E-Books vs. Real Books: The Solution

by Mr Uku

E-Readers like the Kindle are just a choice. So stop your whining.

I’ve wanted to write a post about the on-going battle between lovers of e-books and those who prefer “real” or printed books for quite some time.

It was originally going to be an article to be pitched to Writing Magazine and was going to be called, Stop Your Incessant Whining. I’ve never bothered writing it because, as an industry outsider, I felt my voice didn’t carry enough weight. And the less said about my weight, the better.

Recently the argument has reared up again. I forget why exactly as I’m off me tits on Syndol, thanks to a bad back. But I remember being really angry about it all.

You see, I get that some people don’t like e-books, I really do. Although I refuse to believe that people are flummoxed by their popularity, as one blogger claimed to be. Seriously, get a fecking grip you muppet.

E-books are brilliant and I love my Kindle, but I accept that printed books are great too. In fact, nothing would please me more than to see my own pulp, Monkeygeddon, produced in paperback. Preferably on sale in book vending machines with gaudy graphics all over it.

So how do I rectify my love of both e-books and paperbacks? After all, they’re so different. Paperbacks don’t need batteries and you can read them in the bath and they smell nice and they feel like proper books. E-books are pale imitations by comparison, you don’t get the nice cover artwork to look over each time you pick up your Kindle.

But then again, my Kindle holds hundreds of books, some not available in print anymore. And while I can’t read it in the bath, I wouldn’t do that with a paperback. As for the smell and feel, the leather cover I got for it provides a very close approximation to that “book” feel. And ultimately, isn’t it all about the text anyway?

It’s all so confusing. They each have as many plus points as they have minus points, what is a fella to do? Well, I’ve come up with an ingenious solution.

I buy both.

You see, it turns out, and I’ve checked into it as thoroughly as I could be arsed to, that no laws have been passed. There are no book-burning-mobiles being sent around the country to force people to hand over their paperbacks. And you are perfectly entitled to continue buying them even if you do own a Kindle or other e-reader.

In fact, since getting my Kindle last October, I’ve bought many printed books.

My Christmas wish-list consisted of nothing but printed books. Some of them weren’t available for Kindle. Some of them were available as digital versions but I felt they really wouldn’t work for me in that format. Some of them had covers that just looked so nice I wanted them on my shelf. One of them, the complete HP Lovecraft, I already have on my Kindle, twice. I wanted the printed version too because Lovecraft just needs to be presented in a large leather bound tome. It just does.

Digital books are great, but so are printed books and plenty of people prefer them. That’s why you can still buy them. And you’ll be able to buy them for as long as people still want them.

Digital books are not the devil. They’ll only bring about the death of the printed book if readers let them do so. And since many readers still enjoy paperbacks, I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.

So, once again, stop your incessant whining. Buy paperbacks. Enjoy them. But accept that digital books are here too. They are a simply another choice, nothing more. A bit like hardbacks. Remember them?

Now if we can just convince certain publishers to stop being such idiots, we’d all be happy.

For the record:

  • Not everyone with an e-reader is a pirate/thief or even potential pirate/thief. Some of us never go down that road. Some people always will no matter what you do.
  • We don’t all expect e-books to be priced at 99p or less, but we do object to silly pricing. You simply cannot justify an e-book costing more than a paperback And while this may be down to deals done with retailers on printed books and not on e-books, or that VAT is added to e-books but not printed books, it’s up to the publishers and the retailers to sort this out for the sake of us readers. Oh and over-pricing your e-book during the release phase of the hardback and then lowering it when the paperback comes out is, frankly, pathetic. Are you really expecting us to believe you’ve released a digital hardback?
  • DRM doesn’t stop piracy. That’s a simple fact. What it does, is make life difficult for honest purchasers. And when you start treating your honest purchasers like pirates, they start getting angry and annoyed with you. Just ask the movie/music industry how that’s working out for them. Befriend your customers. Work with them. They are not the enemy.
  • Having said that, people tend to want to treat their e-books like printed books. They want to be able to lend them easily and even sell them on. This would be great, but I suspect it may be difficult without some sort of DRM to stop abuse of the system. But you’ll never stop a determined thief.

There’s so much to be said about the whole e-book thing that it’s making my head spin and I’m sure there’s loads I’ve forgotten to say. Or maybe that’s the Syndol again.

Either way, consider my spleen vented. I’m off to eat bacon.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

leslie (crookedstamper) July 15, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Touche. I am one of the paper book holdouts, and I don’t rant at all about e-books; I just choose to not consume them. I work at a computer all day and I want to HOLD a book when I read it and turn its paper pages and not have the glare of a screen be the last thing I see before I drop off to sleep.

And yes, I buy hardcover books if I want them that badly and am too impatient to wait for the paperback.

I see that e-books work for a lot of writers who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get their books published — I get that, and I’m happy for them. I’m only sad that the market is such that they can’t afford to ALSO make the book available in paperback. It’s cost-prohibitive. In these situations, I lose. But I AM OKAY WITH THAT, since I have a bazillion paper books left to read.

Oh, wait, this is YOUR blog. Sorry. ;/


Mr Uku July 15, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Hiya, Leslie.
I’m happy to say that there is no glare from the screen of an e-reader. That’s the beauty of e-ink, no backlit LEDs to hurt your eyes after staring at a computer screen all day. But you’re right about e-books being a boon for writers. It’s much easier to self publish now than it ever was and I think that’s that’s great. But the reason so many of them don’t bother with printed books too isn’t really one of cost to the writer. Print on Demand means that you can set your book up as both an e-book and a printed book and it won’t cost you a penny. However, the cost involved for the reader might be what is putting many writers off.
I got my first draft of Monkeygeddon printed up thanks to a NaNoWriMo voucher so it cost me nothing. But if I’d given CreateSpace the go ahead to publish the book it would have cost my readers around £10 to buy a copy. That’s a lot of dosh for a 250 page pulp novel about killer monkeys. You can see that e-books are cheaper to sell for obvious reasons, but I think that self publishers should refuse to undercut themselves. Cheap books just look like cheap writing, in my opinion. If you’re going to self publish, take some pride in your work and price it accordingly.

I shall now go and climb my reading pile and settle down for the day 🙂


Mark Pack July 15, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Your mention of DRM reminds me of an oddity about attitudes towards books: the veneration of second hand bookshops.

I’m with many other people and I love them (as indeed I love printed books http://www.markpack.org.uk/31257/why-i-love-books/). Yet in one sense second hand bookshops could be advertised as ‘buy a book and save money by not having to pay the authors any royalties!’ Instead, they have a nice cuddly reputation.

It’s as if collectively we don’t mind that much if the creator gets paid when it comes to printed materials being passed on, and it’s only when the internet is involved that some people’s hackles rise up.


Mr Uku July 15, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Hi Mark.
You’re right about second hand bookshops. Interestingly, some authors and artists have tried to do something about that too. I remember a case a while back where a group of country singers lead by Gareth Brooks tried to have the law changed so they would get a cut of second hand sales. They got nowhere, but the rise of technology has meant that some large companies are indeed trying to control things like that. Look at Sony, who recently took a guy to court for trying to run his own software on a Playstation 3. Sony contended that they should be in control of what you do with the equipment you bought.
This is what happens when you treat your legitimate customers like potential thieves. Nobody wins.


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