Paper or Plastic?

Last week a friend of mine loaned me a book to read and I was somewhat surprised. Not so much by the gesture, for my friend is quite generous, but by my reaction to his offer. I realized that I have become more comfortable with eBooks and eReaders than with volumes of dead trees.

Do you remember the way the apes in Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey, reacted to the black monoliths? That was how I felt looking at the printed book, trying to remember the last one that I read.

The Times, They are a Changin’

I started using the Kindle app on my iPod back in late 2010 after I decided to get my feet wet and read an eBook. In the beginning I was nervous about losing my place in the book between readings and not having my device with me when I wanted to read my book.

The Amazon app for Apple devices is easy to use. I learned to bookmark my place and to highlight memorable passages. This led to me carrying the iPod as a matter of routine and no matter where I went, I had a compact book to read.

The keyword here is “compact”. Small fonts on small screens are a problem for aging eyes on the older iPod/iPhone platform. I learned how to increase the size of the font and had to put up with fewer words on the screen/page. This slowed down my reading speed on the pocket-sized device, but had no effect when I used my iPad. More Real Estate on the Screen = More Words per Screen +  Faster Reading Speed.

I got an iPhone in 2011 and this has become my default eReader because it is always with me. Amazon has made life simple with the Kindle’s Whispersync feature which syncs all devices to the last page read. I can read a book on my phone while I am out and about then continue where I left off when I switch to reading on my computer or iPad at a later time.

The Circle Game

Apple (iBooks) and Amazon (Kindle) have had their share of legal problems lately. Both companies received fines and had to compensate consumers.

Over the last year or so I have noticed that the prices of eBooks have been creeping higher and staying there longer. Used books seem to be a cheaper alternative to the eBook version of many publications, especially the classics.

I have reached my current age without once reading Ernest Hemingway. Last week I picked up a copy of The Sun Also Rises for a third of the price of a Kindle version.

The paperback is thin and easy to read when I cool down on the treadmill or stationary bike at the gym. I do not worry about dropping and breaking it like I would if I used my iPad to read.

Time to Chime In

Life is chock full of choices and, sadly, one size does not fit all.

I am interested in hearing your experiences at this juncture in history:

  • Do you prefer eBooks, or printed books?
  • What kind of experience have you had with an eReader?
  • For the published authors out there: What is the paper/plastic (electronic) experience like?


  33 comments for “Paper or Plastic?

  1. February 3, 2015 at 11:11 PM

    Great post! I love both. I too love the portability and efficiency of my Kindle. When I would travel before e-readers – whether a couple hour drive or a couple hour plane ride – I almost always found myself wanting to bring more than one book. “What if I finish the one?” Or “What if I don’t feel like reading that one, I should have a back-up so I can switch between the two (especially if one is fiction the other non). Now with my Kindle I can carry as many books as I’ve downloaded, even then I can quick buy a new one in a few seconds if that’s the case.

    My Kindle is the basic one, no back light (which is a problem), but honestly I genuinely appreciate that it’s not touchscreen. While push-push-pushing buttons across the on-screen keyboard to spell out my search is not cool I’ve bumped the screen so many more times than I’ve bumped the buttons on the side it’s not funny. Every time I do I think “Thank God it’s not a touchscreen”. Reading electronically took me some getting used to but not for long.

    That said, I still love books and they’re still all over my house. Another reason I appreciate the Kindle is that I’m not trying to figure out what to do with new books as much, and no one knows just how many books are on my “To-Read” shelf. But there’s just something about books when you’re a book person. The smell, the feel, the motions are irreplaceable really. Most of the time now I’ll stand in the bookstore or library and debate internally about whether or not I would prefer to read that book in print or electronically. Of course images aren’t nearly as stunning on my Kindle, well on mine they suck, but that’s when you turn to real books.

    I switch a lot between different books depending on my mood and e-books make this even easier. While I can make bookmarks however electronically, it’s just not the same as putting sticky tabs on pages or marking in the margins as others said. In my mind they balance each other out. When I finish a book I’m proud, and I am on the Kindle too but not nearly as much. I’m more likely to go back through a book when it’s in print than on the Kindle. It’s just a more comfortable and convenient process.

    I’m going to wrap this up, I swear…;)…As a self-published poet I can say I think it’s really important to offer both a print and electronic version of my book. However I have some full-color images in my book and they aren’t so good on e-readers at all. I think my book is better in print than e-book but I love to offer both. It’s a toss up really because I have a soft matte cover and it feels great. Also there’s something about reading poetry here and there that lends itself better to print. As well I think a print book carries more of its own character and delivers feelings better. Another note as an author is that we receive higher royalties from e-books than the average author does from print books. So e-books really are a good thing for their authors. I don’t however necessarily agree with increasing their prices across the board. A big part of the appeal of e-readers is that you can get books cheaper and this to me is an obvious positive for literacy and overall readership.

    So it’s not e-reader vs. book for me – just like it’s not nature vs. nurture – it all exists in context in balance. Wrapped up. 🙂 Thanks for getting the discussion going.


    • February 4, 2015 at 5:42 AM

      Thank you so much for your comments, particularly the last ones concerning authors and their places in the analog/digital conundrum of publishing.

      Do we dare get into the subject of Audiobooks? I have NO experience in that arena.


      • February 5, 2015 at 11:54 AM

        I don’t have experience with Audiobooks either now that you mention it, although I want to create one for my poetry book.

        Last year there was a big issue between Amazon and Hackett (think I got that right) publishing over the price of e-books. Hackett wanted to raise their prices, as do some other publishers, while Amazon disagreed. So Amazon tried to block, or at least limit, Hackett authors.

        While higher prices would mean higher royalties for me as an author, as a reader I love how cheap e-books are. This encourages me to try out new authors, especially Indies, and buy even more books. Because even though I love print books still, I could buy several e-books for the price of one print book. Hackett argued that cheaper books were demeaning and would result in fewer people reading. I think their logic is very faulty here. This was compared to the debate that apparently ensued years ago when trade paperbacks came about. Some argued that this “cheap” book would somehow lower the value and desire to read. Oh how wrong they were. Cheaper books, means more access and for more people, and no matter who you are this means more books period. Now how does that compromise reading???


      • February 5, 2015 at 1:30 PM

        Thank you for your reply and your information about ePubs. I remember the controversy last year and I also felt that cheaper prices would mean more volume of eBooks sold. I stocked up on a number of books in the under $2.99 category.

        As far as price vs. portability, eBooks win. Sitting at home with a good book—used books have the price advantage.

        I have friends who drive long distances on a regular basis and they love audiobooks. I may get one for next Fall when I pass the Corn Maze/Pumpkin Patch that Ed felt so strongly about…

        Liked by 1 person

      • February 9, 2015 at 12:15 PM

        Good call stocking up. I think the general consensus was on the side of increasing prices, too bad if it goes that route across the board.

        I need to get more audiobooks for the times I travel as well. I used to listen to them more years ago. They always made for an easier drive.

        Be careful around that maze! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • February 9, 2015 at 4:29 PM

        Will do.


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