Print/Digital, Part the Whatevereth

My experience with my own kid is in line with Joe’s. Athena can and does read on a screen quite frequently — she’s a fan of Wattpad and reads lots of stuff there — but at the same time she loves having print books and visiting the book store to get more of the same. She would better describe her own relationship with print and digital, but I suspect an either/or mentality about it would be puzzling to her. It would be asking her whatever her favorite soda is better in a bottle or a can. It’s still her favorite soda regardless of packaging.

My own current relationship with print and digital is primarily a question of functionality and circumstance. I find myself buying a lot of print books because I like the physicality of books and because I make it a point to support my local bookstore. When I give books as gifts, I tend give them as physical things, because the physicality of the gift matters to me in an ineffable way. But I also buy digital copies of many books I already own, because it’s easier than dragging the physical book out of storage, and I also buy digital books for travel because of space and weight considerations (and given how much I travel, this is not a trivial thing). Like my kid, I am adept enough in the digital world that reading a novel there doesn’t strike me as a notable difference. Again, it’s a can or bottle thing.

What I find myself really on board with the digital medium for is not books but magazines and comics. At the peak of my magazine subscribing career I subscribed to about fifteen magazines a month, and the pile of used magazines was, frankly, insane. Now I subscribe to Next Issue and it’s pretty much a joy to zip through a dozen magazines on my Nexus 10 and not worry about dropping the issues into the recycling bin afterward. I feel the same way about comics and graphic novels — I read more episodic graphic storytelling now than I ever did before because Comixology makes it easy for me to find what I want to read and not have to worry about the clutter afterward. I obviously don’t have the collector mindset, here.

I don’t find digital has had any effect on how many books I buy — I was going to buy tons in any event — but it has had an impact on how many magazines and comics I buy (aside from my Next Issue subscription I also subscribe digitally to other magazines). So to that extent the digital world both increases the amount I read and increases the amount I spend (and send to creators), and that’s only a positive thing, I think.

98 thoughts on “Print/Digital, Part the Whatevereth

  1. Exactly. I have a Galaxy Tab3 which I use as an e-reader (it is great, btw), but I also read real books and buy them. I don’t see e-readers as destroying the market for print books for a long time yet. I try to select books for my classes (college) that are available as ebooks for students who want that. I don’t get many takers. I’m 58, by the way – in case that datum matters…

  2. I definitely enjoy reading on my Kindle more than I enjoy reading a paper book. I have 2 hours of commute each day on a train, so I read quite a bit. For me, reading comfortably with a book requires both hands, and I like to drink my coffee on the train in the morning. Plus, by Kindle fits easily into my lunch pail, which can not be said of many paper books, especially hardbacks.

    I do see the draw of a physical copy for others, even though I don’t appreciate it myself, so I don’t see paper books ever going away entirely. The book landscape will continually change until there is a sort of equilibrium between digital and paper books.

    And even though I think traditional publishers aren’t fully exploiting the potential of the digital market in order to protect paper books, I think they are doing a much better job of it than the music industry did. And as long as they make ebooks a priority, there will continue to be a place for them.

  3. Ereaders are close to the only way I read books because I can carry them at work and read sneakily. It’s hard to be inconspicuous with a fat tome hardback.
    But I do wish for more physical books. What I’d like to see in the future is the digital copy thing they started doing with DVD’s. I bought the damned book–give me the print and ebook both. Why do I have to choose one medium and stick to it?

  4. I have the same mindset — magazines and comics digital (mostly, because I do want to support my local comic shop), and books are physical (mostly — I do have some digital, particularly huge volumes, like “The Complete Works of ….”). I was an avid comic collector for decades, but eventually found myself physically unable to move hundreds of pounds of comics. I’m 51, and in good shape, but hundreds of longboxes take their toll, and I dislike asking (or paying) for help. When tablets emerged, I sold all my comics and shifted to digital.

  5. My son makes a ton of use out of his iPod and cell, but he reads physical books for the most part. On the other hand, we haven’t given him an iPad or similar tablet yet.

    I enjoy physical books but find ebooks much more convenient: dictionary at a touch of the word, backlit screen, reversible font colors (for reading in bed late at night). And you can stuff a gazillion of them on a device the size of a medium sized mirror.

    With eyes on the decline at 55, backlit screen and adjustable font size is big.

    Comics and magazines are pretty cool on the iPad, though I do miss having it all there without having to navigate the screen. Maybe ePaper will solve that someday.

  6. I feel like physical books are becoming a luxury item. They cost more, require more storage space, more effort to transport, etc. All of these characteristics are constraints that make physical books less optimal for someone with limited means; ebooks are becoming the commodity item due to the circumstance of a bad economy, high unemployment, etc, etc. Even the single strongest arguments in favor of physical books – the tactile experience, and the giftability – are things that someone more affluent will value and someone who is struggling financially will not prioritize.

    I don’t think we are at the stage yet where the ebook is the default for the proles and the physical book becomes the province of the Eloi. But as society barrels in that direction, it is taking the print-vs-digital argument along for the ride.

  7. I used to be a “physical books, rah rah!” guy, until I moved out of my apartment and found my new, spacious office immediately filled up completely with books. Like, on Day One. No room left for more books.

    eBooks are simply easier and more convenient. That’s impossible to overcome. I don’t think eBooks will replace physical books completely, at least not for a loooooong time. But they certainly have for me.

  8. Digital all the way, so convenient and my house doesn’t fill up with books anymore. When I get a paper book I buy the digital version if available and donate the paper one. I love the aesthetic feel of holding a Kindle or iPad and reading….

  9. I like the physicality of books too, but I like having all my books RIGHT THERE a lot more. An entire library of books with me while I’m travelling? Yes, thank you! Last time we moved a primary consideration of whether or not I gave a book away was whether or not I had an ebook version of it.

    My wife prefers ebooks over everything else. She reads them more than I do.

  10. I agree with most of the posters here. I have a huge collection of real books and no more room in my house, so for me digital books are ideal. I haven’t bought a real paper back in about 3 years and only a couple of hardcovers. I have bought about a 100 or so digital books a year. I love the real books but I simply have no more room for them.

  11. Funny, I never thought that the best arguments for physical books included the tactile experience. Or maybe that’s just me arguing semantics, because the benefits I think still make physical books relevant have to do with their tactile capabilities. I guess the distinction I’d draw is that “tactile experience” sounds to me like how a person senses a book (heft, smell, etc.), but tactile capabilities sounds to me like what a person can do with a book. And there are a great many things you can do more conveniently with a physical book than an e-book. Flip through it on the fly to find something that wasn’t specifically bookmarked. Look at several pages, several hundred pages apart, at the same time, write margin notes, and so on like that. All of these things are possible with e-books in one way or another, but seem to me far more easy or convenient to do with a physical book.

    And that idea informs in many ways what helps me decide when I’m getting a physical book and when I’m getting a digital one. I get physical books when I have a pretty good idea that I’ll want to read them more than once, because books that I want to read more than once are books that get flipped through randomly and marked up and all. But books that I only intend to read once don’t get that, so digital is perfect. It’s not a perfect system. I buy physical books I end up not wanting to read again, and I buy digital books I want to flip through endlessly. But I do my best, and it works a fair amount of the time

  12. The biggest commodity I spend on books is time. Money and bookshelf space are secondary, but convenient tools for keeping my collection in check.

    I’d add some other tactile capabilities to GarrettC: the ease of making a stack of books to think about reading next, the ease of loaning somebody a book, the ease of flipping around to appendixes or maps or the table of contents, and being able to judge how much more is left by just looking at the stack of pages.

    I also appreciate being able to access a book without having to rely on any kind of software.

  13. I could not agree more about Comixology. I love it, and it saves on shelf space. And I use Zinio for magazines, because my library has it set up so I can “check out” digital magazines for a period of time. It’s great!

  14. I should have included this in my last comment, but I also want to add that I think, as opposed to the difference between CDs and mp3s, physical and digital books are not just a different format, but actually a different artistic medium, and I hope that artists embrace the difference one day. There are things you can do as an artist with a physical book that you can’t do with a digital one. Pop-up panels are one simple example. This is most obviously relevant with kids books (where tactile interaction is actually critical in cognitive development). You can’t have a Hungry Caterpillar on a Kindle. Or, at least, it will be fundamentally different.

    This is not a criticism of digital. It’s not worse. It’s different. While that means it’s worse for some things, it’s also better for other things. I look forward to the day when serious artists use these things for animations, sound, or other digital-friendly things to augment, inform, or otherwise improve their writing in the medium. Just imagine if eye-tracking technology gets good, we can have words and paragraphs morph on the page just as we begin to read them. When you read a character getting amnesia (okay, terrible example), all the words prior to that moment can disappear, only to reappear, with slight alterations and inaccuracies, later in the book when you read that his or her memory returns. These ideas are preliminary, and probably not very good, but they’re exciting to me. When the technology gets to a point where, artistically, it can support digital as an entirely different, if similar medium, art is going to be a lot of fun.

  15. Years ago, my partner implemented the “Book Buying Abatement Program” because our entire basement had been taken over by books. Ebooks have allowed me to resume buying books; now, if I read a book more than 3 times, I’m allowed to purchase a hardcopy. I probably buy more books now than ever, but very few of them are in paper.

    I’ve also become very fond of checking out ebooks from the library, because the return themselves. No fines if I’m housebound for a while, the cats can’t rip them apart, et cetera. Win-win-win.

  16. Both. E-books are great for travel (instead of packing a rucksack of hardbacks), for commuting (try to read the hardbound of 2312 on the Metro), and for waiting at the doctor’s office. The physical object is much better at home, moving from room to room with changing light levels and places to set things down.

    HOWEVER: I am now old and burdened with books, and though I’m not anticipating an immediate move to smaller (and one-floor) quarters, that time will surely come, so I’m trying (with not great success so far) to cull my library down to a reasonable size. If I had ‘em all digitally, that wouldn’t be a problem.

  17. For novels e-books are perfectly adequate. For the scientific reading and writing I have to do, it is MUCH easier for me to read a physical copy – you can do things with paper that you simply cannot do on a screen (like flip back and forth between two pages exponentially more easily – it is also easier to jot quick notes and have them readily accessible). If I’m just skimming a journal article, on line is sufficient. If I want to truly comprehend the study and read it critically, I have to print it out. At least right now, the data seem to support this distinction: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=reading-paper-screens

    And until they find a way to better reproduce maps and similar drawings on an e-reader, I will remain extremely frustrated with the complete inability to read the maps from some of the novels I read on my Kindle.

  18. Yes, although I love eBooks they don’t work well for things with complex formatting — Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales, for example, where the print version uses multiple levels of indentation, font size changes, etc., to differentiate between Tolkien’s fiction, Tolkien’s commentary on his own fiction, and Christopher’s commenting on his father’s fiction.

    Also, there are many, many books that will just never be made available electronically — pretty much everything from the start of copyright to the mid-1990s requires actual effort to create an eBook version, so unless it’s an author whose backlist has proven legs, it’ll probably never be released. And there’s no good, simple way to convert the books that I own into eBook editions. (I do rebuy eBook copies when appropriate, but that’s something else.)

    tl;dr — I’ll be reading both paper & electronic versions for probably the rest of my life, depending on the specific book in question.

  19. I do enjoy my e-reader, especially since a) my local public library has an ebook lending program and b) the kobo store has free versions of just about everything in public domain–I think I’ve put about 50 books on my reader without paying a cent.

    On the flip side, I do have a life-long goal of someday owning a house with a round room with 16ish foot ceilings that I can pack with books and then have one of those ladders on rails to reach them all. It would be the coolest room ever! So in support of this dream I keep buying physical copies. (Plus I love the different smells of paper.)

    So yeah, pretty much what everyone else is saying…

  20. Last year we bought our daughter a Kindle as what we thought would be the way to get her reading all she wanted. My wife bought it from her several months ago as it sat unused next to the print books she’s been reading through. Lesson learned. We care less about how she reads than that she’s reading something, but waste not, want not.

    I don’t know about the magazine route for me; I bought a Slate 7 a short time ago to try out the Android tablet platform without that possibility in mind; I think the Slate comes up short hardware-wise (a magazine layout on a 7″ screen… not compelling to me). Maybe I’ll try again with something else. The idea has merit.

  21. I’m probably in the minority here in that almost all of my reading is done on my phone, and has been since the Kindle for Android app first came out a few years back.

    I was in a place in my life where I was doing barely any reading for pleasure or enjoyment. I have a job where I’m out pretty much all of the day, and my home is just a place where I go to bathe and sleep, so I really didn’t have any habits that involved stopping what I was doing to read, or even having a book handy to pick up.

    Since I became able to read e-books on my phone, it’s great. I can flip through a few pages any time I have a spare moment — on the subway, in line at the bank, etc. — and because my phone IS always with me, I tend to go through books very fast this way.

    Everyone I know thinks I’m crazy and swears they would never be able to read on a phone screen. Guess I’m just weird.

  22. I too, also prefer physical books. Tactile is important, I think, especially with children’s books, as GarretC pointed out. However, with the advent of digital publishing, I’ve found that I do indeed purchase more books. The reason for this is… well, several. First, there are many folks who now have the ability to easily self-publish their works digitally, where previously, perhaps wouldn’t have pursued the self-pub route do to cost in physical form. Second, I find I’m more likely to purchase works I may be on the fence about (and not available though my local library system) if they are offered in digital form (“what the heck, it won’t take up any bookshelf space and I can delete it if I don’t like it” sort of mentality).

    With comics, I still love the physical copies, primarily because I love flipping through them and having several open at the same for reference. Comixology has done a great job with translating this form to digital and I find that the reading experience is more enjoyable digitally. Granted, I’m not a heavy comic consumer or collector. So there is that.

    Like GarretC, I’m very curious to see how the digital medium will evolve and how artists will create new reading experiences that are unique to the digital form.

  23. For novels e-books are perfectly adequate. For the scientific reading and writing I have to do, it is MUCH easier for me to read a physical copy – you can do things with paper that you simply cannot do on a screen (like flip back and forth between two pages exponentially more easily – it is also easier to jot quick notes and have them readily accessible).

    I find this argument pretty compelling. Thinking of the last time I took a class, I’d hate to have to flip from the problem set at the end of the chapter to the text describing the material, to the table of transforms printed on the inside covers, etc, with an ebook. I used those colored flag Post-its to mark all of the places I needed to flip to.

    For novels, I’ve pretty much given up on buying paper, except for older stuff not available electronically. Physical books are a pain to store and they don’t light up at night. I use a tablet, and I might prefer a backlit paperwhite reader, but I’m a fan of eBooks.

    I’m not convinced that Amazon will still be physically shipping little boxes containing books or movies in any real quantity by the time drone delivery becomes practical.

  24. I think some of it is due to the fact that you can’t just stick all your books into a slot in your computer and have them all on your ereader, so it’s much slower for people to get into the habit of thinking about books as ebooks instead of hard copy.

  25. I read eBooks almost exclusively. I find that when I set the font size quite big I don’t get as tired when I read, and I can read much faster! With book 1.0, I find that the font size is always too small, and I have to flop around crazily in bed trying to angle the book just right to get the text properly illuminated. Like a lot of other posters, I have no room for any more paper books. When I must read a paper book it invariably comes from the library.

    I will be happy when book 3.0 arrives, and I am fitted with a mind meld that allows me to read a book floating comfortably in a virtual environment. . . .

  26. My husband bought me a Kindle for Christmas 3 years ago and I love it. I have not stopped buying physical books, though.

    Some books are not available in e-format. Some books I want to read and then give away. Some books are best in the physical format (lavishly illustrated art & design books). Some books are historic objects (1901 Howard Pyle pirate story). And I already had a huge collection of physical books.

    I have divested hundreds of books in the past five years. Nearly all are now available for e-readers, so if I absolutely positively HAVE to read something again, I can. Kindle is now also offering deeply discounted e-versions of some books I bought from Amazon in print. I predict that within five years Amazon will offer dual-version purchases the way they do with CDs and DVDs.

    I am working from a “net loss of Stuff” mindset and a determination not to buy any more book storage. The shelves I have now are the shelves I have to live with forever. So physical books are on a one-in, one-out basis. Kindle is infinite.

  27. I massively prefer DRM-free ebooks to paper ones, because I can read them on anything. I have books that I picked up from Baen which I originally read on a Handera 330 (a Palm clone with a slightly higher-res screen and insane battery life), but which I’m now reading on a nook and/or an iPad. But I’m not sure that hurts novels, just paperbacks. I still buy books, and if anything, I buy more now that I don’t have to worry about where to keep them, and I don’t have to go out in snow to get them.

  28. The one thing I forgot to add in my previous post was that if there’s a book I want to read, I’ll buy it in whatever format it comes in. I’ll even get audio if that’s what it takes. It’s the words that matter in the end, the medium is secondary.

  29. I think the question is not if e-books will replace the printed book, but if it will replace the mass market paperback. Certainly I am seeing a lot less books coming out in this form. The mmpb used to be the option for a cheap version for those prepared to wait for some time after initial publication, and the easiest version to read while travelling. E-books tend to drop in price to about the mmpb level in the same time as the book would take to go to paperback. I also suspect that publishers are not keen on the mass market model any more and would prefer to sell e-books.

  30. I’m an avowed slob. A e-reader is easier to clean when I smudge it with food grease and Cheeto dust. I can spill coffee on it. And it’s easier for me to keep track of, store, and transport one tablet than hundreds of volumes.

    In my humble opinion, reading a 21st century science fiction novel using 19th century technology is like watching Star Wars on a black and white TV: It’s fine if you don’t have anything better, but you aren’t getting the full experience. I feel closer to the story of a techno-thriller if I’m using the best technology available to me.

    But I think time will tell which medium is best for archival purposes. Your e-books are automatically backed up when you lose your Kindle, but that back-up only lasts as Amazon does. You could store DRM free works on a hard drive. On the other hand, paper books do not rely on the power grid to be accessible. They would certainly be the better choice in case of an apocalypse.

  31. Scalzi: At the peak of my magazine subscribing career I subscribed to about fifteen magazines a month, and the pile of used magazines was, frankly, insane. Now I subscribe to Next Issue and it’s pretty much a joy to zip through a dozen magazines on my Nexus 10 and not worry about dropping the issues into the recycling bin afterward.

    Recycling bin? Dude, you live in the Midwest. You drop any paper products like that into the kindlin pile next to the wood stove and burn it for heat come wintertime. The subscription rate for free catalogs is also higher in cold climates for the same reason. I don’t need anything in from the Acme Turnip Twaddler catalog, but I smile every time it arrives in the mail and toss it in the bucket next to the wood stove.

  32. Like a lot of people I’m still doing both – I buy print copies of my favorite authors as well as digital. I love digital’s convenience – I can read on my iPad, my Macbook screen, and my new wonderful I Feel Connected To The Machine Like Root on PERSON OF INTEREST iPhone 5S.

    But you can’t sign an eBook (I had authors sign my old Nook’s protective cover at Ad Astra and Confluence a few years back when I still used it, and the results were – unfortunate), you can’t really have it in your library in case the power goes out, and sadly there’s no guarantee that the company who produces it won’t just reach in and yank your book off your system if they get scared of legal action (like Amazon’s been known to do!). So I buy both – and I figure the double-dipping keeps my favorite authors in coffee (or in your case, Scalzi, Churro Waffles)…. :)

  33. The ability to read an e-reader one-handed while standing in a crowded train car in high heels holding onto the pole with your other hand and a cup of coffee in your third is pretty crucial. I get most of my books, e- or paper, from the library, so the clutter isn’t too much of a difference, but I buy the books I’ll want to reread again and again curled up in a blanket on cold winter nights, in paper.

  34. I am a multi-format reader. I am currently in the middle of four books in each of four “places” (paper, audio, Kindle, and iPad/phone with different content than Kindle). I don’t have difficulty picking up any given story and diving back into it. Which “device” I use depends on where I am, how much time I have, and my mood. In my case, I read more short fiction than I used to and I only read it digitally. I agree that anything I need to think deeply about/critique/respond to, I prefer to read in paper form (with scribbles in margins, highlights/underlines, etc.). Sometimes, though, I just want someone to tell me a story, and audiobooks are perfect for this whether it’s a new story or one I already know. In particular, after finishing my dissertation, I (lifetime voracious reader) found that I couldn’t bring myself to read, even for fun. Often, I also felt that it was too much work to watch and visually process a movie…my eyes were burned out as a pathway to my brain. Audio stories kept me from feeling that I had lost an important part of my identity. I eventually recovered, and now I find that I enjoy having different formats at the ready. When I attended my first ever author reading and signing (with our host), of course I wanted a physical book as a memento of the experience, even though I know there are ways to get signatures on ebooks…not the same for me.

  35. So far I have resisted the urge to buy an e-reader but I am gradually moving towards the dark side. I was going to buy a Kindle this Christmas but decided that I have better things to do with the money. Maybe next year. I find that my aging eyes tire easily when reading on a screen and I like the feel of a book. But the convenience of an e-reader is getting more attractive and my library is now loaning e-books.

  36. I’ve tried to shift completely over to reading on my iPad. Really, I have. We own so many books that we’ve had bookshelves collapse. But somehow, I just can’t do it. I’ve gotten better about buying eBooks if I suspect the book will be a “one read only” selection, but if the book is something I think I’ll want on hand to read over and over again, I want a print copy. I also prefer print books for reading on the subway. There’s been a rash of electronic device theft on the Metro, but nobody tries to steal paperbacks.

    The Internet in general has clobbered my magazine reading, though. I can generally get the pieces I want to see online, and it’s getting harder to justify the clutter that physical magazines cause.

  37. I like print and e-books about evenly — my one gripe about e-books is the limited design factor, but I’m sure that’ll change.

    But my daughters — one of them read on a Kindle for a while and decided to hell with e-books, she wants print. She reads lots of books, but wants them on paper. Computer screens are for Tumblr. The other reads on paper when she has to, but is addicted to reading fanfic on her phone.

    I’m glad they both like reading, and I’m not going to try to project the future from their choices.

  38. I read almost entirely on my iPad. As a person of age, I like being able to control the font size. I also have hand issues (arthritis and thumbs that dislocate if you look at them funny) and the iPad is infinitely easier to handle than a fat paperback or a heavy hardcover.

    I always feel a bit guilty though, about what damage I’m doing to bookstores….
    MKK

  39. Mary Kay: I know how you feel. My eyes aren’t what they used to be, that’s for sure. Also, my wife is the manager at an independent bookstore and while I tend to buy ebooks more than physical copies, I know my wife is infinitely more pleased that I never buy from Amazon.

  40. As a Person of a Certain Age (60) I’ve also shifted almost entirely to eBooks. The convenience (decide to buy a book at 3 am? no problem) and the often significantly cheaper price are factors, but the font size is huge (hugely important AND second to highest size). Easy to hold, with the touchscreen easy to turn pages, use the search function quite a bit. I read books on my iPaq well before eInk, got one of the first Kobos; with both I stopped after a while, but each iteration has improved. I now have a Kindle Paperwhite, and I’m really looking forward to when they have a more flexible folder system. Plus I’m another who shouldn’t buy more paper books until I’ve gotten rid of some.

    I’ve also been playing around with audio. Not quite sure where that’ll end up for me.

    I find I don’t mind rereading old favorites in paperback. But a new mmpb makes me wince at trying to read it in that tiny, tiny type. Reading glasses help, but the Kindle is better.

    I suspect if my eyes were what they were 15 years ago, my budget as well, and I had shelf space to spare, I’d still be reading paper.

  41. Kindle (the one with the keyboard at the bottom) for me – due to too many books and wifely hostility. I’ll occasionally buy secondhand dead tree versions, but pretty much everything is now ebook.

    Trees are dead to me

  42. Funny, I was thinking last night that this might be the year I officially go all e-reader for books. The aesthetic is not quite as nice, but nothing is as lightweight as my kindle – not even mass-market paperbacks – and it’s easy to always have it near me. Or if it’s not near me my iphone & kindle app are… and the last page read is automagically synced up. So 5 minutes to kill in line or on the metro is reading time.

    Magazines I mostly just don’t care about any more, as there’s equally good material in alternate free and not-free online formats without long lead times. “The Magazine” is a nice online long-form product but for the most part my magazine consumption was always about news and THAT’S just not something with many competitive print products. Either I want to read about it sooner when it’s topical or MUCH later when it’s been well digested and analyzed.

    Comics, though, are my only never-online thing. Partly that’s because I don’t have a product with a proper screen size, as I replaced my first-gen ipad with a mini half a year ago. But mostly it’s because it offends my sensibilities to pay an undiscounted price for a non-physical version that limits how/where I can read it. I’d rather pay 30% off cover and support a comic book store I’ve had a relationship with for a decade.

  43. I rather suspect that the generations that come up behind us who live in a digital world from infancy may not develop an affection for the physical book. So at some point in the future, physical books will become artifacts of the past seen in historical museums. I can defintely see a future that goes all digital, but maybe not this century. Because the current generations coming online are still living among books which are still being published daily in physical formats. When all of us are dead who now live and maybe the next handful of generations are dead, then the day comes that no one prints physical books on paper. Of course, one must always allow for the occassional eccentric multibillionaire who loves books even when living in the 24th century, so he builds his own printing plant and publishes some in physical form again after they have long dissappeared from the general culture. As for me, being 62 of age and a bibliophile, I have resisted even purchasing a nook, kindle, or whatever designed to read digitally. I will take my novels in tree-books please. I’ve been reading digitally for work on screens since 1978 when I taught computer programming in BASIC on and Apple 2E desktop that had 16K RAM, no harddrive memory, and a massive, large floppy disckette entry port. You do what you have to do for your paycheck. Yep, we boomers must all die off before any hope of the publishing world leaving physical books behind dawns.

  44. Digital has definitely increased my book purchases – I tend to read about a novel (on this site or elsewhere), search for it, and download a sample excerpt to see if I like it.

    I find the searching and sampling much easier in digital, and it matches where I read most of my recommendations – the web.

    When I have a few hours, I find myself buying newspapers in physical format, because I enjoy reading news on broadsheet. But if I only have a few minutes, it’s digital. In either case, article continuations (“continued on page N”) annoy me.

    However, I also enjoy reading at the beach or in the sauna. You can’t beat physical books and newspapers for this!

  45. I like my Kindle for the convenience and ease of use, but nothing can replace the feel of an actual book in my hands. It not just the words that I enjoy – it’s the act of turning pages, and (this might sound odd) the smell of a book. It’s my favorite smell. When I walk into a bookstore or a library, I’m overwhelmed by the scent of all the books. It makes me feel “comfortable” in a way my Kindle can’t replicate.

  46. First, it’s important to note that there’s a real difference between reading on an E-ink screen (kindle, nook) and reading on an LCD screen (phone, ipad). Reading on a backlit screen causes eyestrain pretty fast. E-ink screens are reflective and essentially the same as reading off paper.

    That said, for the actual act of reading I prefer books, even over my kindle. Generally the print is a little clearer, and it’s a little easier to skip around. But those are minor issues, and everything else the kindle brings is just huge.

    The kindle weighs less than any book and is a more convenient shape to carry. It has a built in light (and battery). I can adjust the font and text size, for those times where the publisher made a terrible choice. It contains a complete bookstore with effectively instant delivery. Books are available anywhere – if I left my kindle at home I can access my books on my phone or any computer I happen across.

    And that all leaves out the fact that e-books make new publishing models possible – cheaper books, niche books, free books as teasers. Probably 10% of the books on my kindle wouldn’t exist in a paper-only world, simply due to the economics involved.

    And even the one true annoyance I had with my kindle (couldn’t use it on the plane from the doors closing until we hit cruising altitude) has been fixed. I’ll never have to read the airline magazine again.

  47. I’m another multi-format reader. I usually am reading 3 or 4 books at the same time in different formats (Kindle, print, audio — currently Baxter’s Ring, Stross’s Fuller Memorandum, and Vinge’s Children of the Sky respectively.) I have a Kindle Fire (backlit LED) and have no problem reading it for hours at a time.

    I recently made a solo visit to an amusement park (Six Flags Magic Mountain) and spent my time in lines reading a novel on my phone, which worked great. Audible on my phone means I can listen to a book when I’m commuting, mowing the lawn, washing dishes, jogging, grocery shopping, etc. I like the ability to pick up some book you’re currently enjoying wherever you are.

    I find that the largest advantage that physical books have is that there is a much much larger selection of them available from my local library. I’m not a huge book reader, but I reliably knock out about 50 books per year. I’d find it cost prohibitive to do this if I was buying all of them.

  48. I’m a little younger (it sounds like) than some of the people on this thread, and I can say that both forms are such a part of my overall reading experience that it would seriously bother me to have to sacrifice one or the other.
    I have a Kindle app on my phone, and I do most of my e-reading there. I like knowing that I always have several books along and can read them without the extent to which I’ve checked out of my surroundings being obvious. I also like that it’s slightly cheaper to buy a new book and that I can buy the available books any time and place I choose and read them immediately. I tend to do most of my junk food reading via ebook because the rate I go through that stuff means I would fill my apartment awfully quickly if I didn’t.
    However, I love having used bookstores and being able to borrow a friend’s books, which are not options with ebooks. Those things are huge boosts to my ability to experiment in the literary world because I’m not in a financial position to spend $20 a pop on something I’m not sure I’ll like. I also, for whatever reason, really prefer to read works on the shorter and longer end of the spectrum in paper form (partly because being able to see and feel my progress is encouraging with something like War and Peace).
    Overall, having both forms available probably means I read a lot more and with a lot more variety than I otherwise would and I like that. It’s good for authors too, because I if I like someone’s work, they usually “graduate” to the “I’ll spend more money on you” list.

    I dislike debates about which form is “better” because frankly, it doesn’t make sense unless you feel the need to feel superior to people who don’t read like you. I do come down on the side of paper books’ continuing relevance, and would hate to see them go away, because having both options just seems like such a good idea for readers.

  49. I suspect that many of the people that find they don’t like reading on electronic devices are doing so on non-eInk devices. There’s a big difference between reading on an iPad, phone, Kindle Fire and reading on a Kindle Paperwhite, Sony Reader, or other eInk device. The latter are much closer to the experience of paper, and cause much less eye strain.

    That said, currently there are software limitations that limit the useful of reading on electronic devices to things that are read in a linear fashion (novels, mainly). The software doesn’t lend itself well to reference material or other material that one would naturally want to flip backwards and forwards within.

  50. I switched to primarily eBooks for new purchases because I am out of space for physical books. Also, when my kids were babies I’d often find myself trapped under a sleeping child, and the ability to one hand read was priceless. I wish I’d switched earlier. I would have read more and watched less stupid TV while nursing through growth spurts! My kids are older now, but the youngest still likes us to keep her company while she goes to sleep. I use this time to read on my backlit ereader. I now tell expecting parents that my number one advice is to get an ereading device. Total sanity saver.

    One benefit that I have found that I didn’t expect is that I’ve rekindled (no pun intended…) a love for short form writing. I love how eBooks give me more opportunities to read short stories and novellas. With a fairly demanding job and two little kids, my life gets pretty hectic sometimes, and I can’t always make enough progress to maintain momentum through a novel. But I can read a short story or even a novella. I’ve discovered some great authors this way, because I’ve also found I’m more willing to take a chance on a complete unknown with a short (and relatively cheap) ebook than on a full length novel.

  51. Fairly often I ask my students–I teach art and design at the college level–whether they prefer digital or physical books, and the response is overwhelmingly in favor of physical books. In fact I’m not sure anyone has ever preferred ebooks. For one thing, they associate electronic texts with schoolwork; when they read for pleasure, they want a different physical experience.

    A couple of people suggested that their younger cousins, the ones who’re now in grade school, are really the ones to be asking; someone else said that the only people she knows who prefer ebooks are her mother and the mother’s friends, for storage reasons and because the size and spacing of the text is customizable.

    I mostly read fiction on the screen these days, largely for the storage reason. A while ago I reached the point at which whenever I get a new physical book, an old book has to go. But non-fiction reference and art books are vastly preferable in physical form. Anything that isn’t meant to be experienced linearly is, ironically, better in traditional books; ebooks are searchable, but they aren’t rifflable. The exception is with standalone “book” apps, like the excellent multimedia version of Eliot’s The Waste Land that came out fairly recently.

  52. I agree with all those People Of A Certain Age: it’s awfully nice to be able to control the font size with an ebook. And it’s not like there’s room in my house for more paper books.

    If kids prefer paper books, well, good for them. That they’re reading something is outstanding; I don’t much care if it’s paper or dots on a screen.

  53. Well, I stopped buying hard copy books. Period. I also gave away most of the hard copies books I had, many of which hadn’t been read in years. Instead I’ve got a ton of books on my iPad.

    Going electronic hasn’t changed how many books I buy. It has made it easier to find new stuff (including books by some guy named Scalzi).

    Wayne

  54. I read close to 200 books a year, most of them on my long commute. (I’m on track to break 180, my target for the year, and this is me slowed-down because of graduate school.) E-books make it easy for me to have 2-3 books on hand when I finish one. Bonus: no need to somehow fit a trip to the library on my schedule, since the digital library is open 24/7.

  55. I will say, though, that although e-books have changed my life with regards to my reading habits, they haven’t really done much to change my purchasing habits. I buy books I want whenever I have the money, and I don’t really consider format unless it’s a reference book–I prefer paper reference–or the price differential is really great (eg. the e-book is more than $5 cheaper). I tend to buy e-books that are significantly cheaper than the print versions. If the price is about the same, I tend to go for the paper book. I can re-sell a paper book, but not an e-book. (Sorry, I know I’m talking about this on an author’s blog!)

  56. Reading comments, people talk about all the devices they use to read. I have tried pretty much everything:

    iBooks on the iPad (and other reading apps) only suit if it is a Retina screen as I find the non-Retina screens pixellated. Even on a Retina screen, I can only read on a backlit screen for so long before I feel the urge to put it down and walk away because my eyes are tired. I got a nook HD+ because they were on sale at B&N, but same deal. I last a little longer with the white-text-on-black-screen options, but even then, I still get tired and I still only resort to this as a reader-of-last-resort.

    I have two Kindles (a $69 model at first, and this year I added a Kindle DX for PDFs because I study tax law and almost every professor sends PDFs in letter-size pages.) I spend most of my reading time on these two devices. Grad school reading goes on the Kindle DX, but I have also found that some reference books (like writing books) are not bad on the DX too. Somehow, the DX has become my “learning” e-reader. The smaller basic Kindle is my fiction reader.

    I also have a Sony e-Reader (the T2, the one with a library function.) I can borrow books from the library directly on this device and return them from the device when I am done, which is fantastic. Unfortunately, because charging this is troublesome (it only seems to charge properly when connected to my PC, and wall-socket charging seems not to be possible; something to do with minimum device power draw?) I use it less often. If given the choice between ePub and Kindle formats, I usually go for the Kindle, all else being equal.

    I have tried reading on my PC (ouch eyestrain), on my laptop (debatable for short stretches but never good for more than an hour or two), on my phone (for some reason having very little text makes it feel choppy and I hate the experience; I tried using Stanza and the Kindle app on my phone and it is definitely what I would classify as a reader of last resort.) I am one of those people who most definitely prefers e-Ink to backlit screens.

    The one kind of reader I have not had a chance to try out is the new lighted e-readers (Kindle Paperwhite or Nook Glowlight.) I would like a Paperwhite, but I already own two Kindles and cannot justify a third.

    Right now we have tons of paper books lying around the house, including some that I have been wanting to read for a while. Unfortunately for them, I still default to the Kindle or Sony e-Reader for reading material. It’s just so much easier to read on those devices than it is a paper book, unless I know I’m going to be highlighting/marking up the book, or I need to flip back and forth between pages.

  57. Okay, so, after a long shift you can’t catch the bus because it slid off into the ditch because of the freezing rain which has apparently broken the cell phone towers (and really, with a bus slid off the road would you call a friend or a taxi?) and so you walk the zillion miles home with the freezing rain making your pants so stiff that it’s hard to walk and ?
    Do you take a book (twenty creds) or your Kindle Fire HD (700) into the warm bubble bath?

    (Only thing that happened was the freezing rain, and it was a ten minute walk.
    BTW, freezing rain on the bald spot is better than a sunburned bald spot because with the sunburn the sun is saying: “HA HA I Got You GOOD!” and the freezing rain is just burningly cold.)

  58. I just keep going back to all the stories where the books are almost characters or such an integral part of the impact made. I see Bastion in the school attic with the big tome The Never Ending Story. Or more recently Hermione with that huge book she checked out for a bit of light reading. There are so many tales about bookstores and libraries and stumbling across a book or in one story I remember reading the book literally falling from the shelf onto a girl.

    Or in the real world finding some lost written artifact that sheds light on some historical period or person.

    I wonder in a thousand years what traces of our stories will the historians and archaeologists and story lovers stumble upon in our dusty attics. Will they find unpublished novels or the handwritten notes about an unsolvable math problem

    With the fast pace of changing technologies will our digital media withstand the test of time that stone tablets, rolls of archaic paper, reels of old films, and other physical media have.

    I am rambling but I have to admit that I am writing on my ipad mini and do maybe a bit more reading in paper form but I am almost as comfortable reading books on my kindles and ipad. I love rambling around used book stores; online book stores just don’t have that same feel when searching for that book that just begs to be read. The way a book feels and looks is almost equal to the description on the back jacket in my decision making process on to buy or not.

  59. Read both. But while I buy more stuff off Amazon than every other non-grocery retailer combined, Amazon doesn’t hold a candle to walking into the LBS and browsing the stacks for that next find.

  60. I dunno, Shawn T. In 2000, I took my Rocket eBook with me in the hot tub at a vacation resort. I sealed it in a Ziploc bag first, though. Problem with the Rocket was that it was the only reading matter I took on that vacation, we were stuck in the plane at the gate for an extra hour at a layover on the way home, and passengers were not allowed to use electronic devices until after takeoff. It was SkyMall or the the airline mag for me, and I had already read them both. I vowed never again to be caught without some form of nonelectronic printed matter.

  61. @Ai, you may want to try charging the Sony e-Reader with the USB connector and Apple’s iPad/iPhone chargers – they provide a considerable amount of current. Other manufacturers’ USB wall socket chargers may also work.

    (Then again, you may void your warranty this way.)

  62. I prefer e-books for a couple of reasons I haven’t seen listed yet: (1) samples! I can read the first few chapters and see if I get “pulled in” before buying the book (at least at the Apple book site). While you might claim this means lower sales for authors, I find that I now try out genres and authors I never would have before, and probably wind up buying more books than in the old days, and (2) no more accidentally buying multiple copies of the same book! (Now when I buy multiple copies of a book, it’s because I want it in both electronic and hard copy!) And, of course, (3) because my whole library can come with me when I travel!

  63. “Reading on a backlit screen causes eyestrain pretty fast. E-ink screens are reflective and essentially the same as reading off paper.”

    People keep saying this, and I keep coming back with: I don’t seem to get eyestrain with an appropriately-sized font on a backlit screen (read a book in 3 hours, t’other day, when I should’ve been sleeping) — but the e-ink flicker when page-turning drives me screaming. It’s definitely a matter of Individual Tastes. (All the more e-ink devices for the people who can stand the flicker. First time I encountered a demo e-ink reader, I thought it was broken.)

    As for the rest… I buy hardcopy when I think I might want to share with someone. I buy ebooks for all the rest. When I can read, that is. Characters in my head keep trying to keep other worlds out, the little brats.

  64. Right now, I’m kind of in the middle, but I have an excellent local independent book store I’m also trying to do my part to keep in business, so I’m likely to remain predominately print for the foreseeable future.

    That said, the 1st Edition Nook I have has seen quite a bit of use this year.

  65. speaking as a poor person who is addicted to books —

    Ebooks cost too much [especially when, in reality? Amazon or B&N or whomever can take it BACK. you mostly aren’t BUYING the book, you’re sort of leasing it…]

    people are now going to stare at me funny, but it’s true. oh, not HARDBACKS — but for the price of your average Ebook, i can buy 1.5 mass market paperbacks. or sometimes 2 paperbacks.
    and that’s presuming i’m buying said book 1st hand [which i DO do, with my fav writers. but when it’s something i’m just trying out? do you know HOW MANY books are available used? if i love it, then that 1 penny + 3.99 shipping means i’ll probably be buying new paperbacks from the writer in the future, and if i didn’t, well… as long as i don’t buy TOO MANY 4 dollar books, i can still eat and pay rent. but if i buy the Ebook? tends to cost more than a mass market paperback, can’t get a CHEAP used version… etc]

    this is not to say i don’t buy Ebooks – there ARE lots of cheaper Ebooks, and i buy them.
    but
    seriously, if i’m stuck between physical copy or e-copy at the same price? i’m getting one i actually OWN.

    maybe this is a function of having been poor for all my life — i want to SEE AND HOLD the things i own? and make sure it can’t be TAKEN AWAY AGAIN! [amazon has, thus far, taken back i think 3 books i bought for kindle. only 1 of them did i get my money back]

    the younger generation of my family thinks i’m INSANE — those under 20, i mean. they almost exclusively read on tablets, computers, or kindle/nooks. it’s a big right-of-passage thing, in my family now, that on their 10th BDay, kid gets an EReader [we all chip in] then again, they tend to buy comic books or cheaper things like that, so… *shrug*

    if i were still massively into comic books, THOSE i’d buy in Eformat! but novels?

    sorry. babbling. done now

  66. I’ve been buying all of my new books almost exclusively as ebooks for several years now, for the reasons many have already mentioned (already filled-up bookcases, ease of transport, etc)

    But I do buy a fair number of used books from local stores. A used paper version of something that I don’t want to keep after I’ve read it, the library doesn’t have, and that’s only a couple of dollars has substantial advantages over a full-price ebook. And I can take it back to the used bookstore for credit towards my next purchase. And I do find gems there on occasion (recently found David Palmer’s “Emergence” which I’ve been wanting to reread for a number of years for $2; not available in ebook format and when I checked into a copy on-line it was $15 and up (“and up” meaning $500. Really? For a mass market paperback from the 80s? it’s not a Dickens First Edition signed by the author, after all.)

  67. I prefer physical books but because of space and finances (we have next to no wiggle room) I “buy” more ebooks (as in I tend to go for the freebie deals and pay for very little because we can’t afford it; when we can, I watch for ebook deals on my fave authors, many of whom I have slated to eventually get physical books for). On the plus side, I can own 5000 ebooks and not have to worry about space, but I miss physical books. I still get a few now and then, but it’s rare now days.

  68. @Tim, I tried it with my nook HD+ charger and an iPad charger. Unfortunately, the only time the Sony charges is when it’s plugged into a PC. I’m not sure why this is so. It’s a great little reader otherwise, and the battery lasts a long time, so I only really have to plug it in after I read a few books, but it’s still a minor annoyance. I still like it, but would mention it to others as my only reservation.

  69. @denelian, as a fellow book lover with a limited budget, I empathize. I have to say, my $69 Kindle has enabled me to single-handedly bust through 176 books the year I bought it (2011), 163 books last year (2012), and 179 this year (with a few more loaded and waiting.) https://www.goodreads.com/review/stats/141244-february-four I haven’t been reading e-books exclusively, but I am pretty sure e-books have been more than 75% of my reading this year (and at least 50% the years before.) I know it’s a lot up front, but it has been AMAZING for library consumption.

  70. I don’t think your daughter and the grandsons of Stephen King are a representive sample of the reading public. Kids who grew up with physical books treated as part of the experience of reading, in homes that can afford and store a library of books, are very lucky.

    I also don’t think CDs to MP3s is the best analogy. Possibly hard cover books to mass market books. But even better would be records to CDs, where there is still a tiny niche who have elaborate high fidelity systems and despise CDs.

    Magazines, I’m down to only two in paper versions. I have no independant bookstore within 50 miles and have not bought a physical book in several years. I’ve also been agressively replacing physical books as digital versions appear.

    Of approximately a thousand physical books left on my shelves, probably 1/3 would stay even I could buy digital versions but only as a hedge against a total collapse of civilization because I’m pretty sure it would take that much to kill off Amazon.

    I don’t expect that even on my most pessamistic WashingtonAndTheRestOfTheWorldAreInsane days but I’m a belt and suspenders kinda person and I have the space so there will always be a few physical books around no matter what.

  71. I spent huge amounts of time in libraries growing up, and later in bookstores, but now? I couldn’t even tell you the last time I was in a bookstore.

    In other news, the first thing I did after I got my new Kindle Fire was download the entire contents of my Amazon library and backup all the books in two different places.

  72. I do a lot of my reading in bed, before I got to sleep.

    Paper books are generally larger than my e-reader, often heavier, and require me to keep the light on, which prevents my significant other from going to sleep.

    Compare this to my Kindle, which is smaller, lighter, has the ability to get a new book whenever I finish one (which came in really handy when I finished Old Man’s War and wanted more), and has a cover with a built-in light (that can be hidden under the blanket, thereby not bothering my partner).

    As much as I like the sight of a full bookshelf, I have two closets full of print books already, and not enough room for more.

    So yes, e-books for me all the way, if only from a utilitarian standpoint.

  73. Any chance you’d share with us some of your other magazine choices? It’d be interesting to see if any of it relates to your writing.

    CDs were never a delightful experience. They were a convenient expedient that got usurped. The only downside is now I have to manually strip the damn personally identifying metadata hidden in the ID3 tags in case my hard drive ever falls into the wrong hands and because I generally object to being lied to by omission about my privacy being violated. I also wouldn’t let a retailer put an ankle bracelet tracker on me to make sure I don’t steal from them. A priori assumptions of criminality are not the basis for a mutually respective business relationship.

    I don’t foresee bookstores and libraries going extinct. I do think the end game is for them to merge with e-media and video game stores. Think augmented-reality meets cafe-booksore dialed up to Night at the Museum. Imagine going in and browsing the displays of smart-books, the binding of which will be art in and of themselves since they only need to make enough for each location and not mass-produce to sell. Their soft, flexible, realistic, e-paper will either feature changeable text and graphics, or seamlessly projected samples from your umpteenth generation Google Glass, Microsoft X-Rays or Apple iLens, or both. You’ll explore the texts and any integrated virtual extensions, find the book you want and check out digitally without waiting in line. The book will be delivered to your library account ready to view on any of the smart-books you own, which you’ll also be able to buy or order. Most likely each smart-book order will be fulfilled by just-in-time assembly of waiting prefabricated parts and be drone-dropped by Fed-UPS to your doorstep in a day or two.

    The rentier bastards content providers will do their best to make sure you think you own and control your paid-for content while in truth surreptitiously embedding poorly-secured personally-identifying metadata and some manner of back-door coded directly into the EULA that will do its best to corrupt the data, and maybe brick your beautiful smart-book, should you have the gall to try and cut corporate USA out of your private possessions. Honest users who nonetheless value their privacy and content ownership, as well as the actual thieves it’s supposed to stop, will continue to find ways of defeating the embedded malware, leaving it to inconvenience only the unsavvy honest users.

    Vernor Vinge touched on this a bit in Rainbows End, but I think he was both overly optimistic with his timetable and far to conservative with how surreal libraries of the future will be.

  74. My one problem with e-magazines is, I have a real out-of-sight-out-of-mind problem with them. I love short fiction, but I’ve stopped buying ebook shorts and anthologies, because I have so much already – and I just never say “Hmmm, I’d like to read a completely random short story from my humongous trove of short stories.”

    A physical magazine, I go, “Ok, I’ve read half the issue, and I want to finish the other half.” For some reason, I don’t feel anywhere near as compelled to finish a digital “issue”. Which is a shame, because short fiction’s where a lot of the magic of the ebook revolution is happening…

  75. My house is too full, and many of the books I read are too large and heavy to carry easily (or even in some cases to hold easily to read them – yes, I do have a love of huge fantasy bricks). So whilst physical books are lovely objects, and I’m not about to throw mine out… I rarely buy them now.

    A problem I have is that the software on my eReader (Kobo) (and also on others I’ve looked at) doesn’t really make it easy to handle libraries of hundreds of ebooks, which is a bit annoying really not least because I’d have thought that the sort of people who buy huge quantities of books are exactly the target market for ereaders – surely if you only read a few books a year you don’t want to spend hundreds on a dedicated device…

  76. I think in the next couple of years I will purchase a Kindle – my library is making increasing numbers of e-books available for loan and I can foresee a time coming quickly when magazines might switch entirely to digital format so save money on dead tree product. I think it will be the magazines and newspapers that will be the tipping point, really.

  77. Funny, I think I’m the opposite of John Scalzi: I’m not a big ebook reader, but I prefer reading novels onscreen to reading comics onscreen. I’ll take hard copy any day.

  78. I am still resisting e-books and will try to do so until DRM is removed from most books sold and I can guarantee that any books I buy will still be accessible on whatever is the electronic object of choice.

    Tree books are also impervious to government manipulation whereas if e-books are that prevalent (especially for news/history) you can see future governments ‘changing’ the news or similar to match their requirements – plus good double plus good.

    Finally I feel sorrow for the have nots who cannot afford such sparkly things and will be faced with a dwindling second hand market in books so those who previously dragged themselves out of poverty due to reading will have much less chance in future.

  79. I read through a number of the comments here and I didn’t see it mentioned elsewhere, so I’ll throw my oar in: I have always assumed the power of digital music and comics over the physical has to due with their brevity. You don’t read 20 books in a 2-hour car trip. But you will listen to more than 20 songs and you could read 20 comic books. Books are just large enough by themselves that they don’t NEED to be compacted like music or comics do. It’s like text messaging versus email.

  80. I switched from physical books to ebooks fairly early – the only physical books I’ve bought in the last 10 or so years have been the occasional book that just wasn’t available as an ebook (very few) and the occasional book purchased specifically for an autograph – you got me to pay for Redshirts twice that way Mr. Scalzi – one wonders if the future of book tours will be to sell that second copy!

    Mostly, I switched because I found myself reading less and less due to the various distractions and other activities that my life has taken on. In addition to the traditional things such as marrying, home ownership, etc. that naturally comes with building a life, I found that other, more modern distractions were taking up my time – with the DVR, there’s always something on TV, *someone* is always wanting to go have an adventure in Everquest, WoW, or the like, and then there’s that vacation video that needs editing, and other time-sinks that, while enjoyable and something I really want to do was taking up time that when I was younger I’d use to read. What to do? Well, what about that 20 minutes sitting in the parking lot while the wife was in the store? And that 10 minutes just before a meeting when I can’t really get anything productive done? Or how about the 15 minutes waiting at Valvoline before they can get to my oil change? If I had a book with me, I could read – fill those 5, 10, 20 minute holes with something enjoyable. Well, I always have my phone with me and, because of ebooks, I also have my entire library with me as well. Basically, ebooks let me “have it all”. I can still go on that raid with the guild *and* get Androids Dream read before I retire.

    Sometimes, rarely, I do miss the physicality of the paper, the smell that wafts up from that hardbound the first time I open it up. But, I’d miss the stories more.

  81. I stopped (or, at least, attempted to stop) buying books a few years ago because of a lack of wall-space to put bookshelves. When you have resorted to bookshelves on the ledge overlooking the stairs (so the only way to get to the books is to straddle the stairwell) getting more books becomes impractical. I was also reading a lot less. Buying books is a hard habit to stop, so I still occasionally add to the storage problem.

    I got a Kindle for the convenience of taking lots of books with me, and I wasn’t about to do a lot of reading on my iPhone — the screen was too small. That, and of course the eInk would be better and less eye-strain than an LCD backlit screen. I managed to break three screens in under a year. I even subscribed to “Analog” in Kindle form and started reading it regularly.

    When I got a “phablet”, I ended up with a phone I could easily read on and take with me. My book reading went up, and the Kindle gathered dust. The Kindle itself is now on loan to a friend, and I’ll occasionally tell her I’ve gotten a new book she may be interested in reading on my kindle (as I use the Kindle app on my phone).

    Then I discovered the real reason I was reading a lot less: presbyopia. Once I got prescription reading glasses all sorts of leisure reading came back, physical books, Kindle books, etc.

    I mostly buy books from Amazon in Kindle format, but I do agree with the prior commenters who say that for reference works (including textbooks) paper is better than most ebook formats. The Kindle seems to do a poor job of handling cross-references (tables of contents, footnotes/endnotes, indices, etc), which can be very frustrating when reading non-fiction. The number of times I’ve followed an early endnote in a book and had the Kindle say when I switch devices “The farthest read spot is location 8000 out of 9000; do you wish to sync to that location” later is annoying.

  82. I actually do have a preference for soda in cans.

    I read a mix of paper books and ebooks. I like my kindle for bedtime reading, fanfic reading, and the ease of library ebooks, as well as for travelling. I like paper for books I love and books I want to read near water.

  83. Wow. Never really thought of myself as such an outlier…

    Paper, all the way. I’m not saying that there aren’t advantages to digital (re: a dear friend who spent two weeks hiking the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana with an e-reader). I’m saying that for me and my tastes (and my reading speed), I am more content to remain with the physical, tactile, olfactory, pleasure that is a paper book. Those pleasures are a part of the entire package.

  84. I disagree with Ai about ebooks not changing purchasing habits. For me, being able to instantly buy new books has made a huge difference. When I finish a book I enjoy, my impulse now is to immediately download the next in the series rather than going to the next book in my ‘to read’ pile.

    Come to think about it, this is probably a fairly negative effect – it’s decreasing my reading range to the benefit of long-series authors in the “fairly good but not amazing” category (if a book was especially good I would have bought the sequel when I was reading paper books too, albeit not instantly). Writing this post has been useful; now I’ve realised what’s happening I’m going to try to avoid it.

  85. I’m a purist in that I like to have a physical book in hand when I read. The feel and smell and papercuts is what gets it done for me. However, I don’t like my books getting messed up when I travel for pleasure or at work, which they always manage to do, so I always buy the Kindle version as well.

    Many things I tend to read only come via electronic means, such as shorts and indi works, so to only have digital copies of these doesn’t bother me. I guess what it comes down to is, I’m more than willing to waste a few trees to have a hardbound copy on my shelf, and will never be satisfied with pseudo-owning a bunch of 1’s and 0’s floating around some virtual cloud somewhere.

  86. I recently got a coupon that gave me the $69 Kindle for $29, so naturally I picked one up to go with my tablet & iPhone.

    I’m another in the aging/bad eyes category, so for me the choice of ebook over paper is simple: I’ll take the one I can actually read every time. I do understand the whole tactile “real book” argument, I just find its effectiveness is outweighed by my growing inability to read them, particularly mass market paperbacks.

    As for magazines & comics, I have a 10.1″ HD tablet, and it works great. Magazines are pretty readable (I can use Zinio’s text-only function if the print s too small) and I prefer comics digitally. It’s not just the convenience of ComiXology, but also the reading experience. No ads between pages, and the colors look infinitely better.

    I still like to collect books, but as a reader,.. digital simply works better for me.

  87. Naath: If you have an iDevice, consider buying the Marvin e-reader app. At one side of the basic Library screen, there’s an option to organize by author. This isn’t just the pathetic “well, we put them all in order by author in one long file” thing that many of the others do, but — as Stanza did in its time — an actual list of the authors and how many books of theirs you’ve stuck into Marvin. Tap on a name, and you get that author’s books, and only that author’s books.

    Marvin also (again, like Stanza) has the ability to add and alter meta-data, and even stick covers on things if you don’t like the version you’ve got.

    It does require DRM-free epubs. Calibre can help with format conversion of DRM-free Mobi files.

    I don’t know if there are an Android apps that have Marvin’s capabilities. :(

  88. A friend gifted me with a 1st gen e-ink Nook a few years ago when I was having neuropathy issues with my hands. It was easier to hold than a book. Now that the pain has been dealt with, I still have the thing, but don’t use it much. I’m forgetful about charging things so often when I reach for it, the battery is dead. Or if I spend a whole afternoon reading, as I am wont to do, the battery runs out (yes, even with wifi switched off). So, not my fav thing to read on.

    Same friend gave me her Galaxy Tab 2 (she cycles quickly through tech, I don’t judge) and it is a better e-reader (plus, being a tablet of course), but is also heavier.

    After having devices to read on for a couple years now, AND after having moved house with many many heavy boxes of books… I still prefer the physical paper kind. At least those, I am allowed to give them to someone else when I am finished with them.

  89. Even the single strongest arguments in favor of physical books – the tactile experience, and the giftability – are things that someone more affluent will value and someone who is struggling financially will not prioritize.

    Seanan McGuire wrote a very moving essay pointing out that ebooks are actually a luxury of the haves, not the have-nots, and access to knowledge and reading are the actual strongest arguments in favor of physical books.

  90. A. Beth: YES! E-ink is a technology that hasn’t lived up to its press yet. That flicker when it turns pages gives me eyestrain followed by a migraine. Whereas I can read off a tablet for ages and I do. I too thought eInk had loose connections, otherwise why do all the pixels go bad when you push the button?

    Maybe the flicker isn’t bad if you’re a slow reader?

    There are many more new books available in e-versions than there are in Large Print. In the last years of my dad’s life, I was always disappointed in the available selections. So folks who have aged eyeballs have a much wider variety of choice with ebooks.

  91. @scottywan82 ah, but if you’re going away for a 2-week holiday in a part of the world where English books are not available… books quickly become a major packing issue (more an issue for people who want to fly on budget airlines, or pack all their stuff on a bicycle than for people driving their own minivan of course).

    @A.Beth I don’t have an iDevice; although that’s a useful tip for those who do. I don’t like reading a lot of text on back-lit screens, and vastly prefer a dedicated eInk device. My Kobo lets me sort by author or title but not by “have I read this book yet” or “genre” unless I manually tag everything.

  92. Umm the tech upgrade version of a reference book already exists, and has for 20 years now… it’s called a website.

  93. Another person who reads both eBooks and dead tree books. Most of my fiction is on my eReader or my iPad (I LOVE Gutenburg! Lots and lots of SF as well as things like Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, history books… and I’ve gotten a fair number of genealogy books either free or for minimal prices downloaded from google books.) while I still buy art books and books of musical scores in paper. No bookstores within 50 miles of here (have to drive for over an hour to get to the closest – a Books-A-Million up near Atlantic City) so I buy a lot of dead tree books from amazon, as well at the eBooks. My ePubs (including Baen as well as from Gutenberg) go on the iPad. I’ve got the Kindle app on it as well. And I’m glad so many old, out of print books are now available for free or minimum amounts of money thru Gutenberg, Google books, etc. When your choice is paying $150 for a used copy of a long out of print book, or paying $2 or so for a digital version, well, it’s on my eReader.

    eReaders have been great on long trips. I used to fill up at least half one of my suitcases with books. At home, I can read on my Paperwhite while in bed without bothering spouse, as I can keep the light level low enough that it doesn’t bother him. And it’s lighter than even a lot of the paperbacks I read.

    I suspect that for art books and music scores, where you need a larger format, paper will hold out for quite a while; at least until we develop a much lighter technology for large screens. Right now, I can’t see putting a large LCD screen up on my music stand when I’m on a gig, even though back lighting would take care of lighting the pages well enough to read in the dark…LOL

    And I am allergic to dust and mold, so the ‘smell’ of paper books – which is mostly composed of dust, mold and mildew! – well, I may enjoy it, but it makes me sneeze and my eyes water. The lightness of my Paperwhite is also a big plus. So I guess, like many folks here, I’m one of those on the cusp of the change – I’ve learned to love eReaders, but I still enjoy dead tree books as well.

  94. My preference is for physical books, but I use my Kindle for those that are out of print. The appeal of the Kindle kind of died for me though after Amazon informed me that I could no longer buy ebooks from the American catalog, given that I live in Japan. It would have been fine except that the books I wanted are only available from the American catalog.

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