Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How I Read: Ebooks vs Paperbacks

Disclaimer: This is not a post written to say "ZOMG PAPERBACKS 4 LYFE!" this is just a post talking about the difference in how I personally read in switching back and forth between paperback and ebook. And for the record, I would like to say, I definitely think ebooks rock and have their place, and nothing beats the kindle/ebooks for reading on the go.

I love books. I love to read them and I love to write them and there is nothing more enjoyable to me than a well-written book with a rockin' story. Anything that allows people to read more is a good thing, and I am pretty sure that at this point, I couldn't live without my kindle. But when I'm shopping for and reading an ebook? I'm definitely doing it differently. MUCH differently.

When I buy a new paperback, it goes into the pile of books on the broken record-player in the dining room, next to my CDs and convenient to pretty much every room in the house. I walk by this pile an UNCOUNTABLE number of times each day and each week. The books stare at me, and I am reminded of what books I have left to read, and what each book is, by the cover. I move through this pile at a very steady and reliable clip. And even if the book is bad -- if I think it's less satisfying or more frustrating than I'd like -- 95% of the time, I finish it. IF it's a paperback. Maybe it takes me a week. Maybe it takes me two. Maybe I read other books while I'm working through that "bad" book. But I finish it.

When I buy a new ebook, I hit one-click on Amazon, and I don't even bother to turn on my kindle to download it immediately. In fact, the next time I turn on my kindle, I might not remember to turn the wireless on to download it then, either. When I finally do, because my kindle is old school, I get a title and an author and a little superscript that says "new" on my first page. By this point, unless the author is a friend, I have no idea what book I bought or anything about it beyond that title. Maybe if it is an author I am a big fan of, the title will make me go "oh yeah! awesome!" but most often, the title makes me go "um?" and I page past it to the book I turned my kindle on for the purpose of looking at. (Mostly this is the current ARC of my own book that I'm proofing, to be honest with you.) The exception to all of this is when I'm going on vacation -- at which point I carefully peruse my kindle to be sure there are enough books I desperately want to read to see me through my travels. Most often this means I buy a few more to displace the titles that no longer hold any meaning for me -- the ones I've forgotten why I bought.

I can count on one hand the number of PAPERBACK books that have been so bad that I've put them down and walked away and given up on ever finishing them. I *remember* every paperback book which provoked this response in me. One I went back and finished because I'm a stubborn jerk and it was set in classical Greece and I didn't quit on it until the last 40 pages. One I tried to finish reading but still could not bring myself to do it. A third is still half finished and is awaiting its second attempt -- and I absolutely will finish it one day, I can almost guarantee it. The fourth is never getting a second chance because I didn't even get past chapter 1 before the writing turned me off completely.

4 books total in paperback, since I started paying attention to this kind of thing in 2009 or so.

Ebooks, I can't tell you how many I've started and stopped. WAY more than four. If the book doesn't grab me in chapter one, I close it out and go looking for another. I don't often return to these books to give them a second chance. I forget that they exist. They get pushed back by the new books purchased and disappear from my consciousness. I don't often page beyond the second page of my books, looking for something to read, when I page through looking for something to read at all. Some of them, I never even open to read the first page. I don't remember what they're about and I don't have wifi or battery to click through to the book description on their amazon page. This *never* happens with a paperback book. If I forget what its about, I can just flip it over and read the back of the book summary. Bam. Done.

Now, maybe this read-to-completion ratio is in part caused by the fact that I put more consideration into the book I'm buying when I buy a paperback. Because I do. If the pricepoint on an ebook is 1.99 or 99 cents, I will throw away the money (always gift card money. I don't buy ebooks with anything but money I received in giftcard form from someone else) without really thinking too hard about it. "Oh, it's only 99 cents, I'll give it a chance." Except I don't give it a chance, it just gets lost on my kindle. When we get to books that are 2.99-5.99, I give them a little bit more thought. 2.99 is more likely to warrant an impulse buy "give it a shot" but above that, I get serious. I read the reviews. I weigh what friends have told me about the author/series. Any ebook priced above 5.99, if it's available as a mass market paperback, I don't buy as an ebook. If I want it that much, I buy it in paperback. If it's only available as a trade paperback,  I have to *really* want the book. And 9 out of 10 times, if I buy it, I buy it as a paperback. Because if I'm spending 6 bucks, I'm committing to reading it. And I can't commit to reading anything I buy in ebook. UNLESS, I'm buying it to read on vacation. At which point I choose very carefully what I'm buying, and insta-paperback-purchase price point might be more negotiable.

But it's worth noting that I still travel with paperbacks in ADDITION to my kindle while on vacation. Every time.

I guess we'll see how and if any of this changes going forward. But in the meantime, do you read and shop differently for ebooks vs paperbacks? Tell me if I'm not alone or if I'm the weirdo, in the comments!


  1. Call me old-fashioned, but I still haven't bought into the whole e-book thing. I might feel differently if I had an e-reader, but reading something on a screen - no matter how much it looks like ink and paper - just isn't the same as holding a book in my hands and actually turning the pages. If I end up traveling more and feel the need to travel lighter, I might change my mind, but I plan to stick to my stubborn ways for now. :P

    1. I did not mention, I don't think, but the only reason we have a kindle is because we won it in a drawing! ha. So, if not for that, I think we'd still be paper-only!


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