I’m Breaking Up With eBooks

I'm Breaking Up With eBooks

In this two-part discussion, I break down why I’m breaking up with eBooks today, and tomorrow I explore eBooks vs paper books – the facts.

For as long as I’ve had this book blog, I’ve wanted to weigh in on the eternal debate – eBook or physical book? There have been so many slants to this topic, so many avenues to explore. This Book Geek has been in a perpetually indecisive eBook funk for as long as I can remember, and now, I’ve finally come to a decision.

When eReaders first came on the scene, I was a firm non-believer. I thought they were sacrilege, and I didn’t want them to take off. I enjoyed the physicality of a book, and I just didn’t think an eReader would be a suitable substitute. I was also petrified that books as we knew (and loved) them, were going to change forever.

Sheldon Change Gif

Skip ahead a couple of years and I got my hands on a smartphone. I downloaded the Amazon Kindle App, and even though I rarely used it, I picked up the odd cheap (or even free) eBook. They sat on my digital shelves gathering digital dust, only surfacing during a particularly long wait at my GPs office.

By 2013, I still wasn’t reading eBooks, but with the release of various Kindles I was becoming a little more intrigued, and wondered if a dedicated device would make for a better reading experience. Nook, owned by Barnes and Noble, released the Nook Simple Touch in the UK for £29, and I decided to take the plunge. If I hated it, at least it hadn’t cost me a fortune.

I read one book on it. As a reading experience, it was enjoyable enough, but it just never grabbed me. I kept it in a drawer, thinking it may come in useful someday, for holidays and whatnot. I was surprised when I recently received an email informing me that Nook were pulling out of the UK, and that as a customer, I was being migrated to Sainsbury’s (?!). I went through the registration process, but have yet to turn on my Nook to see if it still works.

In 2014, Confessions of a Book Geek was born, and I was introduced to NetGalley, and the wonder of Advanced Reader Copies that I could download to read and review! I did what everyone new to NetGalley does. I downloaded a ton of eBooks. I read these on the Kindle App, either on my tablet or my phone. It worked OK for a little while, but I had to read physical books in between eBooks. I craved the weight of a physical book, and the scent of paper.

Rory Gilmore Book Smell Gif

Meanwhile, my physical TBR pile was growing substantially, and I wanted to read more back-list titles. eBooks were being overshadowed, and when it was time for me to pick up a new book, I always went for a physical one. Then, in 2016, I started to receive physical books to review from publishers, at which point eBooks became pretty much redundant for me. But, all of these still aren’t the major reasons why I’ll never convert to eBooks…

While usually cheaper than physical books, eBooks aren’t priced according to how much they cost to make. Publishers price them higher than this, so they aren’t too attractive in comparison to print books, or else the bottom could just fall out of the print market. The cost of eBooks was always off-putting to me, especially when it dawned on me that you never own the book. You can’t lend it, sell it, donate it, or destroy it, even though you “bought” it. That’s because you really “rent” it. A technicality, maybe, but I think Amazon and all other eBook retailers should have to say “rent now”, or “license now”, as opposed to “buy now”, because it’s very misleading.

Access to your digital library can be suspended at any time, and books you have “purchased” can even be removed from your digital library permanently. You can’t sell the books themselves, nor the license to access the book, so you have no way to recover any of the “value” of your collection. Digital books should really be consumed as a subscription service with a monthly access fee, as opposed to the false pretence of “ownership” of individual eBooks. A slightly morbid point to make, but a valid one, is that you can’t give/bequeath your book collection to anyone should you kick the bucket (die…). For those of us with substantial collections, that to an extent represent us as individuals, I think this is a significant point to make. So that eBook collection worth a small fortune, goes nowhere and does nothing after you’ve shuffled off the mortal coil. Excellent.

The general population may not agree with my next point, but as a Book Geek I think I can safely say that we all take pride in our personal library and collection. Our books are a form of decoration. Often an outward expression of us as individuals. You can’t really invite a friend to your home, and sit down with a cup of coffee and your Kindle between you as an ambience-creator and conversation starter now, can you?

All the books Belle gif

Just For Fun!

Where do you stand on the long-running debate of eBook versus physical book? Which do you prefer/own most of? Are you an eBook convert after a long time of refusing they exist? Or are you a physical book lover through and through who will never bow to eBooks? Let me know in the comments!

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About Rachel

Avid reader & book blogger. Lover of Business. A fan of drinks & dancing. Ever optimistic. Feminist.

37 Responses

  1. When I was given a Kindle as a surprise gift back in 2010, I had to feign a certain degree of gratitude, quietly thinking I’d have preferred some paperbacks. But I became a convert quite quickly – I love the convenience and lightness of my kindle (and the whispersync meaning I never lose my page and can carry on reading on my phone when out and about with a spare few minutes).
    I totally agree with the pricing concerns though. I never buy an ebook unless it is at least 50% cheaper than the print copy. I wouldn’t consider it renting though – it is not time limited. It’s spine will never get bent, the pages never fray. It has been great for discovering some indie titles as well, as long as you’re willing to abandon them early on if they suck – but Amazon’s refund policy has made that ideal. Also, after my 4th bookcase was filled, I really had to consider the physical problem of storing my library. Ebooks solved that too.
    I’m a total ebook convert. I may even buy some of my favourite old paperbacks in ebook format, in preparation of donating my physical library to a charity…. 😮

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      1. If you ask for a refund on an ebook within 7 (or maybe 14?) days, Amazon will give it do it. As a (self-published) author, I would probably prefer it to be along the lines of, if the refund is requested within 7 days AND they’ve read less than 50%, then it should be granted, but I’ve never actually had one of my books returned sooooo… whatever. Other than that, how authors are paid is dependent on how the user is reading. If they ‘buy’ (licence) the ebook, the author gets a set royalty. If the reader is reading it ‘for free’ through kindle-unlimited or kindle-lending-library, then the author gets paid based on how many pages are read. Personally, I think this is an excellent model.
        As for donating my physical library…. not sure. My bookshelves got relegated to the loft when I had kids, and they sit quite contently up there. But if we were to move house, I’m not sure they’d make the cut (well some might – those out of print, at least) – I’m not particularly sentimental over stuff.

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  2. Brandie

    Great discussion post. 😉 You know my love for eBooks. It’s all I read. For me, it’s the convenience and the ability to multitask. I used to be totally anti-Kindle and then my husband bought me one for Christmas the year I had Sunnie. I hadn’t been able to read for MONTHS because holding a physical book while trying to do other things was difficult.
    That Kindle was a game changer for me. I was able to read and hold my baby. It made it easier for me to read on the go. And now being able to get advanced copies on Netgalley right to my Kindle is a major perk. I still buy physical books for my shelves. I just buy them after I’ve read them in eBook form and they become favorite-must-have books. That has saved me money and my bank account thanks me. I don’t mind the price for eBooks on Amazon at all. I can justify it a lot more than the hard copy or paperback copies, especially if it’s a book I have NO idea I will like.
    I get your point and it’s readers like yourself that keep the bookstores in business, and I’m thankful for you. We need people who still love physical books. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll tire of reading eBooks and go back to old school. 😉

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      1. Brandie

        That’s why I need anti-eBook readers like you in the world. Because when I retire, I’m going to work part time at a bookstore. lol! 😉
        I was a big reader before I got my Kindle, but that was also before I had a child. My Kindle has allowed me to be mommy, but also still enjoy my hobby. And it has helped me to be a faster reader. For whatever reason I can read a lot faster on the Kindle; therefore I can read a lot more books in a year. It has had a lot of benefits and that’s why I love it. 🙂
        It’s her best book by far. It is extremely personal and heartbreaking – but I loved it so much. I think you will like it. If anything, it will be an eye-opening read. xx

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  3. I definitely stand with physical books!! I read the occasional ebook if it’s a really good price, but I honestly think they’re more of a hassle to read. I’m so used to carrying around a book wherever I go, but I never think to bring my ipad, which is what I would use as an ereader. Besides, I hate the feeling of staring at a screen for that long on top of whatever time I spend looking at my phone or computer that day. All in all, physical books are the way to go! 🙂

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  4. Huh. I never looked at it the way you mentioned how you can’t sell it or loan it. However, with some kindle books you can loan them to people.

    Lately, I’ve been reading more physical books but I find I read faster on my ereader. haha

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  5. I got one of the first Kindles for Christmas in 2012. I was slow to get into it and figure it out, but it has quickly become my go-to because I am on the go so much and prefer to live in the dark. 🙂 (I convince myself this is how I have such low energy bills.) While my Kindle hasn’t replaced reading physical books, I am less inclined to pick one up, so my bookcase is overflowing with books to read. I agree 100% about ebook pricing, and I never buy an ebook full price. In fact, I rarely do. Between NetGalley, authors/agents, and free books I stay well stocked. After a while I figured out the books I had “bought” could disappear from my Kindle, and I think that is unethical. I understand if an edited copy is released and it pushes to your device to replace the original, but the entire point you’ve brought up about it being a temporary loan to license is right.

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  6. I still love the idea of physical books (my first novel was just published and I can’t get enough of looking at that paperback) but I love my Kindle, too. I’m over 50 and my physical bookshelves are full! If I want to commit to a series in physical form, I’d have to clear a lot of space, but on an ereader, I can happily pile them up. Or read a big fat tome without hurting myself. My husband and I share our Kindle libraries, so we could in theory read the same book at the same time. Many of my friends are indie writers; I’m more likely to try out a new author or collect all the works of someone I like in ebook form. We can also share our ARC ebooks without the cost of shipping. The pricing thing from the big publishers is irritating, I agree. Maybe I’m aging out of feeling attached to stuff — I’m not that into vinyl, either.

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  7. I like how you put the poll on here so that we can vote and see the results too. I like both, a good mix of the two work well for me. I like how I can put my ebooks on speaker phone, so I can listen while driving or whatever. But also I love my bookcase of real books too.
    Amanda.

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  8. This is really interesting read for me. I used to read a whole lot more ebooks than physical books simply because they were cheaper, you get a lot more deals on them, and they are easier to carry around with me. It’s only recently that I’ve started buying more physical books because you’re right, they look nicer, they feel nicer, they smell nicer and it’s satisfying to see my collection on the shelves.

    I don’t think I can ever give up ebooks, I like romance but some of those covers are embarrassing and when I go away I don’t wnt to have to bring an extra suitcase for all my reading material.

    I think your reasons for giving up ebooks and instead supporting print books is sound. It’s very reasonable and I can get behind your points but I just can’t do it. I like my Kindle a bit too much to abandon it. Sure, some weeks it may be left on a shelf gathering dust, but then some weeks it hardly leaves my hand as I work my way through my little digital library. I may not own those books but they are at my fingertips. I also prefer reading ebook versions of ARCs in some ways because I can highlight quotes and add notes to it. I can do that with a physical copy but it’s not quite as easy to browse later… that and I’m not a huge fan of defacing my books. I just can’t do it.

    Great discussion, it’s nice to see someone offering some new thoughts into a long debated topic.

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  9. I use a kindle app to read on my tablet and I do enjoy using it. I don’t really care about not owning a physical book, I already have a huge collection (over 40 years worth of hoarding books) and I have realised that I just can’t physically house every book I read. That being said I don’t think you can beat the feeling of browsing in a bookshop or a library for a physical book, the tangible feel and smell and of it, and the rightness of it in my hand. But the handiness of hundreds of books on my kindle is also hard to beat. And I love reading in bed with the light of my tablet.

    I’m team both 😀 As long as there are great words to whisk me away, I’m happy.

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  10. Oh and I don’t really care what happens my collection after I die. But it’s an interesting point.

    And you can loan some books on a kindle. I have done it and have borrowed from friends too. While it’s on loan you can’t read it but then it becomes available again after a certain time period.

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  11. This is exactly why I will not spend money on ebooks. However, I find them super convenient for traveling and also reading in bed (with the built-in light) so I get them for free – older books and classics are easily available from various sources – or check them out from the library.

    Your library card is in effect a subscription service; what’s available varies depending on your library’s collection, but I’m fortunate to be able to use one that has a great selection and also takes suggestions of other titles to purchase. I love that I can check out books any time of day or night and start reading instantly.

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  12. I never see e-book as rent than buy, but now that I think about it, I can see how true it is! I read a mixed of both phsysical and e-books, but I love physical books more than e-books. E-books are more flexible and lighter, but it also take me much longer to finish a 200 pg e-book than a 400 pg physical book. There are something about e-book that just doesn’t grip me. I also has to read physical book in between e-books, or else I’ll go into a reading slump!

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  13. I had never really thought about it like that, but you’re totally right when you say that essentially when you ‘buy’ an ebook you’re actually just renting it. There definitely isn’t that same sense of ownership you have with a real book anyway, where you can lend it to a friend or display it on your shelf. It’s just locked away in cyberspace, where you could essentially lose access to it forever, even though you’ve paid for it.
    I do find ebooks convenient, and I’m more into them now than I used to, but only if they’re cheap enough to justify all the things you’re missing out on with a physical book. Great post! 🙂

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