Books vs eBooks: it’s about WHY as well as WHERE?

So, I buy books and eBooks. It’s not a massive revelation, but if all you read is websites like Mashable or The Verge it might seem unusual to do both.

What I see discussed about the difference between physical books and eBooks is about where we choose to read them. Plenty is written about where we read each type (and why) or how you buy or read them … but for me it’s also about why I buy and read them on the different formats.

I’ll own up to to it now and say that, yes, I do use a large online retailer for the majority of my books … I don’t have much spare money for this activity and I need to be careful about how much and how often I spend my money.

I am quite particular about the way I buy my books. I tend to buy fiction books to read on either my Kindle or using the Kindle App on my iPad. The Kindle is so much more flexible in its ease for carrying and holding than both the physical copy and iPad Kindle App (although I may have the iPad on me more often than the Kindle). I have all my Kindle books on my Kindle (I’ve still a long way to go before I start to find the limit on space), so it’s easy to choose my next book.

I’ve downloaded and enjoyed the whole series (12 so far) of The Frontier’s Saga (self-published, eBook-only science fiction), the Ben Hope series (again, self-published, eBook-only). I have enjoyed many other eBook-only independent author works that are either a series or very good one-offs. What attracted me to these eBooks were favourable reviews or I just took a punt and thought that £0.69 or £1.99 was easy money that I wouldn’t easily  miss if the book turned out to be a bit, well, naff. As it happened, they were really good so I went back for more. I would not have done that with a paperback book which would’ve easily been £5.99 or more, certainly not for a book that was part of a series.

Kindle books are so much more appealing when they are appropriately priced compared to the physical copy. I do not like, nor will buy, an eBook that is aggressively priced. In fact, eBooks that are only £1.00 cheaper than the paper copy is just plain rude in my book (pardon the pun) .. these are typically the type of non-fiction books I like.

But when it comes to non-fiction books, like reference books, textbooks, autobiographies, or other interesting fact-based novels … I like to have the physical version to hold, read, annotate, and put on my shelf (and yes, show-off). I’ve Sir Ken Robinson’s Out of Our Minds sitting alongside Julian Stodd’s The Social Leadership Handbook, Brian Chen’s Always On, and Oliver Quinlan’s Thinking Teacher. I’ve used those mini coloured post-it highlight things to tag pages or phrases I find important, or for sections I’ve annotated and want to reference again at some point.

I like having the physical copy for these kinds of books. Yes, I can do the same things in the Kindle version, but I still like the physical book. I also like the way they look on a bookshelf. It’s not a large collection, but it is growing, and I like to be able to see easily (and quickly) the way my reading habits change, grow, and are influenced by friends, colleagues, and my peers.


What I wish, however, is that the publishing world would wake up to the opportunity to have their materials, their books, more widely read and shared. I would love to have the eBook edition of all my physical books so I have a choice of how, as well as where, to read them!

Last year, for my birthday, I was bought the complete (so far) set of 7 Game of Thrones books (paperbacks). Each one is a mammoth effort to hold as they’re so large. When I want to read in bed I prefer the ease and lightness of the Kindle. If I’m outside or in the conservatory I prefer the paperback. But unless I buy the eBook edition I don’t have this choice. I’ve read the first two books and now don’t want to read the rest as, well, the books are too damned heavy! If I had the Kindle versions as well though … ?

The year before I was given the complete set of Gone books by Michael Grant (soon to be a TV series I hope). I enjoyed the experience of reading these in paper form, but now I want to re-read them and just can’t be bothered to get the books out. I want to read them on my Kindle – there were some parts of the stories that I now know are not key to the plot (sorry, it’s true) so want to skip.

The other advantage of having paper and eBook editions, for me, is that I can swap between them based on where I am, or what mood I’m in. More importantly, I have the ability to make that choice.

For my 40th birthday my brother bought a USB turntable, so I can digitise my 80’s and 90’s music vinyl collection. This meant I didn’t have to buy (again) those albums that made my childhood and teenage years so wonderful. I have the vinyl LP or 12″ single to listen to in it’s original form (crackles and all), or the MP3 version on my iPod. I have that choice!

Yes, Amazon now have the Matchbook feature where selected titles have the eBook edition available at considerably lower (if not free) price. This is controlled by the very publishers that are causing the problem in eBook prices in the first place!

Those of you who invest in the paper copy of The Really Useful #EdTechBook will also have the ability (if purchased from Amazon) to have the eBook edition for free through Matchbook, this is how strongly I feel about the crossover between howwhere, and why we read what we read!

image source: Francesco Minciotti (CC BY-NC 2.0)