Tag Archives: e-readers

E-Readers vs. Printed Books? Let’s Argue. Or Not.

If you’re an avid book reader, you’ve probably been hearing this argument for a while in some form or other.

Person A : “I love my electronic book-reading device. So small, so easy to use. And the books I can buy here are so much cheaper than printed books.”

Person B: “I’ll never use a e-reader. I just love the look and feel of a book too much. I like collecting them, the way they look on my shelf, how easy they are on my eyes.”

Person A: “But e-readers are the future, man. Who knows if they’ll even be printing books down the road? And right now, there are all sorts of books you can’t get in print because they’re so expensive and inefficient to produce. What could be cooler than carrying thousands of books in something that weighs about as much as two-pack of Pop Tarts?”

Person B: “Oh, come on. They’ll never stop printing books. Too many people are going to want them and nothing else. Besides, you can’t take an e-reader into the bathtub with you. And I love my local bookstore. I don’t want to see it go out of business.”

And on and on and on. You may have even been in an argument like this. I know I’ve been in too many to count.

Here’s the thing, though: Why does it have to be an either-or argument? Why can’t both sides be right? (If only because both sides are right.)

I own a Kindle e-reader. (This blog is not an advertisement for it, however; it just happened to be what I bought. I’m sure I’d be just as happy with a Nook or an iPad or whatever). I also regularly buy printed books (and love our independent bookstores). Here’s how I’ve found the balance:

My Kindle is used to buy two kinds of works:

E-book-only releases. Thousands of writers these days are uploading their books directly to Amazon’s Kindle Store, Smashwords or other electronic-publishing outlets and selling their work for, generally, between 99 cents and $2.99. I’m a fan of crime fiction, and write it myself, so I regularly take the time to scout out cheap e-books that are up my thematic alley. Some are good, some are good but unpolished, and some are just plain awful. But that’s OK; I generally learn something valuable and relevant to my own efforts, and I’m not out much money.

E-book re-releases of out-of-print books. A lot of authors who originally saw their books published the traditional way have seen their books slip out of print (in other words, no longer on bookshelves or available to order). Many have clauses in their publication contracts that allow the rights to their books revert back to them after so many years. So what these authors sometimes do is e-publish those books themselves so they can a) reintroduce the work to a new audience; and b) create a potential stream of passive new revenue for themselves. I’ve discovered some fine, fun mysteries this way — and even better, often get to read new volumes in a once-published series. Many authors saw a series end because their sales went flat, but not before they had completed another volume or two in the series. Before e-books, those volumes would have probably stayed tucked away forever with their creators.

One example: An author named Ron Franscell published a mystery called The Deadline about a dozen years ago that I liked. However, he couldn’t get a deal for a second book, The Obituary, that featured the same lead character. As soon as he gave up on shopping it to traditional publishers, he put it up himself in the Kindle Store. I happily bought it for $5.99 and enjoyed it a great deal.

Everything else (i.e., books in print) I’ll buy in printed form from bookstores.

In this way, the argument is moot. For me, anyway. I’m all about the future. Except when I’m all about the past.

How about you? Does it have to e-readers only for you, or nothing but print books? Or can you find some middle ground? Discuss.