Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ebooks versus Print Books

I was surfing the internet the other day and happened upon a video by Margaret Atwood, a brilliant writer whose work I adore, who was talking about ebooks versus print books. After watching it, I realized it truly merited a discussion. Why do people still buy paper books? Do you know that 80 % of the reading public ONLY reads paper books? Another fascinating fact is that most owners of ereaders still read paper books, too!

So what is the lure of the paper book? What are the benefits of electronic? Let's list them and compare:

Print versus Electronic: Convenience
Sorry, but ebooks win this one. It's so much more convenient to sit at home in your pj's and order books to your heart's content and get them immediately. No need to climb in your car and go to the local bookstore or wait for them to be delivered. Right here, right now, you can read it.
Round one goes to: Ebooks

Print versus Electronic: The sensual aspect
Holding a Kindle or another ereader just isn't like holding a paper book, smelling that fresh binding-and-paper (or old binding-and-paper) smell. You won't enjoy the cover art as much either, glancing at it only when you first purchase it and open the ebook, then probably never seeing it again.
Round two goes to: Paper books

Print versus Electronic: Portability
Watch out, your ereader is so heavy it might just...wait a second! You can have twenty books on that sucker and never feel the difference as you carry it around! Try doing that with twenty paper books, even if they're slim little tomes. Still pretty heavy. And they take up so much space! Most people find themselves chucking books whenever they move, not wanting to have to box them all up and haul them along. 
Round three goes to: Ebooks

Print versus Electronic: Cost
Ebooks are usually cheaper than print books. Now, they shouldn't be pennies or a few bucks because the cost of paper and shipping are only a percentage of the costs that go into making a book, paper or
not. Those other expenses are the writer's royalty, the many editors needed to get the book reader-ready, the cover designer and any cover art/photo, the book designer for the interior, and the necessary marketing that helped you find the book in first place. Still, those paper and shipping cost savings translate into cheaper ebooks and that's a great thing. 
Round four goes to: Ebooks

Print versus Electronic: The reading experience
One fascinating factoid I've heard many times recently is that people who have been reading ebooks for a while report having a harder time remembering what they've read, and thereby are less impacted by a great book as well as less likely to tell a friend about it. That's too bad because, as anyone who has friends who read can attest, sharing and discussing books is a joyful and addictive pleasure and one I would not want to see effected by my choice in format. Sorry, ebooks, but that is a problem... 
Round five goes to: Physical books

Print versus Electronic: The shopping experience
This one's a bit more complicated. On one hand, shopping for ebooks is a click of a button and in today's hectic world, that can be a blessing and sometimes even why you had the time to get the book in the first place. On the other hand, there's nothing like browsing in a paper bookstore and serendipity leading you hither and yon as you find yourself collecting far more books than you intended to buy, feeling deliriously happy and a tiny bit high. Okay, did I just give away the fact that I'm a bookstore addict?
Round six: A Tie

Apparently, ebooks come out a little ahead, just winning this match. I know I'm still a paper-book lover, but who knows how long I'll last before I'm seduced by an ereader and all its lovely modern conveniences? What about you? Are you all about ebooks or do you hold fast to your paper books? Here's that video with Margaret Atwood, in case you're interested:


  1. It's paper books for me all the way. Kindle/Ereaders, aren't readily available in India and after staring at a computer screen all day long, I prefer to snuggle with a good old paperback. Aah, the smell of print,, the lovely feel of turning the pages, I do need my print copies. And I love going to a book store, or else can even buy online and it gets delivered (well not instantly) but in a few days.
    In fact, I don't read ebooks at all. I tried reading one or two, but never again.
    I know it means we are cutting down trees, but I am hoping it is recycled paper that is being used for books.

    1. Me too, Lubna! So true - there is something so inherently pleasurable about a paper book: the heft of it in your hands, the soft pages, the silky cover, the scent of the binding...
      Ah, heaven!!! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!