Home > On Reading > The Electronic vs. Print Books Debate

The Electronic vs. Print Books Debate

The eBook debate has been fairly consistently humming in my virtual world –twitter, GoogleReader, listserves, etc…  Frankly I’m starting to wonder at the vitriol being spewed by both sides of the debate.

We have the print people who are absolutely certain that the electronic people are out to kill any and all print books leading to some sort of Big Brother society where The Man can delete our censor our books whenever he sees fit.

Then we have the electronic people who firmly believe print books are horrible for the environment and anyone who wants to still read them is a backwards, ancient person trying to hold society back.

Um, people, what planet are you living on?

I really believe the eBook vs. print book situation, if allowed to naturally play out, will lead to a world where print and electronic books coexist gracefully.  A world where some people will still prefer print books in most cases but electronic books in others, and other people will prefer electronic books in some cases but print books in others.  Consumers as a group are actually far more flexible than anyone is giving them credit for.  Sure, there’ll be the die-hard hold-outs who will refuse to read anything not in print, and there will be the obsessive electronic fans who will refuse to read anything not on a screen, but in between these two extremes are everybody else.  From what I have seen, people choose which option is best for the situation.  Most people I know have a few books in each format, depending on what they need them for.  Consumers aren’t busy spewing vitriol at each other.  They’re busy saying “Well, I want this genre book on my iTouch for my commute, and this nonfiction book in print so I can write my thoughts in it as I go reading it in the evening.”

The reason for all the angry commentary is plain and simple: fear.  People are afraid of change.  Booksellers are afraid their stores will become obsolete or at least  not profitable anymore if people are downloading their books.  Electronic vendors are afraid the print folks will shout them down before they ever even get a chance.  Then there’s the snobs who think their way is always the best way and are afraid of anything else.

Well, you know what?  I doubt either scenario will happen.  I see a future where booksellers have print books and stations where people can download new electronic books to their reader, and possibly even charge their reader for a small fee.  I see a future where people still have a bookshelf of beloved print books, but also a charging station for their eReader.  I see a future (hell, I’m already living this) where morning commutes feature people reading on eReaders and reading print books they own and reading library books and listening to audiobooks.

So, really, people, calm down and just let the change happen.  It’s not going to kill anyone or anything.

  1. December 17, 2009 at 7:30 am

    Amen! Someone talking sense. I must admit I don’t know alot about ebooks, the closest I’ve got is reading an online book once, but they do kinda look handy when you’re travelling. Your argument makes sense though why can’t we just have both, like with music (cds and downloads).

    • December 17, 2009 at 9:18 am

      Thanks! Sense is what I go for 😉

      I have read a couple of eBooks. One was a free pdf download that I read on my computer, and I did enjoy that. The other is on my iTouch, and that can come in handy when I only have one hand free on my commute. In general I do prefer print books, but I see the place for eBooks.

  2. December 22, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    I’ve never read an ebook because I don’t like reading on the computer and I don’t own a Kindle or Sony Reader or anything of that sort, but the idea is pretty cool to me. You can take a virtual library full of books everywhere you go basically, like on a long road trip (as long as you’re not driving! ;)) or on the bus/plane/anywhere and enjoy a good book without lugging along 300 page books.

    I think virtual books and paper books can easily co-exist… I’m not particularly standing on either side of the debate, I guess time will tell as they rise in popularity.

    • December 23, 2009 at 8:43 am

      Thanks for the return visit! The ease of taking many books with you when carrying one item is one of the pluses of eBooks, particularly for those traveling.

  3. December 29, 2009 at 2:34 pm

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  4. opheliasdaisies
    January 14, 2010 at 12:43 am

    I like your idea of them coexisting, but my issue with that, as far as personal implementation, is that I don’t like reading more than one book at once. I would love to have a hard copy of the book to keep at home and an eBook for the subway, but it’d be silly to buy both. If you could get a code when you buy a physical book that lets you access it on an eBook too, that’d be awesome, but I feel like that’s unlikely, for now anyway, with all the restrictions and issues currently going on in regards to the eReaders.

    • January 14, 2010 at 10:01 am

      The post isn’t so much about personal preference as it is about the paranoia that either electronic or print books will win causing the other to cease to exist. What you’re talking about is a personal preference/price issue. Personally, I don’t think publishers will ever sell a combo package for the same price as just buying one or the other. That’s the type of situation where you’ll be left to decide if the perceived convenience is worth the cost. Personally, what I do is have one eBook on my iTouch that I read whenever I can’t manage to hold my print book on my commute. Are you not a fan of reading multiple books at once?

  1. June 8, 2010 at 8:52 am

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