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  • [What's Next?] Digital v Print - The Battle Continues
[What's Next?] Digital v Print - The Battle Continues
Written by
Cait Levin
April 2013
Written by
Cait Levin
April 2013

Instead of focusing on my writing this week, I want to talk about something that sort of continues our discussion from last time. In my last post I talked about editing digitally versus editing on hard copy. Last week Gizmodo posted this opinion piece about e-books versus the “old-fashioned” print versions, and I thought to myself, I really didn’t do any work on my manuscript this week. I should talk about this, instead! By which I mean, the article makes some great points that I wanted to share with you all!


If you read my post last week you can probably guess how I feel about e-books. Honestly, as someone who very publicly enjoys reading and writing, I’m surprised someone hasn’t already bought me an e-reader. I think if they were fifty dollars cheaper I’d have a stack of ten Kindles next to my fifteen journals people always seem to think I’ll love. But the truth is, I don’t really get it.


Yes, it stores all of your books in one place so you don’t have to store them all, but to be honest, I love the idea of having a library. I don’t know about you, but five-year-old me really internalized that scene in Beauty and the Beast where the Beast presents Belle with that ridiculous (read: amazing) library with shelves so high you needed a totally cute 18th century ladder to reach everything. Come on. You want one of those.


And speaking of libraries, what do I do if I already have one and I want to incorporate it into my e-library? Hsieh makes a great point about that in her article. She writes, “Unlike music or photographs, there is no way to migrate an old book library into a new one. Over the past decade, I've been able to convert my tapes to CDs, my CDs to MP3s, and now import my MP3s into Spotify and listen to music over the cloud. Yet, if I want to read my favorite books on my Nexus 7, I have to pay for a separate e-book version, assuming one even exists.” That’s a really good way to put it.


I think my issue is that I love old, inconvenient things that aren’t as efficient. With other technologies and digital media, the industry forced me to make the change. VHS tapes? Can’t buy those. Want to play that original Spice Girls cassette tape? No more tape player in your car. And now, you want DVD’s? Well fine, we’ll sell you a DVD, but we’ll also sell you a Blu-ray. And a digital copy. It kills me. I wouldn’t even have a smart phone right now if the store had offered me a flip phone that didn’t look like something my grandmother would use.


To me, e-readers are a whole different piece of the story that I don’t understand. Amazon and Barnes & Noble make the software on these readers available for your Mac, PC, or tablet, so why buy the reader? Just put whichever program you prefer (or both! Get crazy!) on your tablet and call it a day. Right?


The point is, print books are still readily accessible to me, often for a similar price to the e-book (if I’m buying in paperback), so why should I switch? Sure, I like the idea of having a slim little tablet to read Game of Thrones on so I don’t have to deal with the inconvenience of carrying around a thousand-page book in my purse. But I could just buy a bigger purse; that way, when I get on an airplane I can keep reading when you have to turn off your Nook for takeoff and landing. (Who’s inconvenienced now?)


So what I’m wondering is, what do you-all prefer? If you love ebooks and think I’m nuts for not loving them too, I’m open to being convinced. But I really do identify with Belle on a pretty personal level, so it might take some extra pushing. Let me know how you feel in the comments below!

Cait Levin is a Project Editor at She Writes Press. You can read more of her blog (when she stops watching so much Call the Midwife and actually writes more of a blog) here.

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  • Mel Robertson

    I love books. LOVE them.  I have yet to buy an e-reader, but I'm starting to think that the time is upon me. I'm an Aquarius, which means I have to roll with the tech punches or I'll go batty.  It took me a while to jump on the MP3 bandwagon and the Mac bandwagon, for that matter, but when I did, I was a convert.  A big one.  BUT, I was also the kid who turned her room into a library and invited all of her friends to peruse the stacks and check out a book when they wanted to.  I've been obsessed with turning pages since as far back as I can remember and if books go away, I will miss coffee rings on pages and dog ears almost as much as I miss not having to carry a smart phone around with me all day.  Or reading a map. Or actually having a conversation with a friend over coffee instead of via text.  I roll with the punches, but often detest it.

  • J.Q. Rose Writing

    Tablets are taking over the electronic world. E-reader sales are diminishing. Even amazon is clued into that with their tablet/kindle fire. People are demanding availability to their books, social media, news outlets, movies, etc, and yes, phone calls and texting all in one device. Instead of keeping track of your e-book library, how about figuring out how to sort/organize all this info?? Brains of the future will have to be very complex! LOL...With all that said, print books will be around for awhile because we love them. There's enough room in my brain to appreciate a digital book AND a print book. I love choices!

  • Mark Hughes

    Here's a paradigm: some movies you rent/stream, others you buy the DVD because you know you want to see them again. My point? If the book is a classic, or one I'm sure I'll later read again, I'll get the hard copy. If it's likely to be a one time read, then to the e-book it goes. I used to travel a lot and the Kindle was a dream for that life, as I was already lugging so much along.

      Part of my strategy is caused by bookshelves stuffed, part is my willingness to embrace technology. That said, what's neat about a book - as compared to any form of recorded music - is that no intermediary device is needed (not counting glasses). Regardless of what technology comes along, the ol' book will still be legible. I like that.

      So, to me, both have their place. I like uploading my work to my Kindle so I can see what it will "look" like when published. It's easy for my reviewers to read it in this same way, and it saves any number of trees (okay, not so many yet, but who knows?).

  • Ruth Feiertag


    Not at all. I thought that I had lodged my foot in my keyboard somewhere along the discussion.


  • kelly mccann


    Not at all, and I apologize if I offended you. 

    I like to hear myself speak ;)

  • Ruth Feiertag


    I'm sorry if I touched a nerve or offended you. I have no desire to take anyone's e-reader away, but I hope that I shall always have the option to buy a book. That's all.


  • kelly mccann

    Thanks for the response Ruth.

    I scanned the articles you posted, and they were before the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of Kirtsaeng, among others.

    One, even if Amazon or Apple go belly up, someone will step in with a device to read/use the files. People file share, legally and illegally, and even if those companies go belly up, the content (music, ebook files, movies) will still be on the net.

    And people will still access the files.

    Two, Apple no longer is using the DRM software (the whole pesky Anti-trust laws) and Fairplay removal restrictions were removed in 2009.

    But, to get to what's useful about e-books, when you as an author upload an e-book, you can allow DRM or not. For those with Legacy publishers, you don't have that option, but for the self-published, you can allow your works to be shared as much as your readers want to.

    You may choose not to allow others to share your work, and may have valid reasons not to, so you would have DRM enabled, and would argue that those who download your works don't own them.

    Others, who see allowing their works to be shared with other as a marketing tool, won't have DRM enabled.

    Not saying either is right or wrong, just that the whole people don't really own e-books is debatable.

    And whether your readers legally own your works or not, just like with everything else digital, they will share it.

    Before I get off my soapbox, I will also give my opinion that every author have an e-reader. They are relatively inexpensive, and e-books is where publishing is headed. Make a Kindle Direct Account, read the forums, see what's possible income wise.

    I love books as well (my basement looks like a book hoarder lives there), and hope that POD is always an option, but I see younger readers (and yes, I know that older readers account for the larger share of the ebook market) who grew up with everything digital, will prefer ebooks over physical books.

  • Ruth Feiertag


    I just realized that I didn't answer the second question you asked. People usually don't really own e-books; they get a license  for their use. There have been some good articles that probably explain the debate better than I can:


    And I liked the ending of this article at http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120828/16191120192/what-happens-to-all-that-digital-goodness-you-have-purchased-after-you-die.shtml:

    One question not raised in the WSJ piece is one we have talked about in the past when such services go belly up. Is it really going to matter that your files are not transferable when Apple or Amazon close up shop and banish all your purchased content to the nether world of digital services? That is a more pressing question. While you may live to a ripe old age, the services and technologies you use typically have a far shorter shelf life. What good would it be to leave obsolete files and devices to your children?

    I guess the final question that needs to be asked here is this, "Who wants to die first so that legal precedent can be established on this matter?"

    I truly am not advocating for the elimination of digital devices. I just want my books to be tangible artifacts. 


  • Ruth Feiertag


    I didn't express myself very well when I wrote that individual e-readers will become obsolete. I was thinking of how fast technology changes. When I was a kid, eight-track tapes were all the rage, and then we had to buy a new copy of all the Bill Cosby tapes which got us through car trips again because cassette tapes were all our newer car could handle. When our first child was little we amassed a decent VHS library, but by the time kid number two came along some time later, all we could get were DVDs. My husband's e-reader is maybe four years old and already pretty much a dinosaur. Chances are that before my younger child has his own children, something I can even imagine will replace e-books. It's as K says in Men In Black: Looks like I'll have to buy the White Album again.

    Sorry for the infelicitous phrasing.


  • Danyelle C. Overbo

    I keep thinking that I'll get an e-reader eventually, but I somehow never do.  It is the same reason music lovers still buy cds; having the physical copy right there in your hand makes it so much easier.  I too have always wanted a library and I built one in my home.  I don't have enough time to organize and file and move around and change over etc. all my music from one iphone to the other, I can't imagine the time it would take organizing and keeping track of all the books I'd want on an e-reader.  With physical copies I know exactly where it is, I know that I own it, and I'm far less likely to lose track of it.  Plus, I love books.  They are fantastic.

  • It's cool that most of the comments seem to be giving a thumbs-up to both mediums. I agree on this point as well. I love my Kindle for traveling, and for reading manuscripts! I upload so many pdf and Word files to it and do a fair amount of advance reading. I also love digital publishing for the ways in which it can help authors build their author platform. I'm on a big kick right now about using a Kindle Single (or any eBook for that matter) to build your platform to help you get published traditionally. So much so that I'm doing a webinar on this topic on April 23. Authors need to embrace the eBook as an avenue to bring new readers to them; whether or not we prefer to read print books or digital books is just part of the equation here, in my opinion. Thanks for the post, Cait!

  • Grace Peterson

    Although I'm happy with hard copy books, I love my KIndle fire. As a die hard word nerd, one of my favorite apps is the dictionary. Just put your finger on an unfamiliar word and up pops the definition. Put your finger on it again and it's gone. No muss. No fuss. 

    There are pros and cons to both methods of reading. I like that we have a choice. (And I don't own a smart phone.) 

  • I think eBooks are here to stay everyone and I'm glad of it. There is/will be a use for both eBooks and real books. Lavinia gave us a perfect example with her China story. Here's my take on not being able to "keep forever" a ebook. Most eBook have a print companion. So you can read the eBook cheaply and then if you really love it and want to have a real copy to hold and chersish forever, you buy a print version of it. There! You've had the convenience of the eBook and the timelessness of the paper one. I'm getting ready to put my eBook Dinosaur Lake into print now because the eBook version is selling soooo well. In fact, all my other 17 books are both available now in eBook and print.  And I can give free samples (that cost me nothing as well) in the eBook format, that I can't in hard copy. Right now, for example, I'm giving away a free spooky short story (Ghost Brother) until April 16 on Amazon Kindle. So I LOVE both eBooks and hard copies! Author of 18 novels, Kathryn Meyer Griffith

  • kelly mccann

    Hi Ruth,

    Why do you think individual e-readers will be obsolete?

    And isn't whether e-books are passed on to others up for debate?

    Some writers allow and even encourage their work to be shared, while others are against, and of course if you as an author have contracted away that right, you have no say.

  • Ruth Feiertag

    I don't think e-readers are evil, and those who want to use them should be welcome to do so. But I'm a fan of the non-virtual book. E-books are not supposed to be passed on to others, not even to our heirs — and individual e-readers will be obsolete in much less than a generation anyway. My library contains books from generations on both sides of my family; remembering that my hands, my children's hands, are holding a book just where my parents', grandparents', great-grandparents' hands held it gives me another connection to my family. I hope that my children will not dismantle our library and burn the books to roast marshmallows. After all, everyone should have a facsimile of Shakespeare's first folio as well as first editions of the Harry Potter books, right?


  • Lovenia Leapart

    If it wasn't for my move to China, I'm sure I'd still be a paper book only girl.  But now that I'm living in China, my eReader is my life line and one of the most important things in my possession. That being said, I CAN'T WAIT to get my hands on a paper book when I come home in June.  EVERYTHING I read now is electronic except for the textbooks I teach from, so I'm very much looking forward to the experience of holding a paper book in my hands and eagerly turning it's pages!

  • Tyra Brumfield

    I must say that a computer graphic doesn't excite me like the cover of a new paperback. I don't ogle at the computer screen and wonder where the story that follows will take me next. I'm not tempted to sniff my screen or rub my fingers over its surface like I am a new book. Progress is here to stay and will quickly run over anyone standing still and I'm all in favor of new and improved anything, except for books. For me, trying to improve on the experience of a new book is like trying to improve on anything that is truly meaningful. It just falls flat.

  • Tessa Bagatto

    Ditto Pamela Olson and Katheryn Meyer Griffith.

    I don't buy ebooks if I want to read them again, share with others, or need them as reference material for my writing. However, fun books or books that are often on sale at the free or lower ebook price, I'll buy them for my Kindle Fire. I also don't need to see those books on my home library shelf.

  • Everything Kelly said.

    So I love books and eBooks. There's more than enough room in the world for both. Author Kathryn Meyer Griffith

  • Pamela Olson

    For Great Books, hard copy is the way to go. For disposable, silly books that you just want to read for fun, never look at again, and not have clutter up your house afterwards (or carry while you travel), eBooks are awesome.

    And that idiotic regulation that you have to turn off your eReader for takeoff and landing has to go. So. Freaking. Stupid.

  • Marcia Fine

    I'm a comprehensive reader and I love books and my reader! Instead of filling half my suitcase with books before a trip, I download enough to keep me busy and I'm off. I've run out of something to read in 3 foreign countries where I couldn't purchase anything so it's very convenient to have books with me all the time!
    I still have shelves of books; however, I "shed" 3000 when I moved. Sort of like getting waist-length hair cut off--it feels cleaner, freer, more efficient.

  • kelly mccann

    I'm being a bad girl right now and ignoring my "must do today or else" list for a moment, and will address some of your points.
    Are you asking as a reader or an writer?
    Ebooks never wear out.
    Ebooks typically are much cheaper with the exception of Legacy publishers. This allows you to try new authors, I have no issue trying a new author for 99cents, a new author for $8 (paperback) or $25 (hardcover)? Um, no.
    Huge variety of quality (not all) free to low cost e-books available, and I never have to leave my house if I don't wish to, I can buy or get on loan from my library tons of ebooks.
    Ebooks allow impulse purchases, you can download an eagerly awaited book the second it becomes available, great for writers and readers both.
    Just because you have an e-reader, your old books don't revolt and refuse to be loved by you anymore ;), many people buy both versions.
    Authors (with the exception of Legacy published) make much more in royalties from ebooks, and as a writer, I would rather more of my money go to the author than to support a publishing house.
    Off to the dreaded salt mines.

  • Susan Schreyer

    It sounds like you're assuming that if you embrace ebooks, you'll have to give up the print variety! Hmm... don't think it's required. Personally, I prefer ebooks. Easier to cart around, easier to read in bed. However, I still buy print books. I just buy the ones I want to actually have in print. Ebooks are cheaper (for the most part), and I can afford to read more books and try out new authors. How can that be bad? And I still have bookcases in every room in my house. 

  • Ivory Tamargo

    I will always prefer the paperback! I have nothing against e-readers and I know they offer convenience. I even have a Kindle, but there is something more personal about reading and re-reading one of your favorite books--taking it along with you when you travel or laying it on your bedside table. Many of the books in my library have been with me for years, their stories have gotten me through good/bad times and the the marks on some of the pages attest to those moments. Whether it's a tear stain from my teens or crumbs from a chocolate biscuit during that time when I failed on my diet or the way it opens that conforms to my preferred reading angle... I would be gutted if I lost on of those books. Of course if that happens I'll buy a new version of it, but it wouldn't be the same anymore... I personally don't feel a need to bring along all of my book collection with me when I'm on holiday, and I think there is something special about taking the time to choose which titles to bring with you. I do own some e-books I can't claim to have read and finished them all. If I lost my Kindle I'd be thinking "Well, that was expensive!" but the loss would not be as terrible as losing a beloved and tattered old paperback.

  • Dina Abandond

    Nothing beats the touch and smell of a good hardcover or paperback in hand. It's my preference , as well, for it feels like a gift from the author themselves. I still oddly like digging up books like Chicken Soup with Rice from my childhood, which I have proven to a number of people does existence. Lol Sadly, I too have outdated tapes and VHS that sit in storage bins collecting dust. I know, I know... I must convert. And social media, forget that I was confused as hell. I kept saying write back to what? Where? However, if we are to exist on this everchanging planet(planet nutso)we sadly have to change along with it. It's really not as bad as we think.