print vs paperIn today’s Morning Links, I featured an Apartment Therapy article which worked my pet peeve chestnut: the ‘print books versus ebooks’ debate. I hate this one so, so much. I think it’s a really simple-minded analysis to treat print and eBook as a zero-sum game with a winner and a loser. Many readers, such as myself, freely purchase both types of book. I personally do have paper book shelf space, I just choose carefully what I fill it with and favour the artsy, beautiful ones that just don’t translate as well to e-forms.

So, why did I feature this article, then? I featured it because I think it has a grain of truth to it. I think there are many people who are like that Apartment Therapy blogger in that they love books, they bought a Kindle or eBook reader to try it out, and then…then they went back to reading paper, for whatever reason.

The AT article mentions the lack of a second-hand market, difficulty in lending, difficulty in skimming ahead and just feeling the paper experience is ‘nicer’ in their reasons why paper ‘won.’ And I know people who went ‘back’ to paper for other reasons. My mother never quite got the hang of loading books herself. My stepfather doesn’t really care what he reads, so he’ll just pick up whatever it available—and my mother is a bit of a social butterfly, has many friends and swaps books freely with them, so something always is around in paper. The Beloved broke his Kobo, read for awhile on an Android tablet, broke that too and then decided he would rather read blogs and articles anyway. And my father-in-law, who had an iPad in his hand for as long as I’ve known him, found that even Amazon’s alleged lowering of the price bar couldn’t compete with the ‘free’ of the public library. And since so many people like me have defected to the e-side, he had the waiting lists for the less-popular books he wanted pretty much to himself.

It still irks me to see such a complex industry reduced to an either/or argument. I know there are many like me who read both paper and electronic content. But I do think there is some truth to the argument that perhaps more people than we might think bought one device to try it out, and then didn’t buy a second one.

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. I love my Kindle and the ease and quickness of getting new books for it. When I travel with both my eInk Kindle and my Kindle Fire, I have thousands of books, magazines, and audiobooks to choose from. I prefer reading books on my eInk Kindle, it’s easier on the eyes and a smaller device. I prefer my Kindle Fire for magazines for the obvious reasons.

    My parents enjoy their Kindle Fires. My dad likes it because he can easily increase the font size. However, they both also check out physical books from the library. I check out ebooks from the library. Our large city library has a good collection with more added every week. I think having holds for ebooks is kind of dumb, but it’s much easier than getting a hold notice and driving to the library to pick it up. I get an email, click the link, sign into my account, and check it out. It’s on my Kindle in less than a minute and also available to everyone else on my account. I can checkout 20 at a time and place 30 holds at a time. Book worm nirvana!

    I do get the occasional physical book. I have a beautiful book on libraries and the Letters of Note book for example. They just work better in a physical format. I also have a cool pop-up book on pre-order. You would think that you couldn’t do that digitally, but I also participated in a Kickstarter campaign for a children’s book that has both a physical and a digital component. The digital part can be customized for your child , how cool is that?

    As you said, it’s not an either/or choice, it can be both. I (and my husband!) love not having ever more books piled up in the house, although we cherish the ones we already have.

  2. Either/or turns a very complex question into a poll or sporting event for lazy journalists, people who can’t think, and those who want to fight about something. As simple and as complex as that.

    What bothers me more is that the question of availability is never factored in. Paper is more expensive to produce and stock, and bookstores won’t be around forever.

    Then there’s the question of the number of people who aren’t reading. That’s just plain scary.

  3. Well, actually in Canada, you cannot read library books on a Kindle 🙂 But yes, I do know about library eBooks. My point was, he has perused the options and found that since people like me have gone to the eBooks, he has the paper ones to himself.

  4. Then there are those of us who need every book to be large print. I really don’t have any choice for longform reading. I can read recipes using a magnifying glass but am not about to read a novel that way. I do check out large print books from the library when they are available, and I make great use of Overdrive for digital books. I do hope that things change in Canada so that libraries there can loan digital books because there have to be many who need large print all the time.

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