A War of Data and Paper

Some consider it a war… a war with a fate already decided.  Others believe it’s a developing tag team, advancing a cause. Regardless of how you see it, it is a curious debate that has many passionate supporters on both sides.  The issue is the print book versus e-book debate, which has exploded over the last few years as e-books and readers have gained traction and prominence.  With online book promotion at a high, some believe the days of print books are numbered, even though e-book sales apparently hit a plateau in 2014. Regardless, it’s prudent to review some of the advantages of both forms.

Print Books:

  • They are tangible; having something to hold provides the sense of getting something for your money.
  • Being able to easily mark pages and scribble notes is important to many people.
  • A note can be written on the inside cover of a book, and passing it along can be an interesting and fun link to the past.
  • When someone gives a book it’s a way of saying to the gift receiver, “I hope we can connect over this.” It feels more personal than giving a gift certificate.
  • To many people, reading is closely associated with the feel of holding a book and physically turning pages.
  • Taking a trip to the bookstore and wandering through the aisles perusing the shelves can be relaxing and enjoyable; vastly different than looking at books on a computer screen.


  • Storage wise, e-books take up nothing but a small amount of space on a hard drive.  You can hold hundreds of books in the palm of your hand.
  • Purchasing an e-book is generally easier.  All it takes is a few online clicks and it’s yours.
  • It’s easier to travel with multiple books. As long as your battery lasts, you can easily take many books with you at once in one device.
  • E-books are generally less expensive than print books.
  • There are more purchasing options for e-books; people can find an e-book on almost 80 different online outlets.

Interestingly, e-books can be good for print books because they help generate book publicity.  The recent massive surge in e-book sales can lead to more media attention and that can help translate into sales for print books.  Some feel that the preference for print books is due to demographics and that as the current generation ages and new ones come along, the desire for print books will decline.  However, if we take a close look at the music market, which has seen its delivery system change a lot in recent decades, we can see there are plenty of people who still prefer physical copies in conjunction with the digital counterpart.

Print books are unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Their form allows them to transcend time creating something that can be passed down through generations and create a physical link to the past.  An e-reader is unlikely to become capable of fulfilling that niche.