage. There are some books I will not part with and at some point storage becomes a problem. However, with perserverence I find a spot for a book.

  14. Deb Romano says:

    I’ve had a Kindle for a few years now, and I still buy plenty of print books, and always will. I love the Kindle for vacations; it’s no longer necessary to lug around a heavy tote bag of books, in addition to luggage. I still also bring print books on vacation, and I leave room in my suitcase for any books I might decide to buy at my vacation destination. In recent years, it’s gotten more and more painful for me to hold books in my hands, thanks to arthritis and orthopedic issues. Unless the book is by one of my favorite authors and I want a signed copy, I choose Kindle books over hard cover books. I do NOT “love the feeling of a book in my hands”, and I never did. I never paid much attention to the outer trappings. For me, it has always been the content that matters, not the container! The Kindle is such a godsend for me!

    Deb Romano

  15. Clearly a post that hit home! My mystery series is both paper and electronic. Following my agent’s advice, the publisher lowered the e-book price a lot because that’s what cozy/adventure mystery readers were used to paying. With two formats authors have that choice.

  16. Julianne Spreng says:

    I thought I would love the Kindle. It did make a compact bundle of reading material compared to all the hard copy I like to carry. After trying it for about a year, I gave it up. Could never get the hang of finding books I’d started. It’s much harder to back track to reread a page. I found it took longer to read pages, because they had to load and there was less material on the screen to absorb at one time. I do miss the extra shorts and novellas that my favorite authors put out only in e-format. The killer was when I learned that even if I have paid money for an e-copy it’s not really mine. If there is a dispute with the publisher, author, copywrite, the material can just disappear from my reader. That does not happen with an old fashion paper book.

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