E-books vs. Print Books: Where Do You Stand?
By Axie Barclay

In the recent Amazon vs. Hachette controversy (which I have all but ignored without impunity), it is again brought to our attention this clash between e-books and print books, indie publishing vs. traditional publishing. It seems like eons ago that the Kindle launched and people swore up and down e-books would never take off because they didn’t provide the same experience as a print book.

They were right; they don’t.

But that’s not to say that e-books haven’t found their place. And, really, so long as people are buying and reading books, does it really matter the format?

Yes and no.

Like any respectable writer, I’ve been #workingonmynovel, and that’s involved some research. (Amazingly I don’t have the plugin in my head that tells me everything about Viking Scandinavia, go figure.) One night it was after dark, the kiddo was asleep, the Spousal-Type Creature away for the night for work, the house was all shut down for the evening, and I curled up in bed with a huge tome with big pages and colorful photographs, featuring objects and images from the Viking world. The chill in the air from the fall weather made it one of those perfect nights, where curling up in bed with a book is the most amazing experience, and it made me think of this Amazon/Hachette kerfuffle, and the future of e-books, and all of that, and as I paged through the unwieldy, stiff-paged coffee-table book, it made me sad to think of books like these going digital.

There’s a different experience having a book live under your fingers, especially when that first thrill of research is still racing along your synapses. The pictures and overall authority lose something when they become digital, and digital pictures are difficult to include as well. I don’t want to lose this experience to digital books.

The next day, I was listening to my Kindle read an e-book, and enjoyed that just as well. I like having this little thing hold innumerable files, read audiobooks, connect to the internet, and download .pdfs of books to review.

E-books aren’t going away. But, I think, neither should print. Some books just need to be in print. Research is showing that the human brain absorbs information better on a page than on screen. An article on Scientific American’s website discusses how people bring less attention to a screen and give it less weight than in the flesh (so to speak) paper. For me, I know good storytelling will stick with me, regardless of medium, but it is easier to absorb some stories, and remember them, when holding the book in my hands. At the same time, a lot of genre fiction that is a quick weekend read is much better perused on a screen.

So the major takeaway is that e-books aren’t going away, but neither should print. Whether indie or traditional, e-book or print book, there’s space for all niches in the marketplace. Let’s not throw out one technology all together just because something new has come along, but figure out how it can all live together. There’s more than one route to publishing (nod to both sides of the Amazon/Hachette debacle) and there’s more than one way to read.



“The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens.” Scientific American. Ferris Jabr. Apr 11, 2013. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/reading-paper-screens/


Book Recommendations:

Grunt Life by Weston Oches – Suicidal soldiers with PTSD get retrained to face the alien threat. The writing is really good.

Pennsylvania by Michael Bunker – Amish sci-fi. Need I say more? Yeah, now you have to go what that’s about right? Good call.

How to Write Using the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson – This book has changed my entire approach to writing. LOVE IT!!!

Axie_Barclay_100Axie Barclay is a Michigan writer with a cow-habit. Having discovered the joys and potential for growth inalternative agriculture, she quests ever longer and harder for ways to combine farming and writing into a business. When not milking cows, making disgruntled noises at the latest disgusting thing the heeler dogs dredge up, riding horses, or keeping the fence up around her small beef herd, she’s holed up reading an eclectic array of books or tapping out pages. When not working, she enjoys kicking back with her honey, family, and friends at a bonfire with some beers. Chat her up on Twitter and Facebook, /axieb, or http://barclayfarmsandlit.blogspot.com where she delves into literature and agriculture with a relish…and occasionally ketchup. Soon to be homemade.