The Death of Paper…Maybe

Is print dead?

Newspapers are folding, publishing houses are struggling, all the while the Internet is gaining more and more popularity.

But is print really dead?

This debate has been going on for a while now, and I realize this subject isn’t exactly new material. In fact, some people have even made a youtube video spoof about ebooks vs print books.

Note, Round 2 can be found HERE and Round 3 HERE.

 

Personally, I read both print and ebooks. With print, I find there is something comforting about holding a book in my hands. I like to  sprawl out on the couch and flip through the pages. It’s easier on my eyes. Perhaps it also gives me a little nostalgia.

book

However…

Print books cost money to ship… or in gas to drive to a store and pick up. They take up room in your house. Anyone who is an voracious reader can tell you about the pile of books in their basement just waiting to be read. Many can also tell you about how their “keeper shelf” became an entire room in the blink of an eye.

Since joining this blog, I’ve met many new-to-me authors and have rushed out to buy one or more of their books. Now I have 90+ books sitting in my basement because, quite frankly, I have a day job, a writing career and small children at home.  I don’t have time to read more than a small handful of stories a month. My husband is constantly grumbling about the steady stream of books flowing into our house that sit around and gather dust. Last week, when I went on vacation, I was determined to put a dent in my “to be read” pile. I brought eight print books with me and filled up half of my carry-on bag for the plane ride.

That’s right – half of my carry-on bag was filled with paperback novels. Definitely a problem.

Ebooks are nice because they take up a lot less room. With a few clicks, you can have hundreds of stories at your fingertips.  Since they don’t need to conform to a certain size, they can be as few as 20 pages or as many as 400 (or more!).  If you are looking for something new, different, or a concept that’s a little “outside the box,” you’re more apt to find it in ebook form than print.

There’s no denying that ebooks are becoming more and more popular. Even large, established print publishers like Harlequin and Avon are dipping their toes in the  ebook arena. More authors are releasing an ebook prequel a couple of months prior to their print series release. I’ve also recently discovered a new way to read books, called textnovel or cell phone novel reading. This is where books are broken down into 5-10 pages and sold to readers in serials, like a soap opera.  Since it’s conception in 2003, cell phone novel reading has become very popular in Japan and China. Dorchester has launched a contest for writers based on this phenomena. 

I have this love/hate relationship with ebooks. I know, weird coming from an ebook author, huh? Right now, I read ebooks on my netbook and I think this is where the whole system falls apart for me.  After spending 8-10 hours staring at a computer screen for my day job and another 4 hours for my writing, I don’t really want to sit down at a computer to read a book — especially for a few hours.  I find that I read novellas and short stories as ebooks  (anything that will take me under an hour to finish), but prefer to save longer novels (200 pages +) for paper.  I think I would read more longer works as ebooks, however, if I didn’t have to sit down at a computer every time I wanted to read.

In other words, I just need the right reading device.

So I’ve been looking at purchasing an ereader. I’ve researched the different types out there, most of which have been summarized in a table at Dear Author here. I even went out and test drove a few models.

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Kindle

 

 
I never bought one, though. Why? Well, there are a couple of reasons.

First, I don’t particularly care for how some ebook devices lock you into a certain format. Many ereaders force you to buy one particular book format and in many cases this limits where you can buy your ebooks. I’m a comparison shopper, so I like to have options and not be locked into one particular estore. True, this isn’t the case with all ereaders, but it is definitely true for some.

Second, the whole episode with Amazon removing books from people’s Kindles  left a bad taste in my mouth.  Despite Amazon’s apology, it drove home the message that at any time, the books I bought with my hard earned cash could disappear from my ereader. Maybe I’m being irrational here. I mean, there was such a huge outcry over this fiasco that I doubt Amazon will try it a second time. Then again… 

Lastly, and this is the biggest drawback for me, I’m too cheap to spend the $300-500 to get a decent device. An e-reader is a luxury item in my household and we just don’t have that kind of disposable income. Period.

I heard about a new e-reader coming this fall from Sony (read about it here). This device will be under $200 and available at places like Walmart and Target, although it won’t be wireless like it’s pricier counterparts. I think Sony has the right idea. With less expensive devices, the technology will become available to more people and make the market grow. Heck, at $199, I might even get one. I wonder, however, if $199 is low enough for the average reader to switch from print to e-reading. It wasn’t until the ipod dipped under the $150 mark that the device really flew off the shelves…

sony
Sony e-reader

At the end of the day, I don’t think print books will  go the way of the dinosaur anytime soon. There will always be people out there who crave turning of pages or placing a hard cover in their laps. Although, as a new generation of more tech savvy readers emerge, and ereaders become more affordable, I wonder if print novels will become difficult to find. I guess only time will tell…

What do you think? Do you read ebooks, print books or both? What do you think about the future of ebooks and the “textnovel” idea? Did you enter the Dorchester contest? Do you plan to?

 

I want to hear about it!

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Comments
13 Responses to “The Death of Paper…Maybe”
  1. I love, love, love the instant gratification of e-books. That’s the one thing that overcomes any other drawback for me. In less than a minute, I can sit down and read whatever I feel like reading. It’s like magic:>

  2. susan leech says:

    I guess I have to say I prefer printed books. I can curl up much easier with a book and it can still be carried to wherever I want to read. I guess things must change but i sure hope some how printed books will still be around. I am for change but a good book is still a printed good book! I also feel we still have a generation or so who are not into the high tech issues and who would really be lost with no printed books. For those who has CLUTTER from books..well pass them on to friends who read..they would love them. No friends welll…let me know I can soon become a friend fast if it means I can get books to read. ha ha I thank all my reader friends right now as I am retired on social security and depend on them for alot of my books as well as the contests here on the internet. Just one comment and I do not mean to be nasty..just stating my idea on things. Have a good day. susan L.

  3. Robyn Bski says:

    I’m drawn to e-books if only because our apartment has no more room for new books. I have a TBR bookcase, and I’d much rather fill up my hard drive. However, I love lending my books and getting my friends hooked on new series, and that’s not quite the same with an e-book.

    I work in academic publishing as my day job, and most of the publishers I work with seem scared to death of e-books. They’re afraid of their content being shared on the Internet like music was before the recording industry started locking up teenagers. Sometimes a publisher will charge 2 to 3 times more for e-rights to content than they do for print rights. It’s crazy.

  4. Chandra Ryan says:

    I was only introduced to the world of e-books about a year ago and I have to say, I love it. At this point, if I have a choice between buying the same book in print or electronic, I’ll buy it electronic. It’s just more convenient to store and it’s instant. Oh, and I had a tendency to put books down and forget where I left them. I’m not as careless with my Sony. I don’t think print will ever die nor do I think it should, but I do really love e-books.

  5. From an author standpoint, Robyn, your friends are right to be afraid. I’ve had my e-books pirated to death. It’s so frustrating and hurtful…especially when I’m trying to make a living and take care of my family. Many people who wouldn’t dream of breaking into my house or a bookstore and stealing a hard copy of my books think there’s nothing wrong with stealing a download of one.

    There should be stricter technical safeguards because fighting it from the other end isn’t working:/

  6. Robyn Bski says:

    Yeah I don’t understand why people pirate books… okay maybe I can understand textbooks, considering I remember the highway robbery of buying new books in college (“You want me to pay over $100 for this one book! Are the pages made of gold? Was it inked with the blood of the innocent?”). But if you love fiction, wouldn’t you want to support the author by buying their book?

  7. Chris says:

    I like both. I probably make more impulse buys of ebooks than of paper books – esp since paper books are so easy to get through my library system.

    I have a Hanlin v3 ebook reader, aka the Astak EZReader, BeBook, and more. I picked it because it wasn’t particularly locked in a certain format (right now, the only DRM format is reads is Mobi, due to Mobi licensing through Amazon, but the next firmware will switch that to Adobe Digital Editions. I probably won’t switch.)

    I have never pirated an ebook and don’t intend to. :)

  8. arestelle says:

    I’ve read one ebook: Alice in Wonderland. It was short and easy to read even on a computer screen (and I had some down time at work–much less conspicuous to visitors if I have an ebook open than a paperback ;) ). I am proofreading for Project Gutenberg now, so I guess I’m kind of reading ebooks that way. Bits and pieces, anyway.

    I recently saw a page about Sony’s newer touch-screen ereader. I think once they improve the technology of that, I’ll seriously consider buying an ebook reader. If Amazon doesn’t turn nice, I won’t ever buy a Kindle–I want a place for an SD card. I don’t really care about internet on a reader; it’s easy enough to download to a computer and put it on an SD card. Then it’s a little more difficult for them to take my book back or force me to re-download (only to tell me that I’ve run out of authorized downloads for the book, those being limited to one or two, and that I have to buy it again). 8)

  9. Suzanne Rock says:

    Barbara – Yeah, I DO love the instant gratification of ebooks. the fact that you can download a book instantly afer checkout is amazing.

    Hi Susan – I also think that there are still a lot of people out there who prefer print to ebooks. I think that will always be the case. It will be interesting to see the evolution of the ereader, though. Each new generation seems to be more and more book-like.

    Robyn – Yeah, I think everyone is a little scared of piracy. I didn’t adress it in the post, but it is an increasing problem. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) I’m not popular enough to be pirated extensively. From what I hear, it can be a real headache. Many people simply don’t realize that they are stealing. If ebooks keep being pirated, then authors won’t be able to afford to write any more of the books readers love.

    Chandra – I’m an ebook virgin, too. :) You bring up an excellent point. If I put my print book down, chances are that one of my kids will get a hold of it and throw it on the floor or something. My youngest likes to pull out my bookmarks. :/ I do like how ebooks save your place so you know where you left off.

  10. Suzanne Rock says:

    Barbara – ((HUGS)) on your books being pirated. It seems to be a never-ending frustration.

    Robyn – I’ve read some of the posts on these pirating sites and I don’t think these people see it the way you do. They see it more as free publicity for the author. Like they are doing the author a favor or something.

    arestelle – LOL about reading at work. Yes, ebooks can be more…shall we say…inconspicuous. :) Personally, I think I prefer Sony over the Kindle as well.

    He Chris! – I would have to agree. I definately do more impulse buying with ebooks. For some reason I will also take more chances with ebooks than print – like try a new author or genre or something. Maybe it’s because I can try something in a novella format, which is cheaper. If I happen to like it, I can go and buy the backlist.

  11. Nicole says:

    I do read both e-books and print books.. But I can never give up the feeling of rushing to the store for the latest book of one of my favorite books. I love curling up in my comfy Papasan chair, a cup of brewed tea next to me, a purring kitty on my lap, and cracking open a brand new book and flipping the pages one at a time while devouring the words the author so carefully chose to give you that rush.
    That smell of a new book.. the crisp feel of pages that never been turned… or the feeling of a well-read book that you know will easily open at your favorite sections for you to read and read again.
    I like the convenience of e-books that I can store on a flash drive and call up on my work computer to read during down times… but I will never give up my print books. Heck, I’m even moving into a 2-bedroom apartment just so I can give all my books their very own place without tucking them away in boxes.

  12. Personally, I like both. I love curling up with a physical book; there’s something intimate about being able to snuggle into my bed, and just get lost. But ebooks allow me to have more of them, and read them on any computer, and other little traits that add to ease.

    I don’t have an ebook reader, because I also can’t justify spending that kind of money on a luxury item. If it were like an iPod, and did several functions, I could look at getting one.

    I personally think ebooks are just going to get bigger and more popular. Not being a publisher myself, I’m just speaking from what I observe, but ebooks are handy because they don’t take up physical space, there’s no need to have a printing machine, and there’s no need to ship them. Piracy issues aside, ebooks (seem to) allow publishers to take greater chances with new authors, because they only lose some data space if the author doesn’t sell; with a print book, there’s more to invest if the book never sells.

    But I don’t think print books are going to disappear any time soon. I like to collect the books of authors I love, and buy their books religiously. There is something gratifying about seeing a physical book in my bookcase. And there are people like my fiance who can’t stare at a computer screen for hours on end, and will only read physical books.

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