Room for Both: ebooks and Print Books

Hi, SEers! It’s another Mae Day in May 🙂

Back in the late 1970s, Miller introduced their lite beer with a series of commercials dividing fans into two camps. One side championed “tastes great.” The other side loved it because it was “less filling.” The ads featured a roster of athletes and celebrities, done with tongue in cheek humor. You might remember some of these commercials with Bubba Smith, Rodney Dangerfield, Mickey Spillane, Billy Martin, and George Steinbrenner to name a few.

So why am I bringing up a beer commercial on a writing blog?

Books can also fall into two camps:  Ebooks and Print

Do you remember when ebooks were predicted to bury print? As in six-feet-under, dead-as-a-door nail? Predictions aren’t always spot on. Just for fun, I dug up a few I thought were interesting:

“It doesn’t matter what he does, he will never amount to anything.”
– Albert Einstein’s teacher to his father in 1895.

“A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.”
– The New York Times, 1936.

“Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan.” – Mary Somerville, pioneer of radio educational broadcasts, 1948.

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” – Decca Recording Co., rejecting The Beatles, 1962.

Pretty bad predictions, huh? Not just off the mark a little, more like a landslide of wrong.

Now, let’s look at ebooks vs. print books.

Three kindles with different colored coversAmazon introduced it’s first Kindle in 2007. By 2010 The ebook boom was in full swing. I’m currently on my fourth Kindle. My latest is the waterproof version so I can read on a raft in my pool this summer. I love my Kindle and devour books on a regular basis. Looking back over 2019, I purchased 155 ebooks from Amazon. That averages out to almost thirteen books a month. Some of those were freebies, but the indication is clear—I’m addicted to my Kindle.

I certainly didn’t buy thirteen print books a month in 2019, but I still love reading print from time to time, especially a big, fat paperback. I’m thankful I can walk into my local bookstore and browse the shelves. It’s just not the same when browsing Amazon or Goodreads. All readers know that wonderful bookstore smell, the feel of holding a book in your hand, and roaming through aisles of shiny covers. I sincerely hope brick-and-mortar stores never go away. It does seem that rumors touting the death of print were premature. Maybe not as bad as Decca Records rejecting The Beatles in 1962, but still off base.

According to an article published by CNBC, print books raked in $22.6 billion in revenue in 2019, while ebooks took in $2.04 billion.* Numbers like this indicate that print is still viable and going strong. I have a floor-to-ceiling bookcase, each shelf packed like the shot below to prove it.

Bookshelf filled with paperback books

Surprisingly it seems to be millennials who favor print over ebooks. The boomer generation is the largest consumer group for ebooks. Perhaps because the convenience of not having to go to a store. Toss in the benefit of adjusting print size and ebooks can be very appealing, especially if you rely on glasses to read—like me.

It’s pretty clear that ebooks have not buried print. It also seems clear that print is here to stay for the foreseeable future.  As authors, we can benefit from both epublications and print.  The online world is geared toward ebooks, while print works best for local author festivals and regional promotions.  Readers will always have their preference, but as writers we can find value in both. I am always surprised by the number of print books I sell, and also by the number of my regular readers who will have nothing to do with ebooks. Thankfully, we have the means to reach both camps.

Although . . . it sure would be fun to see some of those old 1970s Miller Lite celebrities with Kindles and paperbacks yelling “convenient to carry” versus “smells great!”

What’s your preference (and no, I’m not talking about beer).  Do you see a benefit of one over the other, or are you like me—happy to embrace both camps? Let’s chat print vs. ebooks in the comments below.

Ready, set, go!

Bio box for author, Mae Clair




*as per the 2019 annual report of the Association of American Publishers, which includes fiction, trade and educational books

70 thoughts on “Room for Both: ebooks and Print Books

  1. Still chuckling over “convenient to carry” vs “smells great” … I appreciate e-books (don’t need as much shelf space 😀 ) but there’s something about holding a book in your hands (and the batteries don’t run out). My go-to for books is the library, but they don’t carry some of my latest reading interests (or indie authors), so Kindle app it is. I don’t use a dedicated Kindle because I like to do other stuff with my tablet (search for actor names (I know who that is but I don’t remember his/her name) and okay, Candy Crush 😀 ).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! You’re allowed Candy Crush and those search for actors names. I do that all the time on my iPhone. Safari is so handy, LOL.

      I love visiting the library but I rarely check books out. How weird is that? Every now and then, but normally, I’m always purchasing paperbacks, or downloading ebooks. However you approach it, reading is where it’s at!

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Julie 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Paper back books are my preference over ebooks. With a print edition you can highlight quotes/phrases, relax in the smell of freshly taken out books and decorate them in your home, so that in future you’re reminded of the little nuggets you still fondly remember after so many years.

    An ebook on the other hand for me, seems toxic- holding another device and bending over to read for long is similar to me using my phone/ laptop during my chill times. They don’t have any personal element and are dull.

    This is not to say I only like reading material in physical form, I don’t mind reading on devices. If given a choice I would definitely go with print over e books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Salonie! Thanks for dropping by to share your thoughts. I’m a fan of print books too, although I do read a LOT on my Kindle. There are times I just want that big fat paperback in my hands. I tend to highlight and mark up my non-fiction books rather than fiction, but I do love that “book smell” and how you feel like you can disappear into the pages. I also love the beautiful glossy full-color covers that come with print. Some of them are just gorgeous.
      I don’t think we have to worry about print books disappearing. I just hope enough brick and mortar stores keep their doors open so readers can browse. Have a great day and happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Although most of my reading is done on kindle, I also love to re-read paperbacks that I own by favorite writers such as Dorothy Cork, Johanna Lindsey, and Rex Stout. In addition, I have many paperbacks purchased from book fairs in support of authors. So– mixed bag! Thanks for a fun post, Mae.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Flossie. I remember seeing some wonderful posts you did on your blog with some of your print books of favorite authors. I love to collect them too, so I’m with you on the mixed bag. Glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Both! Recently added four to my kindle and ordered three paperbacks. I can’t resist them… I like to read eBooks at night or when away from the house. Daytime, it’s generally paperback. I love the feel of turning pages. I’ve even gone as far as to order print copies of several faves on the kindle. Books, books, books! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • LOL! I love your enthusiasm, Bette. I happily embrace both print and ebooks as well.
      And I do the same thing with my absolute favorite books. I have print copies and copies on my Kindle. I can’t risk not having access to stories that are that good, LOL. I wish you happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. To me, there is nothing that replaces the feel of a book in my hands – a printed book that I can smell the pages. 🙂 BUT, because of the huge amount of books I purchase (my purchases pale to your 155, Mae), I cannot buy every book in print. So, I have very special books that I keep on my shelves and everything else I read on my Kindle. I’m on my third Kindle. 🙂 I live in an apartment where space is limited and that’s another reason I love my Kindle. I can easily straddle the line in both camps. 🙂 Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Mae!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jan, it’s good to know I’m not the only one who goes through Kindles. When I bought my first one I thought that would be it, but then, you know….they kept getting better and I couldn’t resist, LOL.
      I love the smell and feel of a printed book, too. Especially the big, fat paperbacks. They’re my favorite to hold and smell.
      But like you said–you can’t beat a Kindle for saving space. That is also one of the reasons I love my Kindle. Er, Kindles 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m an ebook reader simply for convenience sake, though I haven’t given away my few hundred strong print book collection (my own collection and my mum’s bequeathed to me). Also, for my own upcoming release you can bet I’m releasing both ebook and print, and you can bet I’ll buy a print for myself. It – to me – somewhow doesn’t seem a REAL book if it’s not available in print. Plus, who doesn’t like sniffing a book from time to time?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jess, I love being able to hold my own books in print….to see them on my bookshelves and marvel at what I accomplished. I think back to when I was a kid and promised myself “someday.” Now I actually have print books to show for making that dream come true. You will love it!

      I think it’s so cool you have your collection plus your mum’s. Some of my favorite print copies are those I have had for a very long time. But I’m with you on the convenience of ebooks and Kindle. I love how portable my Kindle makes reading!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not to mention it makes reading…interesting…books a lot easier! A grown woman who runs a retirement village is bound to get some funny looks re-reading Harry Potter. Thanks to my Kindle I can read in anonymity 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I love both, but I’m a bigger fan of my kindle because it’s easier to carry around with me wherever I want to go, and I can immediately start one book after I finish the previous book. That being said, I still read print books when they are given to me. I just prefer ebooks. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • It sounds like you embrace both camps, Yvette, with la slight leaning toward ebook. I’m like you—I love how easy it is to carry around so many ebooks. But I’m also a fan of a big, fat, print book—especially in the summer when I’m at the beach of at my pool. Isn’t it great we have a choice? 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I think this battle has been waging since the first Kindle came out, but people did the same thing with movies when TV let you rent them and someone made VCRs and then DVDs and now there’s streaming. They all seem to survive, even thrive. I buy my favorite authors in print books because I want to be able to look at their book every day if I want to, to relive the memory of the story, the words, the author’s voice. But I’m a lot more flexible with my Kindle. I’ll try new authors I never would have before. And lately, it’s just easier for me to read on my Kindle with the backlight adjustments and adjustable font size. So I like them both for different reasons.

    Liked by 2 people

    • An excellent observation, Judi. I buy many of my favorite authors in print as well, but I find a lot of new authors on my Kindle I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. For the entertainment industry, I remember way back in the day when there was not only VHS, but also playable discs—those huge frisbee-like things that got insertedt into a special player. It was cutting edge at the time, and then disappeared not long afterward. I guess we could also say it was the same with albums, 8-tracks, cassette tapes, CDs, MP3s. Crazy, isn’t it? When it comes to books, I hope ebooks never replace print and I hope print never replaces ebooks. I love them both!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I laughed at some of the bad predictions, Mae. They sure didn’t get it right. As for print and eBooks., I love both. I started reading Ebooks when I broke my foot. And it was hard to carry books around. Now I love the price and will take chances on unknown authors. I don’t mind putting down a book if I don’t like it. My prints are my classics, ones I like to read more than once, and references. Now I try to add my favorite indie authors to my book shelves. Nice you have a water proof kindle, I may need that. So, Kindle is my main reading source because its compact and has options, but print will always be with me. When my kindle froze up for a week, both of them and no idea, I had my prints. Poetry is still the best in a print I think but we have so many great options now. Great post Mae:)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Denise.I love my Kindle, but I freak at the thought of the entire electrical grid getting zapped and the battery on my Kindle expiring. Horrors! What would I do? For that reason, I often buy my absolute favorite books as both ebook and print. That way, in the event of a worldwide blackout I could still read. How silly is that? DH tells me that in the event of worldwide blackout, I would have a LOT more to worry about than what I’m going to read 🙂

      Like you, I am more apt to try new authors on ebook (rather than print) because the variety is so good and the price is usually inviting. I love both ebook and print and hope neither ever go away.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, and loved your comments. Happy reading!

      Liked by 2 people

      • I have the exact same thoughts about the grid going down and losing all my reading too. I will never get rid of my print books. Yes, we might be a bit busy if that happens, but never too busy to read, right?

        Liked by 2 people

      • Finally! Someone understands my fear about the electrical grid, LOL! I am so glad I am not alone with that thought.
        There will always be time to read. We’ll need it to de-stress from whatever other craziness is going on! 😀


  10. I was a died in the wool print man. I loved my paper books. I could read them and then put them on some shelves. When I wanted to revisit them, all I had to do was look at the spline and remember the story. Later I received a Kindle as a gift. Good night nurse, it was all over. No more bookmarks, packing books for a trip, or paying $24.95 for a best seller. I was a free man. I have always said I could go back to Paper whenever I wanted. The truth is, I don’t think I ever will. Excellent post, Mae. I enjoyed remembering the Miller Lite commercials.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi, John! I was one of those dyed-in-the-wool print people too. I used to get on a soapbox about the wonders of print books. I do still love them and will never stop buying them, but when my sister-in-law showed me her Kindle one Christmas, I was immediately smitten. One of the best things about a Kindle is traveling. I’d forgotten that perk until you mentioned it. I used to pack several paperbacks to take along. Now all I have to do is pack my Kindle! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m an old-fashioned kind of gal. I do read ebooks but much prefer holding a print book in my hand. The weight, the pages, and, yes, the smell. 🙂 Reading an ebook doesn’t have the same feeling. It’s convenient and portable but that’s about it for me.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I’m pretty firmly ebook these days. I have some beloved collectibles tucked away in paper form, but do all my reading on an iPad now. I only publish ebooks, so I might have missed a sale or two. I’ve heard too many stories from authors who produced both, but never sold any paper copies.

    Liked by 3 people

    • For authors with print books, you really need an avenue to sell them. If you’re not doing local signings, print really doesn’t do you much good (although I have a set number of readers who always ask me for print). I think most authors do better selling ebooks, and as a reader I love the convenience of how quickly I can get one.

      I don’t like to read nonfiction as an ebook (because I mark my nonfiction books up like crazy), and I have this weird dislike of reading a really long book on my Kindle. I’d much rather have that fat, bulk tome in my hands, LOL!

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Well, as you know, Mae, I love both. I read exclusively on my Kindle so I can (like several others) adjust the font size, get definitions of unfamiliar words with one touch, and highlight things I want to remember without (horrors!) marking up a print book. I like having hundreds of books in my purse at all times, in case a Need to Read attack hits me. All the conveniences are great, and my Kindle is my constant companion.

    BUT. I’m addicted to collecting print books. Almost every book I really love, I own in both print and eBook format. We have at least one floor to ceiling bookshelf in every room, except kitchen and baths, and in my office/library, we have them on all four walls. They are FULL. I like to display my favorite series all lined up in a perfect row. And I consider good cover art one of the great pleasures in life, so I display my favorite examples on easels scattered here and there. I’m in love with nice bookends here and there, too.

    No doubt about it, I’m obsessive about books, both on my Kindle and off, and I sincerely hope neither print nor eBooks are going anywhere any time soon! I’d be devastated to lose either.

    Great post, and something to ponder! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • I love the thought of all those bookcases, Marcia. I’m a huge fan of cover art, too. Like you, I have a number of my favorite books in both ebook and print versions. That way if my Kindle isn’t charged, I have a back-up 🙂

      Of course, I love my Kindle too. It’s wonderful for carrying all those hundreds of books around and I love that I can adjust the font size. I also like that I can hop onto Amazon and if the book is available, download it immediately and start reading. I don’t have to wait to drive to the store!

      Liked by 2 people

  14. I enjoy both. I love to be able to adjust the font size and ditch the glasses. But that smell from a print book just can’t be beat. There is something about it that just makes me smile. I have several book shelves full of print books and many more on my Kindle. That doesn’t even count the hundreds of cookbooks that I collect. I love opening the page to my favorite recipe and seeing the notes I made. I have several cookbooks that my kids have written notes and and some that I picked up at a garage or estate sale with hand written notes. Those are priceless.

    So long story short, I love both.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m a fan of both camps too, Michele. Your cookbooks sound wonderful with the hand-written notes, and the ones from estates sales with notes would be something I’d treasure. Every now and then I’ll find a note tucked in a book I buy at our annual library book sale. Once, I even found a photograph with some writing on the back. I’ve always wanted to spin a story from the idea. It’s still on the back burner, but I loved stumbling over those discoveries. And I agree that the smell of a print book just can’t be beat. One of the best scents in the world! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  15. I’ve got three full bookshelves plus books stashed in other places (TV stand, computer cabinet, kitchen cabinet, bedroom). Pretty sure I have more eBooks than print books, though. I’m a huge fan of print, and nothing beats the smell of a bookstore or library, but I have to give the convenience-factor to eBooks. Not to mention with my poor eyesight and increasingly bad arthritis, holding an eReader (or sitting in front of my laptop) is much easier than trying to hold and squint at a print book.

    Long story short, I’m in both camps.

    Loved the quotes you pulled, btw.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m in both camps too, Staci. There are times I favor one over the other (like print books at the beach or ebooks when traveling). I’ve whittled my print collection down to one large bookcase and one small one. I gave the rest to a local nursing home and our local library. Somehow my collection keeps growing though, and I have to keep whittling away at it. It’s nice not to have to do that with my ebook collection which is so handy to carry around in my Kindle. Once retail stores open again, I hope to visit my local bookstore. I miss that wonderful smell, LOL.

      Glad you enjoyed the quotes, too 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  16. I read in both formats. I love eBook because it saves on shelf space … massively, lols! Also, I can read in bed without needing a light on and disturbing hubby. BUT … big but … my faves will always remain holding a physical print book in my hands … the smell, the feel … So, my compromise is that my favourite books and authors, I will buy in print and will usually re-read them many times (here’s where a poor memory is actually a plus, lol). If I had a mansion, I’d probably have every book in print, but needs must.
    Another nice thing about an eBook on Kindle is that I can download a free sample first if I’m not sure about the book. Saves wasting all that paper and ink.

    Great post, Mae. And I love those totally wrong predictions! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Harmony, I forgot about the free sample download. That is an excellent feature of ebooks over print. And the massive saving on shelf space, LOL.

      I buy a lot of my favorite authors in print as well (plus ebook). On top of that, a certain PenderPal has hooked me on buying hardback autographed copies of the Pendergast series. Next she’ll have me buying bookends for creative displays, LOL.

      Like you, I do so love holding a print book in my hands. There is nothing that beats the feel, the smell, the crinkle of the page….I’m especially fond of big, fat paperbacks. I guess it goes back to my day of beach reads 🙂

      Glad you enjoyed the post and those crazy predictions! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I like both, but I’m rather odd. I prefer to read physical books because they don’t need a battery or to be turned on. Not even sure where my kindle charger is, so it’s basically dead. Yet, I only publish ebooks. The reason for that is it’s easier and I was never able to sell print books. I made them because people said they wanted the option. Then, they never bought them. I wasn’t able to get covers with a spine design too, so that was an issue. This all just me. I think there’s a spot for both. Unfortunately, I now see articles about the ‘death of ebooks’. It’s like there always has to be a battle between things instead of both existing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That last line really saddens me, Charles. Personally, I don’t ever see ebooks going belly up, but why—as you said–must there be a battle? There are fans of both, and many people are happy to read both. I switch back and forth all the time.

      I do okay with selling print books but I’m not moving boatloads. A few here and there at various author festivals,and from people who know I write and ask for print. Whenever I have a release, I can usually count on selling a certain percentage of print, but it’s hard to tell how much to stock as a backlog. You never know if a author event is going to be a good day or a bad day. I’ve had both, and events aren’t exactly popping up all over the place—especially now with the impact COVID-19 has made on gatherings.

      The battery died on my Kindle Fire, which was my second Kindle. I got it to revive once, but now it’s beyond hope!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think the idea of feuding has become fairly common. People see their own preferences as threatened by anything else. Look at how people fight over DC and Marvel these days while back in the 2000’s it was still acceptable to like both. It’s like the fighting is part of marketing and promotions.

        I think my parents and a few friends bought print books early on. Then the second group stopped. I got requests for print books and the people asking never bought too.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I grew up in that age when Marvel and DC were both embraced and cherished. Competition is healthy but not to the extent of a monopoly. It’s sad. Let’s hope print books and ebooks never come to that.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. I resisted buying a Kindle for a long time. Once I did, there wasn’t any turning back. I rarely purchase a print book. But there is something about holding a book in your hands. I have fond memories of visits to brick and mortar stores and browsing the shelves for an hour or so. I do think there is room for both and I’ve always published my books in both electronic and print format.

    Interesting about the millennials They are also fond of vinyl records (which are also making a comeback). I wonder how many times the power that be at Decca regretted their decision about the Beatles? What was their loss was EMI/Capital’s gain.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can just imagine the execs at Decca, Joan. That’s kind of like having the winning ticket for a Mega lottery and then tossing it because you think it’s trash, LOL!

      I still love to visit brick and mortar book stores. It’s like a disease. If I see one, I want to explore, and can easily lose track of time as I browse the aisles. Right now, there is a stack of print books on my desk that I bought not that long ago, intending to read right away. But then I got distracted by an ebook. And another. And…well, you get the picture, LOL.

      I heard about vinyl records making a comeback, too. I had a massive collection of those as well. It’s interesting how millennials are in love with these things 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  19. I wonder which way Gen X leans? All I know is that my iPad follows me around all day everyday and though I can’t take it in the pool, I still read 90-95% of my books on it. I was a hold out on ebooks for a while, but a horrible dust mite allergy and just overall convenience eventually won me over. Great post, Mae 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmmm…I would be curious about Gen X, too. Somehow I see them straddling both camps.
      So sorry about the dust mite allergy, Tessa, but it sounds like it all worked out for the better. Thank heaven for iPads, Kindles, and Nooks! 🙂
      I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Liked by 2 people

  20. My Kindlepaperwhite was a birthday present from all the family seven years ago and I still treat it carefully, wouldn’t dream of taking it to the beach hut, wouldn’t dream of going to bed without it! I have a house full of paperbacks – inherited, passed on and bought at charity shops – perfect for taking on the bus or picnics. I love real books, but I would never have read the Indie Authors’ books I have enjoyed without my Kindle.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi, Janet! I agree that there are many authors I never would have discovered were it not for my Kindle.What a great forum ebooks have opened for voracious readers. I finally got a waterproof Kindle for my pool, but I still won’t take it to the beach—all that sand! Like you, with bus trips and picnics, I’ll take my paperbacks there. I love having the ability to switch between the two 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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