Wednesday 21 June 2017

Physical Books and E-Books - Which Do You Prefer?

E-books or physical books? It's a subject which can get a lively debate going, and it was brought up again at last night's panel at Waterstones Kensington when an audience member asked what the authors thought of reports showing that sales of e-books seem to have slumped.

I have loved physical books for nearly as long as I can remember. I have amazing memories of my parents teaching me to read, of sitting with them as they read Enid Blyton and Anthony Buckeridge to me. Of going through the spare room at my grandparents' house and finding my first Chalet School book, starting a love affair with the series which lasted for perhaps 15 years. Of being given amazing presents, books I'd never have bought for myself but ended up loving. And a cupboard in my flat is full of signed books by authors I've been lucky enough to meet, with some truly gorgeous messages to me which I will hold in my heart for a long, long time.

So the joys of a hardback or paperback copy are definitely not lost on me. I also find them easier to read and tend to take in more information when I read them than when I read an e-book. (This is apparently the case with most people, according to scientific studies.)

And yet, for all the great advantages of physical books, there are some massive plus points to e-books as well. I've read self-published books which are either unavailable in the UK as physical copies, or at the very least difficult to get hold of. And in many cases they're books which stand out as very different from most of what's published for YA readers - I'm thinking of Hannah Moskowitz's 3, the most in-depth look at polyamory I've seen in YA, Ishara Deen's God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems - a Muslim version of Nancy Drew, with a fun mystery and a wonderful central character - or the collected short stories of Lawrence Block (which I could have bought here, but couldn't carry around to read as he's written so many!)

In addition, there's also the chance for authors to release short stories which wouldn't have been available in previous years - whether that's the author themselves doing it, as Laura Lam did with her Vestigial Tales to give fans like me something to read while waiting for Masquerade, or working with publishers. Two UK authors who've done brilliantly are Melinda Salisbury, with Scholastic recently releasing short story collection The Heart Collector, and Robin Stevens, whose short story e-releases did so well that they were collected - along with tons of excellent bonus material - as her recent release Cream Buns and Crime.

Of course, there's an elephant in the room here - the threat that Amazon, in particular, poses to bookshops. Yes, e-books do have their benefits, but the dwindling number of bookshops is a worry for anyone who loves them, and I appreciate that people buying e-books can hasten that decline. This would be, in my opinion, a Very Bad Thing. Several of my favourite places in London are bookshops; I'm lucky enough to do some work for Tales on Moon Lane (my absolute idea of heaven!) and can spend hours browsing and talking to staff there, in Foyles, in Big Green Bookshop or many more.  I've also attended a lot of fabulous events at bookshops, and got a ton of great recommendations from knowledgeable booksellers - neither of which are going to happen when you buy from Amazon! My personal feelings - and this is very much just what I do myself, rather than meant to be judging anyone else - is that I don't buy anything from Amazon that I'd be planning on getting normally. I buy Kindle books either to try out authors unfamiliar to me (especially when they're reduced), or if they're only available as e-books, or if I've already got physical copies and want to have one for the convenience of always having it with me. (This tends to apply mainly to mood-busting reads like Candy Harper's Faith trilogy, or Beth Garrod's Super Awkward.)

So, in conclusion from me, I love both physical and e-books. How about you? Do you have a preference? And what are your thoughts on buying from bookshops vs buying from Amazon? We'd love it if you joined the discussion over at the new UKYAMG subreddit!


  1. I love both. I can take a physical book to bed; by the time I go to bed, both my devices are on the charger after a hard day's use. My print books don't need charging. On the other hand, I have literally thousands of books and no space for more. I read several books at a time, because I just can't wait. Imagine my delight at being able to the a whole library on the train to work! And a print book for when the battery runs low, of course...
    Ebook format allows a lot of previously out of print books to come back - and means I can go easy on my battered old copies!
    It's true that the likes of Amazon is going hard on bricks and mortar stores, but then big chain stores are also making things hard on independent book shops. And you wouldn't say that libraries are driving down sales, would you? (Well, you might if you're a certain hugely bestselling children's writer who is so greedy he doesn't want his books where people don't have to pay to read them...) But the thing is, libraries have been around for a long time without closing down bookshops.

  2. I prefer physical books, I only read e-books if it's a short story exclusive to that format or an e-arc.