Weekly Writing Challenge: Print vs. Digital Books

I’ve been reading since I was four years old, and memorizing books since I was about three. The written word has always been my favorite: reading on family trips, reading during my meals, reading before hopping in the shower (or while in the bathtub), while waiting for water to boil, you name it. In the past two years, I’ve become accustomed to having the option of e-books as well as the paperbacks and hardcovers I grew up with. So…which is better?

There is no surefire answer to this question.

I’ll start with e-books. I love the ease of having several books on one device, carried with me everywhere I go; whether on my iPad or on my iPhone. I love that I can read a book on my iPad at night and pick up where I left off during my lunch break on my iPhone. I love I always have something to read with me whether I have a print book in my bag or not. I like that I can read in the dark on my iPad and not have to worry about forgetting to shut off the light before bed. I also like that my reading positioning doesn’t require my hands holding it, and I can lay on my side and read till I literally pass out from the exhaustion of the day.

I think e-books are the way to go with college textbooks. I think that they would save college students hundreds of dollars a year on books that they will use once and hardly get back half of what they paid for it. With the extraordinary amount of expenses college students already have, e-books would help ease that burden just a bit. My last couple of years in college, I bought some e-books as well as rented most of my textbooks to avoid that cost. Plus, it’s a space-saver: we won’t have books that we’ve saved cluttering our shelves that we might never look at again.

However, most of the time I will go for what costs the least, and at times, print books are actually less money than swiping the book off of the Amazon Kindle store. I think this is slightly ridiculous, considering an e-book is a digital file, basically a glorified PDF, and should not cost more than $5. A print book is actually printed and costs more money to produce. I feel that publishing companies are ripping us off a bit by their fear of e-books costing less than print books do.

Now, print books. Obviously, I grew up reading paperbacks and hardcovers. I like the feel and smell of print books, and enjoy the feeling of actually reading printed words on a page, rather than staring at a screen like I do a lot of the time (at both jobs, teaching, raiding, reading blogs). I also adore book covers, and am very picky about which one I buy if there is more than one available to me, and covers are not something I can glance at constantly while reading an e-book. I’m reading Caucasia by Danzy Senna, and I enjoy being able to sit back and read comfortably, actually turning pages and enjoying the feel of a paperback in my hands. I also have a rather large stack of to-be-read books on my nightstand, and being able to peruse through them and have them in concrete form is something of a joy to me.

I also like that print books can be resold as well as they do. There’s nothing I love more than visiting the thrift store or a used bookstore and spending an hour or so picking out ten to twelve used books that cost under a dollar each. It takes a little more dedication, but you can often find books that you’ve been wanting to read and spend a lot less money than if you had bought them new in either form.

Of course, print books have their drawbacks as well. I have a larger apartment than I did a couple of months ago, but I still have one bookshelf that is already bursting with books as it is, most ones that I am not willing to part with. Some of them are already double-shelved, and eventually, I won’t have room to buy any more unless I get rid of some. I may end up giving some away once I get through ones I haven’t read, and say, “Hmm, probably won’t read this again,” and I’ll make room for more. With a Kindle app, I don’t have to do this. I can hoard as many books as I’d like, and they’re still stored digitally in the cloud and on my device, all in one place. I can have hundreds of books stored and not fill my bookshelf any more, preserving the precious space I do have.

As I mentioned before, something that’s always presented a problem for me with reading is finding a comfortable position for it. With print books, I have to use one or both hands to hold the book open and read, and sometimes this presents a challenge if I’m eating while reading, etc. When I was little I remember basically spinning around my bed at intervals, trying to find exactly the right position to read in, while with my iPad, I switch from one side to the other at most, and it’s completely hands free until I have to turn the page.

Ultimately, I don’t have a definitive answer to this question. I love both forms of books, and would gladly spend money on both forms of books, depending on which is most cost-efficient and the availability of the item. I feel that it’s sad that print books are starting to lose traction, but I hope that publishing companies begin to realize what kind of economy and market they are working with and find ways to reduce production costs to provide reasonable prices for both forms. Most book-lovers would gladly buy books all the time if it didn’t cost more than an hour’s work to buy 3-4 books. I sure know I would.

Do you read e-books or print books more often? Do you have a preference? Let me know in the comments.Β 

This post is in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge on WordPress.com. If you’d like to submit your own challenge post, please click here.

12 thoughts on “Weekly Writing Challenge: Print vs. Digital Books

  1. Charleen says:

    I would definitely buy books more often if they were cheaper, and I really don’t understand why ebooks are as much as they are, since once they make back their money they can sell unlimited copies at a pure profit. I don’t know much (okay, anything) about economics, but I’m sure that if they cost less, they would sell more of them, and isn’t there some sort of curve relating those two, trying to find the sweet spot when you’re pricing an item? I’m not entirely convinced they’ve found their sweet spot, given how many frugal readers there are out there.


    • Samantha says:

      I am absolutely positive that you are right, and they haven’t found their sweet spot. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be so “afraid” of making enough sales. There are obviously enough people that love books and would buy them in either format (despite popular belief) and if they put it to the right price point I think people would buy a lot more books. I usually buy books when I read them, but I often go months without even buying one because of the price. If I buy just three books I usually spend about $60. That’s too much money.


      • Samantha says:

        Since writing this post, I’ve been reading more print books, but that’s mostly because my e-reading device is sort of out of commission? I can read it still, it has green screen and it gives all the words a green tinge, although it’s not as bad in the Kindle app as it is in everything else. However, I have quite a few ebooks I’m anxious to read, so will probably be reading more of those too…I have all of Stephen King’s books in ebook and just bought a collection of Robert Louis Stevenson books.


  2. greenembers says:

    “A print book is actually printed and costs more money to produce. I feel that publishing companies are ripping us off a bit by their fear of e-books costing less than print books do.”

    – Funny enough, the cost is about negligible. Here is why. Back when I was in a writing club, there was a guy who worked in a publisher’s editing house. Every manuscript, for just the editing there were about 4 people who would go over it. Two would go over basic editing, grammar and the like. And two would go over editing things like sense, point out flow problems and also review the previous people’s work. These people didn’t do this for free. Then you have cover artists to pay. And there might be even more people involved in some way that we don’t know about who helped get the book published (for a salary of course).

    The actual printing of a physical book is relatively cheap, compared to all the people beside just the author who worked to bring the book to you.

    That being said, the ebook should be cheaper, because channel distribution costs would be lower. So yeah, they are price gouging convenience but not as much as you might think.


    • Samantha says:

      That makes sense, and both forms would have those costs, however it seems to me that the cost of material (paper, hardcover, printing) would be more than distributing a “glorified PDF” and formatting it properly, etc. Either way, it still seems that if the companies set the price at a reasonable margin of profit so that they were more affordable, more books would be sold overall…therefore increasing that profit gain.

      I am really looking forward to that process of putting my book through editing, even if I end up paying for a lot of it myself with independent publishing. I immensely respect the people who edit books. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for coming by! πŸ˜€


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