On Reading: e-books vs. p-books

Book Graveyard

My last post—self-publishing vs. traditional publishing—was about why, as a writer, I hope to get published in the traditional way. This post is about why, as a reader, I want to continue reading in the traditional way via printed books, or p-books.

E-book fans out there! Don’t go away! Please read on with the caveat that I am not morally against e-books. I’m not threatened by them. I don’t think they are evil. The future is here and we as readers are lucky to have so many cool options for reading: on our computers, on our phones, on our e-readers—anywhere, anytime.

But e-books are evidence of the end of something big. It’s the end of a 1,450-year era. Let me be sad about it, okay? And nostalgic. And let me hold on as long as I can to the old days. E-books are sounding the death knell of the print-books-on-paper age. In the future, p-books will be rare, likely expensive, and maybe not appreciated very much, like an old toy stuck in a box and never played with again.

If I were a poetically inclined, I’d write a poem entitled “Ode to the p-book.” For now, you’ll just have to settle for a list.

P-books make a home warm and comfortable. I love the way books decorate a room. My dream room contains a wall of books, so I can see them all at once. It’s oddly comforting. Hello, friends.

A p-book feels good in my hands. I love the tangible, tactile experience of opening up a p-book, exploring all the nooks and crannies, and flipping the pages when I’m deeply engrossed in a story.

Bookstores are an escape from the internet. I love to walk into a bookstore and browse for hours. I’m on a computer all day at work, and in the evening I’m on my MacBook reading blogs, writing, etc. A p-book is a total escape from that. My eyeballs thank me.

A p-book can be signed by an author.

A p-book has boundaries. I’m one of those who gets a migraine when there is “too much input,” as Number 5 says in the ’80s movie, Short Circuit. There are no hyperlinks or video in a p-book. No external input. No distractions. No internet. No email. No phone calls sharing the same physical space as my book. Just one story, contained between two covers.

P-books never have technical difficulties. I don’t have to recharge my book, add batteries to my book, worry about my book malfunctioning or ruining my book if I drop it into sand or water.

P-books aren’t as costly to replace as an e-reader. If I lose or someone steals my printed book, it won’t make me cry. If I lose or someone steals my e-reader, it will make me cry. I’m out a small investment that I won’t easily go out and replace.

With p-books, evidence of what was published in the past cannot be wiped away in the future. Books like Tom Sawyer can stand as they were originally intended by the author and the publisher. Revisionist historians cannot go in and erase or rewrite anything to make it politically correct. I won’t even talk about how definitions of words in dictionaries have changed over the past hundred years.

I can actually own my p-book. I can easily loan or gift p-books to other people. I can pass my p-books on to the next generation. I don’t have to go to great lengths to protect my purchase by backing it up on a hard drive. See this article on BookAnoid.com: “Do you actually own the e-books you buy online?” where blogger Tony states: “In fact there is only one way in which you can make yourself the legal owner of a book, and that is to buy a paper copy of the thing.”

To borrow some words from Charlton Heston:

“I’ll give you my [printed book] when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!”

What about you? Are you a hold out like me, in love with printed books?

Or are you a huge fan of e-books? Or both?

Leave a comment


  1. Hey, Natalie! I am with you: I really look forward to holding a book with my name printed on the front one day. I’ll admit that there are days when I feel like “giving in” and e-publishing on Amazon. But I think that continuing along the traditional publishing path will be SO rewarding in the end! Plus, I don’t have the time to market myself if I e-publish! 🙂

    • Hi Lauren,

      Thanks for your comment! Just wanted to share a reader’s extremely insightful comment to a blog post from Rachelle Gardner – and who knows, maybe it’s even prophetic.

      Check out – http://www.rachellegardner.com/2011/06/will-self-pubbing-hurt-my-chances/

      In the comments –
      Dorothy St. James 
June 28, 2011 at 10:38 am
With the success of debut authors in the self-publish ebook market now getting book contracts, I’m worried that publishers will start to expect an author coming to them to already have readership and sales numbers in hand. Do you foresee a “prove yourself” before we’ll look at you for our publishing house attitude happening in the traditional book publisher market?

June 28, 2011 at 2:55 pm
I don’t have a crystal ball, but it’s a distinct possibility.

      This could be a serious game changer for those of us who want to go the traditional route! We may have to prove ourselves first by self-publishing. Wow.


  2. I’m a fan of both. 🙂 There’s nothing like a p-book in my hands – the pages, the smell, and the weight are all things I cherish when reading. However, I love e-books for the convenience and speed (especially when traveling.

    Very often it depends on the read. Most of my e-books are either what I call “easy reads” (books I read on vacation) or incredibly huge novels I don’t want to lug around, even at home! P-books still make up the majority of my reading library as they are easier to reference and mark with notes, (I’m a reader that likes to underline quotes and a writer that likes to pick apart how a novel was constructed). 🙂

    • You reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend recently. I asked her how she likes her e-reader. She loves it. She loves to read for pleasure on her e-reader, but when it comes to serious reading that requires contemplation, like poetry or her Bible or text books, she prefers a printed book. Interesting.

      I lugged 6 books with me on my recent road trip. I only got through 2 of them, but the e-reader was definitely on my brain when the book bag got in the way amongst our luggage.

      Sigh. Pretty sure I’ll be owning an e-reader in the next 6 months or so. Plus I just want to understand the reader’s experience while using an e-reader. Then I’ll probably fall in love with it. : )

  3. Oh! In my post, I meant to share a link to Nancy Thompson’s blog where she wrote about this topic last December:

    E-Books vs. the Real Thing

  4. Thanks, Natalie! Your post was great and right on target. And you thought of many more reasons to hold onto traditional books than I did.

    I know someday I will break down and get an e-reader of some kind, but I’m just not ready yet.

    And more than anything, I want MY novel, should I ever get published, to be a traditional paper book that I can sign and give away, like Jennifer Hillier did recently for me when she gave me a copy of her book, Creep. What a thrill!

    Try that with a Kindle!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: