E-books vs. print books: Paper lasts longer

Amid all the discussion about the future of publishing, there’s the perennial debate about if print books will ever disappear. I don’t think they will — TV didn’t eliminate radio, and neither one has eliminated newspapers. Online hasn’t done away with print editions of the paper either. In all cases, the new medium reduced the availability of the old one, but didn’t remove it. This was driven home to me last week when I was at my favorite used bookstore in my hometown.

Back in the winter, I bought my first e-book because I didn’t want to wait to read “The Buffalo Creek Disaster” by Gerald M. Stern. His son had mentioned it on Twitter, so I looked it up and realized it was the type of nonfiction book I love. But it wasn’t going to be readily available at the local bookstores, so I decided to try the e-book. I devoured it in an hour and it’s become one of my favorites. The e-book version means I have it anytime I want.

Fast-forward to last week — I was browsing the Shire and found a hardcover first edition of the book with the dust jacket. It made my day! For all I love the immediacy and portability of e-books, having the print version was still important because it’s a book I really care about. Just as the day after a big news event, people run out to get the paper to save the front page and its headline, books we really care about will continue to have a life in print. There’s something more permanent about the paper copy.

Do you think you’ll ever give up print books completely? If not, which ones will you always keep in hard copy?

5 Comments on “E-books vs. print books: Paper lasts longer”

  1. I pick up many books in print (hardcover or paperback) that I want to keep. For a long time, I would just buy mass market, but now I’m picking up trade and hardbacks from authors I know I will read and re-read. And even if I have the book on E, I’ll sometimes gravitate to the print version. There is just a different feel to the reading experience.

    1. There’s definitely a different feel to the experience, and I don’t know that I’d ever get rid of my existing books, especially since many are out of print. But I suspect going forward, most print books I buy will be because of availability or because print books are more easily shared.

  2. I have boxes of books that I haven’t unpacked since our last move — don’t have the room. Space and lack of time to read anymore are definitely going to be factors in donating some of them to the local library. I’ll keep the classics for my son, but he’ll be reading them in 15 years when the next best Kindle will be around and probably will scoff at my “paper” book.

    1. I’ve thought a few times about donating some books, but the replacement cost is daunting. If I ever move further than across town again, though, I suspect I’ll reconsider.

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