Print and Prejudice

For the last ten years, since the unveiling of the Kindle reader, there has been a constant conversation about reader’s preferences. Print or Ebook?

While ebook sales grew exponentially and paper sales stagnated many declared victory for the ebook. I have a number of friends who have not purchased a paper edition of a book for quite some time. Some libraries have removed all their books and gone completely digital. The end of print seemed inevitable.

Until now.

Last week a “Guardian” article asked the question “Have Ebooks Lost Their Shine?” It cites a statistic that in 2016 ebook sales in the UK dropped 17%. Another report declared that ebook sales in the United States dropped 20%.

Is it consumer fatigue?

Is it because the major publishers raised the prices of their ebooks after winning a court battle over who controlled the ebook price of their books?

Is it because too many books are being indie published and sell their ebooks for so little?

Are the statistics wrong because no one really knows how many ebooks Amazon sells via their Kindle Direct Program for Indie authors?

Is it because there hasn’t been a singular “phenomenon” bestselling title that drives all book sales?

Or could it be that no one really knows? Are we reacting according to our own preferences?

Prejudice for Print

I’ve read quite a few books using a combination of my Kindle and my iPad. But nowhere close to the number read in print. It’s at least a 50-1 ratio.

Why is that? I’ve begun to notice my own preferences (or prejudice in keeping with the title of the article).

I’ve yet to completely train my brain to read non-fiction digitally. I gave it the college try a number of times. I do like the ability to use my finger to highlight selected passages and then later access all of those in one document. I can see the extraordinary value in that. But I’m an old dog who can do a new trick but prefers napping on the couch.

Novels read easily in ebook form for me. But the other day I found myself unable to remember the title of the book or the author’s name while in the midst of the early chapters of the story. I couldn’t just turn my wrist and see the cover of the book. I would have to stop, click the upper corner, exit the story, and then remind myself of the book. That is a silly objection, I know, but it bugged me. So as a test I didn’t bother looking. Continued to read the story. Finished it. And as I’m writing this I am unable to tell you the name of the book or the author. The impermanence of the experience is a cloak over me, as the reader.

In addition, since it’s on my e-reader I cannot glance at a “bookshelf” to tell you what I read. I’ve tried to use categories to file the books I’ve read, but they then still clutter the virtual shelf since I sort them by “most recent” in order to keep the current book-in-progress at the top.

I’ve also found that my eyes feel like they are working harder when reading on a screen. Even the e-ink page of the Kindle for some reason creates some fatigue. This is counter to some research done a few years ago which declared that backlit reading on  screen is better for those with vision trouble. I guess I’m an “outlier.”

Call me old-fashioned, I’ll wear the badge without shame. I like turning pages. I like being able to see how much of the book is left to read while glancing at the clock to decide whether I should put it down and go to bed, or continue reading to the wee hours. I like writing in the margins of my books when reading non-fiction. The interaction has a tactile function and helps memory retention. I like having thousands of books on my shelves…to be able to run my hand across the spines when researching for the right book on the right topic. I like the thrill of unpacking a box with a new book in it or browsing the aisles at a favorite bookstore.

Prejudice for Ebooks

Before you think I’m completely stuck in the dark ages. I plan to keep my Kindle Oasis and my iPad charged and ready with hundreds of books loaded.

Traveling with eight or nine hardcover books is a bit challenging. Should I pack those extra socks or that new science fiction novel? Decisions, decisions.

I invested in a digital library of dozens of my favorite non-fiction books. I can access then any time, anywhere. They are slowly being highlighted so I can find the best passages in minutes. I’ve also collected my favorite science fiction and fantasy novels in case I want to binge read while traveling.

If you want a more comprehensive list of pros and cons, read Randall Payleitner’s excellent article “10 Years After the Kindle…What’s the Verdict on Ebooks?


It comes down to personal taste, preference, or prejudice. There is no right or wrong answer. What is rather amazing is that the ebook has become the fourth major “trim size” or “format” to choose from as a reader. Hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, and ebook. It is a wonderful thing to find what helps make your reading experience that much more joyful.

Your Turn

What is your preference and why?

In this calendar year how many print books vs. ebooks have you purchased? For yourself.




61 Responses to Print and Prejudice

  1. Avatar
    John de Sousa May 1, 2017 at 3:25 am #

    I love the feel, smell, and visual aspects of a printed book. But the ability to instantly download a digital book directly to my phone or computer is just exquisite. I’m torn!

  2. Avatar
    Ron Andrea May 1, 2017 at 3:51 am #

    I like both: tablets for the convenience of mass memory; print for easy of reference , especially to maps, glossaries, end notes, etc.

  3. Avatar
    Becky dePaulis May 1, 2017 at 4:33 am #

    Great analysis! I can especially relate to the impermanence aspect. I found myself doing clicking back for ages trying to refresh my memory on the timeline- I hadn’t realized I needed to pay close attention to the date heading until the second chapter… well, it took me ages clicking back and forth and I just ended up frustrated with the device. I’ll still pick a flesh and blood book over an e-reader every day except packing day:) Great title!

  4. Avatar
    Rebekah Dorris May 1, 2017 at 5:15 am #

    I’m with you. No contest.

    Perfect example is the Christian Writer’s Market. Last year I bought the ebook. While it was still a huge help, just navigating the many sections was a feat since I was new to it.

    This year I sprang for the print version. Oh, the difference! I can flip to a different section in seconds without trying to remember how to get to the Table of Contents…

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube May 1, 2017 at 2:05 pm #

      And now you can also subscribe to the online web version of the Market Guide where the information is updated all the time. ( Very different from the ebook because you can save your searches and thereby customize your account.

  5. Avatar
    Mike Henry Sr. May 1, 2017 at 5:24 am #

    I only purchase print books to give away and the only print books I have are ones I haven’t given away yet. I like being able to find my notes and highlights. I like having my whole library with me everywhere I go. I like being able to “find” what I’m looking for instead of looking for it. It takes some practice, but since I was never married to print media to begin with, it was easy for me to convert. I won’t be going back. I’ve even used an electronic Bible for years too. Mike…

  6. Avatar
    Christina Myerly May 1, 2017 at 5:24 am #

    If I have a choice, I always pick print. A couple of my favorite authors had novellas that were only offered via e-books so I went that route. I also receive free books in exchange for honest reviews on my blog–often those are e-books.

    I’ve bought three print books, and three e-books this year. I think I’ve downloaded more free e-books via Amazon, but I don’t know how many.

  7. Avatar
    Lancia Smith May 1, 2017 at 5:32 am #

    Print still wins hands-down for me. Like you, I appreciate the feature in a digital book of being able to highlight within the manuscript and I use that when I am doing research for a project or interview. But for both personal pleasure and for research, I still prefer print. Many of the books I use as reference are only published in print. My ratio of purchase this year has been 40-to-1 in favour of print books. I have purchased 100 books in the past year (roughly 2 a week) for myself and to give as gifts. It’s difficult to gift wrap an e-book and nothing replaces the beauty of the feel and smell of paper! And eye strain has grown to be a bigger issue with screen use, which in my case seems to be an occupational hazard!

    Thanks for this post and splendid title!

    • Avatar
      Nan Rinella May 3, 2017 at 10:52 am #

      Lancia, I couldn’t have said this better. Ditto

  8. Avatar
    Pegg Thomas May 1, 2017 at 5:39 am #

    I have become a hoarder of free ebooks. My tablet is full of them. I don’t read very many, but I hoard them anyway. And I’ve never been a hoarder in my life! I find this personally very troubling.

    I read paper books. Lots of them. I buy paper books. If my to-read pile of paper books runs out, I’ll turn to the ebooks, but that’s about it.

    Reading off a screen feels like work to me. Reading a paper book is relaxation.

    • Avatar
      Sandra Sammons May 1, 2017 at 6:56 am #

      I am the same way, glad to know I’m not alone! I guess its the lure of free ebooks or at least cheaper than print ones, but I have only read a few of the hundreds I have in my collection. Don’t exactly know why that is. I have been slowly returning back to reading more print as I work staring at screens all day so need a break. Ebooks great for traveling, don’t have to decide before you leave what you want to read.

      • Avatar
        Pegg Thomas May 1, 2017 at 7:00 am #

        Oh, good! I’d hate to be the lone ebook hoarder out there. I wonder how many millions of unread ebooks are lodged in readers around the globe. Makes me want to sell more paper books. I think it’s more likely that they’ll actually be READ by someone!

  9. Avatar
    Carla Laureano May 1, 2017 at 5:43 am #

    I was one of those readers who went to ebook after the Kindle released and have slowly moved back to print. My reading habits are probably now 80/20 in favor of print. One reason is that, just as you mentioned, I find I retain far less from reading an ebook. I wonder, though, if that might be a difference in learning styles: visual vs auditory vs kinesthetic.

    The bigger reason is that I mostly read at night, and after a long day staring at a computer screen, reading for pleasure on a backlit screen gives me a headache. Just too much blue light in a single day…

    However, the print preference tends to make me pickier about reading choices. I have limited storage space and only the very best books earn a permanent spot in the collection. Most get donated to the library, Salvation Army, or a shelter, or passed on to a friend. It could feel like a waste of money, but I try to think of it as a “two-fer”: I’m giving someone else the pleasure of reading a book rather than keeping it to myself.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube May 1, 2017 at 2:07 pm #

      Still a debate in intellectual property circles of who owns your ebooks after you die. Technically you license them when you buy them. You don’t “own” them. So if your amazon account is closed your books go away.

      You cannot bequeath your ebook library to the Salvation Army.

      • Avatar
        Rebekah Love Dorris May 1, 2017 at 7:01 pm #

        That’s an important point. The most valuable thing besides land that can be passed down is literature. Something about ebooks makes me squirm, especially when they water down people’s love of books in general. Nazi Germany was less than a century ago, and “upgrades” that wipe out rich libraries could be more feasible than book burnings.

        Ah, there goes my imagination again. I guess I read too much. 😀

    • Avatar
      Connie Almony May 1, 2017 at 2:45 pm #

      Try the black background with white fonts. Much less strain on the eyes and can read in dim light.

  10. Avatar
    Ruth Anne Blanchard May 1, 2017 at 6:03 am #

    The choice between ebook and paper reminds me of the introduction of the microwave. Most homes now have one. They serve their purpose. Add bells and whistles all you want, for most, they’ll never be an oven.
    I like e-readers for blogs and bedtime reading. I buy most books in both formats, because I like the option. I prefer highlighting on paper and often write in book margins. I don’t much care for ebook highlighting.
    My greatest negative with regards to an e-reader is that I stare at some form of electronic screen almost all day. Enough. Please hand me a paper book.
    Great post.

    • Avatar
      Becky DePaulis May 1, 2017 at 8:06 am #

      I LOVE the microwave analogy. Sure you can make chicken nuggets in the microwave, but they sure don’t taste quick the same as crispy hot right out of the old oven.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube May 1, 2017 at 2:32 pm #

      Ruth Anne,

      The microwave analogy is perfect.

      I can still make popcorn in the microwave…but it isn’t the same as what I can get from the hot air popper. Or the old style when growing up of shaking the kernels over the hot stove in a metal box. Like this one I found online:


  11. Avatar
    Dan Story May 1, 2017 at 6:14 am #

    I wear the same badge, Steve. And don’t overlook the smell! There us nothing like the smell of a book–especially used books from used book stores. Sadly, they are a vanishing breed. But that’s a topic for another of your blogs.

  12. Avatar
    Connie Almony May 1, 2017 at 6:20 am #

    I have been aghast at articles citing the decline of ereaders which did not mention that many were choosing to read on their phones and tablets rather than a dedicated device. Then they mention the decline of ebooks based on figures gleaned from Book Scan or the big publishers only, without regard to the number of ebooks sold by small and independent publishers and the like. Many of these books do not show up on Book Scan figures for a number of reasons, and the big publishers are certainly not going to talk about them. There is also NO mention of the number of books read via borrow services like Kindle Unlimited. No, these are not sales, but they are paying readers none-the-less. These articles are absolutely unhelpful in assisting us to understand what the reading population is actually doing.
    Thank you for recognizing the truth that there are other factors at play. The reality is that right now we really don’t know the answer and because the industry has been trained to use certain figures, it acts as though these figures are still relevant—they are not.
    The article cited above begins with all you cannot do with an ebook that you MUST do with a paperback. Let me give you the reverse: You cannot carry hundreds of books with you wherever you go inside your phone/tablet. You cannot change the size of the font (you have to find your glasses instead). You cannot change the background to black with white font (for those of you complaining about eyestrain, this feature is awesome and can be used for night reading). You cannot do a digital search for a word or passage throughout the entire book. You cannot flip through the covers or titles of your entire library to find a book while telling your friend about it on the go. You cannot buy the next book in a series on the fly or in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep. Here’s my video about this
    Now, I must mention, I am a mostly fiction reader. I LOVE reading fiction on my ereader and ONLY read paperback novels when they are given to me. However, my non-fiction reading is done largely with paperback. I like to underline and write notes on the actual page. I’d guess that is true for many.
    However, if the industry is deciding what to do next and they are completely ignoring the avid novel reader who goes through up to three books a week and often uses services like Kindle Unlimited, I think that is a bad idea! They may choose not to target these readers, but I think it’s uninformed to write and speak as though they don’t exist.

    • Avatar
      Carol Ashby May 1, 2017 at 9:06 am #

      Your first point is well-taken, Connie. I have a relatively new 14-hour-battery Kindle e-reader, but I do most of my ebook reading on a 7″ Kindle Fire. It’s about the same size and weight, and I can upload my own novel’s latest draft version as a PDF and take it with me everywhere so I can edit it in my spare moments. Plus I can read the latest posts and comments at B&S from almost anywhere if I turn my phone into a wifi hotspot.

    • Avatar
      Shoba Sadler May 1, 2017 at 8:57 pm #

      Brilliant comment, Connie. I fully agree. I admit my only leaning toward print is because I come from that age group where I can remember a time where print was the only option. Old habits are hard to break. That’s all it is really. If I were to honestly evaluate which of the two makes more sense to read and store and access and even for comfort and ease, I’d pick an e-book anytime. A lot of the reasons given by most people in support of print rests mainly on nostalgia and sentimental factors. Not from a practical point of view.

    • Avatar
      Shoba Sadler May 1, 2017 at 9:01 pm #

      I also like being able to access the dictionary right on my reader without having to turn to another book for that.

  13. Avatar
    Brennan S. McPherson May 1, 2017 at 6:57 am #

    I have an e-reader and never use it. I’m 25 years old, and I WAY prefer physical books, as do most people that I know who are my age. Consequently, I’ve also done some marketing of my fiction on YouTube to a younger demographic (teens and twenty-somethings), and sold about 5x more physical copies than digital copies to that demographic. It’s not exactly science, but that seems to indicate a preference for physical in my age bracket. If anyone has stronger data, I’d love to see it!

    However. . . e-book sales haven’t declined. Sales of major publishers’ ebooks have declined for the reason stated above (price hikes and change in marketing tactics), but when you include indy authors (who sell ebooks at an average price of $2.92) the view does change, especially seeing that indy author e-book sales are roughly 40% of the e-market by unit sales. E-book sales seem to have reached a rough equilibrium with print sales, and are about 42% of the market by unit sales. And according to Author Earnings’ latest report, we do know roughly how many pages are being read by Kindle Unlimited readers: 40 billion pages per year–resulting in about $180 million in royalties being paid to authors every year. That’s absolutely insane. If we assume an average of 300 pages per book, that’s 133 million books read through KU. (If I did the math wrong, please correct me!)

    If anyone has any better data (or if I did the math wrong), please share or correct me, but it seems there’s no doubt that neither print books nor e-books are fading fads, and that people’s “prejudices” have settled out (some in the e-book camp, some in the physical book camp).

    Thankfully independent bookstores seem to be resurging in the wake of larger bookstore chains declaring bankruptcy. Hopefully we can see a healthy physical retail industry deepen its roots after all the disruption e-books caused the market.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube May 1, 2017 at 2:11 pm #


      As for your math? First you have to assume that everything in the Author Earnings report if 100% accurate.

      It might be since some smart people are extrapolating the data. But it is not an Amazon sponsored report. It is programmers making assumptions based on a variety of data (authors reporting their sales, the amazon ranking system, etc.)

      So always be careful to use a disclaimer in your own mind when reading their conclusions. But since I’m not as smart as the Author Earnings creators it may be that their data is 100% accurate.

      • Avatar
        Brennan S. McPherson May 1, 2017 at 4:16 pm #

        No statistical extrapolation is ever 100% accurate. But they’re accurate enough for corporations to make billion dollar decisions off of. And Author Earning’s math might very well be off, but until Amazon and the other retailers release all their sales data, we can’t even come close to speculating consumer behavior without at least trying to include the sales of non-ISBN books. Otherwise it’s guaranteed to be leaving out a large portion of the actual market. And that’s much worse math.

        Anyways, back to print books. Forgot to say the reasons I love them. The smell, the feel, the weight, the screen-less experience, the artistic value of a physical book, the personal satisfaction received after flipping a page, the list goes on! I totally agree e-books are nice while on trips, but I had to laugh at the “socks or books” conundrum. 🙂 Way too relatable.

        Thanks for another great thoughtful–and thought-provoking–post! Blessings!

  14. Avatar
    JPC Allen May 1, 2017 at 6:57 am #

    My biggest objection to e-readers and even searching on the internet is that it is difficult to browse. Every action is deliberate. It’s almost impossible to “trip” over something unexpected.

  15. Avatar
    Daphne Woodall May 1, 2017 at 7:00 am #

    I’m with you Steve I love printed books. It’s similar to my coffee addiction. I love the smell of a book, the way it feels in my hands and the texture of the pages.

    I’m also a visual person. It may be my art background but covers are priority in my selection. If the cover doesn’t appeal many times I won’t look further.

    The most used ebook I have is the bible. I buy far more books than ebooks. After some eye procedures I find the best way to read an ebook is white type on a black background.

    I’m curious. What non-fiction books you are currently reading?

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube May 1, 2017 at 2:22 pm #


      What non-fiction am I reading? Hard to nail down because I teach for an hour each week at our church. We’ve been going through the Bible chronologically for 10 years. Spent the last 3 1/2 in the gospels and are now in the sections of the Resurrection appearances. As part of that I’m reading over 100 pages of material from a dozen sources each week in preparation.

      Also doing some prelimary reading on Acts since we will start on that journey in about a month.

      Other than that:
      “The Benedict Option” by Ron Dreher
      “Deep Work” by Cal Newport
      mid-way through a book on Athanasius (can’t remember the title!)
      “The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ” by Arthur Michael Ramsey
      Also for devotional reading I am dipping into two books:
      “Parallel Classic Commentary on the Psalms” (combined the words of Spurgeon, Calvin, and Henry in one volume)
      “New Morning Mercies” by Paul Tripp

  16. Avatar
    Bruce Blizard May 1, 2017 at 7:54 am #

    Content matters much more than the particular technology used to access content. And books are content. E-readers and paper are just delivery systems. Choose the delivery system that works best for you and read. Reading is the point.

    I appreciate the aesthetic arguments in favor of physical books, but I also recognize that, the price, availability, and portability of ebooks is also attractive.

    And I wonder if a similar debate occurred in the 15th Century. Did readers lament the loss of the feel and smell of expensive, hard-to-come-by illustrated manuscripts in favor of the new print technology?

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube May 1, 2017 at 2:26 pm #

      Well said.

      Except in the 15th century illiteracy was rampant. Only a small number could read. And books were very expensive…even after the printing press was invented. This kept books out of the hands of the majority. After time that began to change of course, but it took awhile.

      This the disruption comparisons tend to be hard to be truly parallel.

      It is the same if one tries to compare the digital disruption of the music business. Someone is willing to buy one song off of an album. But it is the rare reader who is willing to buy one chapter out of a book. It’s a different medium. There are echoes in the disruption but it isn’t the same.

  17. Avatar
    Ann L. Coker May 1, 2017 at 7:54 am #

    You stated well my personal prejudices. While I have and use “Kindle on my PC,” I have far more books on my shelves and table tops in various stages of reading. And now with a move in the future, it’s a hard decision which books to pack and keep.

  18. Avatar
    sherri stewart May 1, 2017 at 8:22 am #

    I agree with everything you said with regard to fiction. I read an average of 4-5 novels at a time the authors want reviews. The advantages: Kindle opens to the page where I left off. Kindle orders them by most recently read, and Kindle is good for travel (no big books to lug around), but I also forget the titles and the covers of the books I’m reading. Also, I read e-books on my phone, and they wear the battery out. Third, I forget more quickly than I do with a physical book. But I also have trouble with non-fiction. Have you every tried to read a recipe book in e-book form? It’s hard because it’s not all on the same page and you have to refresh all the time.
    Final thoughts–E-books are convenient but there’s imagery lost in a device–the texture, the smell, the weight.

  19. Avatar
    Carol Ashby May 1, 2017 at 8:24 am #

    Steve, I don’t have the figures for this year, but I do have 2016 because I needed some of the numbers for income-tax purposes. I think my purchasing pattern for this year is similar.

    Print Books: 114 with 85% nonfiction mostly related to history, writing craft, or the business of being an author (Many were older publications bought used through Amazon for research for my Roman history author website. That many new would be budget-breaking.) About 15% were paperback novels bought mostly at the local Christian bookstore.

    Ebook: 61 with 40% nonfiction in theology/devotionals, history, writing craft, and business. The remaining 60% were novels.

    So I’m about 2:1 print to ebook, but that depends on the topic.

    My novel sales as an indie are 85-90% ebook with the ebook fraction increasing as I’m getting more international sales. The ratio is not surprising with the print version being $14.99 and the ebook only $2.99. I balk at paying almost as much for an ebook as for the “real thing,” like some publishers are now charging.

  20. Avatar
    Shannon Redmon May 1, 2017 at 8:47 am #

    I’ve always considered myself tech-savvy, but lately, after a long day at the office staring at the computer screen, my eyes just can’t take it anymore.

    This week, I ordered two books, both in print, instead of digital. Can’t wait till they get here!

  21. Avatar
    rochellino May 1, 2017 at 8:48 am #

    Good point Bruce. The stone tablet loyalists had hardly gotten over the papyrus interlopers when that upstart Gutenberg turned the illustrated manuscript industry upside down.

    Blinding change happening at the speed of light.

    (speaking of which this song is a study of words and phrases used metaphorically much like the manner of the impressionist painters to more intimately relate directly to the recipient of the creative work, a very useful technique for skilled fiction writers) Manfred Mann singing lyrics like “Go kart, Mozart” really evoke something.

    I do not own a kindle or any other electronic reading device. I buy only print editions.

    What are they going to try next, something that will read the book out loud for you?

  22. Avatar
    Janet Ann Collins May 1, 2017 at 9:02 am #

    I have lots of e-books on my Kindle that I’ve never read. I MUCH prefer hard copies and usually read five or six middle grade and Young Adult books every week and one or two books for grown-ups 😉 every month, most of which I get from the library. I recently cleaned out hundreds of hard copy books from my own shelves and still have well over a thousand left. I only use my Kindle when I’m away from home because it’s difficult to pack and carry hard copies.

  23. Avatar
    Edward Lane May 1, 2017 at 10:13 am #


    I prefer print also. I think it was the movie “planet of the apes” in which print books no longer existed. A hologram communicated with people. It appears that day is actually approaching and it scares me!!

  24. Avatar
    Effie-Alean Gross May 1, 2017 at 10:21 am #

    Happy May Day (or SOS)! Your article today really struck a chord with my own thinking. I love holding a book, smelling the paper and ink, and hearing the pages turn. I’m not saying that I couldn’t change…but this is where I am today.
    It’s so good to know that a literary agent loves (real) books!

  25. Avatar
    Ginny Jaques May 1, 2017 at 10:32 am #

    I tend to collect a lot of books on my Kindle but I end up reading only hard copy books. It’s easy to collect free or cheap e-books so I end up with a clutter of fast reads, most of which I want to delete at some point because they’re not worth keeping. If I really want a book I check it out at the library or buy it in hard copy. So if someone out there in cyberspace is keeping track of my “reading: habits, they would only be seeing my buying habits.

  26. Avatar
    Renee Garrick May 1, 2017 at 11:07 am #

    The vast majority of my work in providing freelance writing services involves screen time. With that, I avoid using a screen for my much-yearned-for reading time before bed each evening. Besides, I like turning the pages.

  27. Avatar
    Camille Kendall May 1, 2017 at 11:31 am #

    Print, hands down, for many of the same reasons given by print-lovers above, and because…

    Among members of my immediate family, books are a form of conversation. I write notes in the margin as I read a book, then pass the book along to my son or daughter to read. They add their own thoughts, questions, observations, then pass the book to someone else. When I read or reread a book, I engage not only with the author, but with others who have read the book, too. Favorite titles – by C. S. Lewis, Chesterton, etc. – have evolved into precious, decades-long family conversations.

  28. Avatar
    Jennifer Deibel May 1, 2017 at 12:42 pm #

    I definitely prefer paper books. The feel, the smell…all the things you outlined in this article. But another reason is, if I’m reading a book, I want my kids to SEEme reading a book. If I’m reading on my kindle app on my phone, for all they know I’m
    scrolling FB or something.

    • Avatar
      ARHuelsenbeck May 1, 2017 at 1:23 pm #

      I recently read an article written by a mother who had refused to let her child read ebooks. He was a reluctant reader, and she tried to encourage him to have the experience she had reading as a child. When she gave up and allowed him a Kindle, he read voraciously.
      Guess what–the mom never reads paper books. She only reads ebooks.
      You do have to model what you want your kids to copy, but if you mention you’re reading when you’re on your phone, they’ll catch on.

    • Avatar
      Hannah Currie May 1, 2017 at 1:23 pm #

      Yes!! Totally agree with everything you just said 🙂

  29. Avatar
    Angela Breidenbach May 1, 2017 at 1:17 pm #

    A fascinating tidbit: At all my signings in the last few years, including one last week, the vast majority or readers are reading on ebooks. At the last signing, the ratio was 3 out of 5. They walked away ordering it on Kindle when the paperback was right there. Still stuns me that the book is right in front of them. It knocks out the theory of convenience. I figured if the book was right there, the convenience of access would win. Nope. A few bought paper. Most bought Kindle.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube May 1, 2017 at 3:54 pm #


      Question. If they are coming to a signing event how are they buying the Kindle version at that event? Do you have a card or something that you provide to the fan of your work?

      I suspect many would benefit from your experience.


  30. Avatar
    ARHuelsenbeck May 1, 2017 at 1:19 pm #

    I love both.
    I love that when I travel, I can carry hundreds of books with me on my Kindle, and they weigh only ounces and take up almost no space in my carry-on. I love that I can read while I’m eating and turn the page with a button. I buy most of my ebooks on sale for $3 or less. I’ve bought brand-new releases for half the price of the hardcover (or less).
    But it’s hard to leaf through an ebook. Some books are way more practical on paper. And I usually spring for the hardcover edition of my favorite authors’ series. Yes, there’s nothing like the weft of a beloved book.

  31. Avatar
    Rebecca Barlow Jordan May 1, 2017 at 1:43 pm #

    Great article, Steve. I feel pretty much the same as you. I also “hoard” 50 or more (free) e-books (mostly fiction) on my I-pad, which I occasionally read on the airplane. But I rarely read them unless I am traveling. And even then, I’ll hunt for a pocket in my suitcase to take a print book with me. I usually read 1-2 print fiction books a week. They are lighter-weight, and I love the old-fashioned feel of the book in my hands that I’ve known for so many years. I like flipping back and forth to catch something I missed, or to check on a character’s previous actions. In some suspense or thrillers, I like re-checking “clues” or facts important to the plot that I may have grazed over.

  32. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D May 1, 2017 at 3:30 pm #

    Hi Steve:
    I love to hold a book in my hands and savor the experience. After teaching online most of the day, the last thing I want to see is another computer screen, no matter how big or small. I buy a lot of books. Some people collect stamps or tea cups, I collect books (and I read them). When in packing doubt, pack the book! You can always buy new underwear (or whatever) when you arrive at your destination.

  33. Avatar
    Peggy Booher May 1, 2017 at 3:49 pm #

    I have only print books, hardbacks and paperbacks. I am happy with that. So far this year I’ve probably bought around 40, nearly all used. I buy from local libraries, Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul and online from Barnes & Noble’s network of independent bookstores.

    I like print books for the reasons you gave in your post. I also like knowing that I don’t have to buy any batteries, learn how to use any device, or be concerned in case I drop the thing.

  34. Avatar
    Bonnie Engstrom May 1, 2017 at 4:14 pm #

    Interesting article, but I have a different take on it. I bought my first and only Kindle (the basic one) when my first book was e-published, and the print version wasn’t available yet. I wanted to see what the book looked like and how it read on Kindle. Since then (several years ago), I read exclusively on Kindle, mostly because of my compromised vision and the fact I can enlarge the text. Such a godsend!

    At first, I too, was frustrated by not being able to flip back through pages, then I learned to simply touch the bottom left of the screen quickly. Simple.

    In response to Peggy, no batteries needed. Simply plug it in like you do with your IPhone. Since I read in the evening, I plug my Kindle in every several nights before I go to bed. Simple.

    Another hoorah for Kindle: I recently judged a contest; so, because of my affection for Kindle reading, and my eyesight, I chose to download all the book entries on my Kindle. That worked fine until the last one that was not available in eBook form. I had to read that book in print. So, I bought the strongest pair of OTC reader glasses and held the book at arms’ length. Frustrating.

    Obviously, I vote for Kindle books. Actually, my books sell much better as eBooks. Especially to readers from foreign countries, mostly Asia. Can you imagine shipping a single book to someone in Japan?


  35. Avatar
    Glenda May 1, 2017 at 6:21 pm #

    My book buying ration: 10 paper books to one e-book.

    The friend-ish feel of a three-dimensional tome versus
    the somewhat off-standish-ness of Mr. Flat Screen.

    Popping corn on the stove? Yes, please! Orville Redenbacher
    all the way. 🙂

    After I finish morningshine, a novel by Karen Saari.

    PS The Benedict Option sounds intriguing. Was it highlighted in Christianity Today, recently?

  36. Avatar
    V. Colclasure May 1, 2017 at 6:25 pm #

    I prefer print. I like leaving a book on my desk with a marker in it, opening it, reading some, closing it, doing other things, and then going back to the book without all the “do things” before finding the right spot in a kindle book. I also like to write in books. — just my thing.

  37. Avatar
    Diana Holvik May 2, 2017 at 9:33 am #

    I like both. If i had the space to store all my books in print, I would prefer that format [and I’d like to be able to afford someone to dust them all once a week. :)] Since I don’t have the space ebooks win over print for me. Except, as you say, with non-fiction. I like to underline, highlight and make notes in my non-fiction books.

    One thing I miss in the ebooks is being able to see the cover in colour and a decent size. I am very visual, and covers matter to me. When I pick up a book to read I like to look at the cover for a minute. It’s part of the experience, especially with fiction.

    And as so many of you have said, I like being able to flip back to previous pages, glossaries, maps, etc. If there is an important part of a book, even in a fiction book, I like to put a little sticky flag on that page.

    So, yeah, print is nicer, but ebooks have their place. especially when I travel. I hear all this a lot. I don’t think print books will go the way of the dodo and eight track tapes. 🙂 I think they will stay around for a good while. And that is a good thing in my world.

  38. Avatar
    Diana Holvik May 2, 2017 at 9:51 am #

    I have another thought. I have been reading the comments about the sales numbers of ebooks vs print. I have no idea of these numbers myself and cannot say if these numbers are accurate or not, but i will say this.

    I will often buy an ebook that is being offered for free or 99 cents, or even 1.99, and maybe never read it, or only read the first chapter, or half the book, before deciding, pfft, you get what you pay for. I have a lot of unread, or half-read books on my ereader. Paying the money and having them does not equate with their being good reads. I’m likely not the only one doing this.

    Just saying.

  39. Avatar
    Angela Carlisle May 6, 2017 at 10:49 pm #

    In this calendar year, I’ve purchased around twenty-five print books (specifically for myself) and zero e-books. The latter is due to the fact that my Kindle spazzed out a couple years ago, and I didn’t care enough about it to fix or replace it. It’s still sitting in a drawer somewhere.

    That said, I obviously prefer print books. In a world where so much is done online, I like my books (even novels) to feel real. I find it hard to spend money on something I can’t hold in my hand, and shelves of books are much more satisfying to look at than a half-inch thick device, no matter how much information that device contains.
    Print books are easy to show and lend out to friends and usually inexpensive to replace if someone forgets to return them.
    Storyline inconsistencies catch my eye as well, and when “Sue” has never heard of “Frank” on page 100, but she talked about him on page 10, I find myself flipping backwards to confirm whether the author is delusional or I am (or maybe “Sue” is, who knows?). It’s a lot easier to find what I’m looking for in a print book.
    As far as travelling goes, I pack light anyway, so there’s plenty of room for books. Coming back from a conference last month, my suitcase was ten pounds heavier than when I’d left home (primarily book and paper weight), but I was still well under the limit. No worries!

    One final note, and perhaps the best of all? You don’t have to recharge a paperback!


  1. Wiing Links 5/8/17 – Where Genres Collide - May 8, 2017

    […] How do you prefer to read? […]

  2. May 2017 Around the Web | - May 30, 2017

    […] What do you think about ebooks vs. print? What are your preferences in methods of reading? Steve Laube discusses this issue on the agency blog. […]

Leave a Reply

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

Get New Posts by Email

Get New Posts by Email

Each article is packed with helpful info and encouragement for writers. You can unsubscribe at any time with one click. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!