Will You Ever Buy Mostly E-books?

by | Nov 26, 2012 | E-books | 56 comments

It’s official: We’re all getting old!

It’s time for the SIXTH ANNUAL poll on our e-book future, which I have asked every year since 2007 when the original Kindle was barely a newborn.

Yes, caveat: I’m aware this is an unscientific poll. Entertainment purposes only.

Here are the past polls:

2008 (technically beginning of ’09)

Here is 2012.

Do you think there will come a time when you buy mostly e-books? Do you already? 
Click through for the poll if you’re reading via e-mail or in a feed reader:


  1. Christina

    I already buy mostly ebooks, but then I also buy a decent amount of paper books from local bookstores out of a sense of loyalty.

  2. Seabrooke

    For me, the answer to *buy* mostly ebooks versus *read* mostly ebooks are different. I still only buy print copies, partly for their physical presence and partly because you're only buying the license to the ebook, but I happily borrow a lot of ebooks from the library. If my library switched over to only ebooks I wouldn't have a problem with that, but I'd still want to buy any I loved in print form.

  3. Sharon V.

    Almost every book I buy is in e-book form, but when it comes to cookbooks and other guidebooks, I stick with the print versions.

  4. Mrs. Silverstein

    My answer was pro-paper book…but I also have and adore a Kindle. I see my bookshelves in my home as a curated reflection of my tastes…while the Kindle is great for miscellaneous titles, the occasional deal on something I want to try before adding to the paper collection, titles I have to have on my person at all times (I have three copies each of THE SCORPIO RACES and THE HUNGER GAMES–paper signed, paper unsigned, for reading, and Kindle, so I can open them up at a moment's notice), and for receiving e-galleys through sites like Netgalley. My hope is that lots of people will operate similarly. If that's the case, I can see e-readers becoming stiff competition for mass-market paperbacks in particular, but hopefully trade paperbacks and hardcovers will just be so nice to look at and touch that people will never be able to resist them. (For example, I was really glad I got Marie Lu's LEGEND in hardcover rather than as an e-book–that gold ink is so pretty!)

  5. dampscribbler

    I haven't used my e-reader (Kindle) more than a few times in the past year. I love the feel, look, and smell of a bound book, and I don't see that changing significantly enough for me to switch to reading mostly e-books. But the market may demand that I switch, if bound books become hard to acquire.

    I've tried checking e-books out from the library, but they make them so much less accessible than paper books — lengthy holds, not enough notice when it becomes available, 1-2 week check-out times, and no ability to renew. That's going to have to get better.

  6. Julie Luek

    I check out a lot of ebooks via our library– love that. I do buy a lot of ebooks as well– oftentimes they're cheaper. But you can't beat a good old fashioned spine n' paper book for cookbooks, reference books, photos, children's books.

  7. midwinter-az

    I'm an "absolutely" with the caveat that I won't make the switch to mostly electronic until I can find books without DRM protection. If I BUY a book, I want to be able to do the same things with it that I would with a paper copy – loan it to friends indefinitely, trade it to a used book store for credit, sell it at a yard sale, etc. I don't like the current model of leasing books. The thought that my purchased content can be taken away from me if the content owner changes a line on a contract somewhere just leaves me cold.

  8. Renee Collins

    I'm a turncoat. A few years ago, I cringed at the idea of ebooks. This year, I'm asking Santa for a Nook.

    That said, I still love paper books, and will still buy them. But I have a feeling I will actually buy quite a few more ebooks than I ever did paper.

  9. JeffO

    The answer, for me, is "Maybe", but only because I can't read the future. Right now, I do not have a reader sort of device, and I have neither plans nor desire to get one. However, while I don't envision the death of the 'hard copy' book in my lifetime, I can envision a time where it's harder to get them, in which case, I may have no choice.

  10. Mieke Zamora-Mackay

    Right now, I buy the e-book version when I am unsure of the author or the book itself. Then, once I find out that I like the book and author, I buy the paper version for my home library. It the author is one I really like, I'll buy the paper version first.

  11. Donna Hosie

    I buy more ebooks now. NEVER thought I would ever make that statement.

    But there is room for paper and tablet to coexist together. Isn't it about choice and getting people to read in the first place?

  12. Tiffany

    I've certainly changed my mind about ebooks in the past few years. I went from looking down my nose at them, to being mildly curious, to having an ereader of my own (which I adore and use for most of my reading). I still like print books for certain things (cookbooks, reference, etc.), but most of the time I curl up with my Kobo rather than a paperback.

  13. Steven J. Wangsness

    There are two many times when I like to flip back and forth, and it's very inconvenient to do that with an ebook. So no, I mostly won't buy ebooks. I say this even though my novel's only available (for free) in ebook form. But you're not asking if I'm logical.

  14. collectonian

    My answer stays the same – the only way I will ever buy mostly e-books, or even buy e-books at all, will be is if it the absolute only way to get any books anymore or if it was the absolute only way to get the books I read. I suspect I won't live that many centuries 🙂

    As it is now, I have yet to buy a single e-book and doubt I ever will. I have read some freebies via Kindle for PC/iPad and borrowed a small handful via Kindle lending, and that's about it.

  15. Conda Douglas

    For the past year, I've bought almost only e-books, with very few exceptions. I read mostly fiction, however I've bought non-fiction, including cookbooks, in e-book form. I can find anything so much faster on my e-reader! Plus, overall, they're cheaper.

  16. Bryan Russell

    Luckily, the Zombie Apocalypse is coming, and our cold dead hands will be pulling out e-brains left and right. That should even the odds a little. Plus, there will be no more electricity or batteries.

    Our new motto: Zombies Prefer Paper

  17. Josin L. McQuein

    I would have been a definitely, but I've yet to see an actual Paperwhite screen, so I'm holding off until I'm sure it reads like e-ink and not a backlit screen.

  18. Scott

    Interesting to go back and look at my 2007 comment. But then, "never" means one to two years in digital time. In 2011 about a third of my reading was in ebook form. This year, I'd say about 80 percent has been electronic. The difference? The devices have become more interesting and I can read more for less money, although considering device price, only barely, at least in the year when I buy a reader. I still love paper books, but I find my reader to be easier on my eyes, totally the opposite of what I expected back in the dark ages of aught-seven. The biggest drawback is that every book feels the same. I miss the tactile thrill of switching to a new book.

  19. Natalie Aguirre

    I still really like print books because many of those I buy I like to give away on my blog. And I like the idea that the person who gets it can pass it on as well. I don't think e-books can be given away as freely yet.

  20. Anonymous

    I love the way these results change each time you post them. At this point, I only read e-books. I can't even imagine going back to print now.

  21. Savannah

    I love e-books. As someone with allergies, I have always found the smell of books to make me uncomfortable and feel a little tickle-nosed. The only thing I miss is being able to flip around the pages of a book if I'm looking for a particular spot; it isn't quite the same when doing that on an e-reader.

  22. aisling

    I have vision problems and it makes me light sensitive. It creates more strain on my eyes to read on screen then it does on paper. The glare from the light makes the words more blurry even with glasses with special tints. I think I'm going to be left behind in the reading stakes. There are already books I'd love to read but they are in electronic format only. I'll probably pick up a reader to use for professional reading but it would not be smart of me to use it for leisure.

  23. Nicole Palmby

    It's interesting to see the progression of the poll over the years, unscientific though it may be. I'm really, really curious to see the results about four years from now.

  24. Mina Burrows

    I've been a fan from the beginning so yeah.

  25. Anonymous

    I continue to have a difficult time finding the same connection to ebooks that I have when holding a printed copy of the book. When given a choice, and a similar price, I continue to choose bound books.

  26. Dutch Henry

    Nathan, I've been a follower since '07 and actually remember the first time you've done the survey … I just rummaged through all the past years and enjoyed the trend shift … I still maintain "I have no idea" but love this survey … On a side note, still love your blog, get it via email and read it most days … You've taught me more than any other agent/author … I've had one novel published, your advice certainly helped … I write for magazines about "People & Horses Helping Horses & People" and have a blog of my own … Please know it was your encouraging words 5 years ago that kept me in the saddle! You are a good man!~Dutch Henry.

  27. dorothyanneb.com

    I use my Kobo because I like being able to change the font size for my aging eyes – and I love to read great thick books that are hard to hold when dozing before bed. I have Mark Twain's biography and have not yet read it as it is a huge thing – it's nice when you can hold the book daily, even with MS and etc.
    Mind you, I NEVER pass up a good used book store!

  28. G. B. Miller

    Since I have to do book reviews, I find it's much cheaper to by the e-book version of what I need to read than it is to buy the print version.

    To whit, I have a $50 gift card to B&N and with only half spent, I've purchased 8 books. Those same eight definitely wouldn't have cost me $25, but more like $100.

    For personal reading though, I'll stick to print until I'm pushing up the daises. Won't purchase it 'cause it's just too expensive, so I'll just keep using the public library.

  29. Emily Wenstrom

    I'm at a point where if I'm buying a book, it's an ebook unless it's a graphic novel. However, I do still read a lot of normal books these days, because I borrow more books from the library than I actually purchase. I'm pretty comfortable iwth both.

    There's one thing I miss about paper books though–being about to snoop on other people on the metro in the morning to see what everyone else is reading!

  30. leighcaroline

    There are only 2 reasons I buy a paper book anymore: If it's a cookbook or similar reference book, or if I know I'm likely to run into the author and want them to sign a copy. The rest of the time? Ebooks all the way. I don't have enough storage space for all the books I read otherwise.

  31. T. M. Hunter

    You need to add the "I already do" option…I guess welcoming the overlords is the most applicable of these.

  32. Angela Brown

    Can you consider yourself one of the ebook overlords if you self-publish lol!!

  33. Brian Tarbox

    Last year I read 42 books, only two of which were p-books.

  34. Mira

    I'm with T.M. I already do.

    In fact, I picked up a physical book today, thumbed through it and it was an odd, nostalgic experience. Oh, this is what they used to be like!

    I'm a convert. E-books are just too convienent and easy to read. I love the backlighting. I love being able to read anywhere, anytime. I love carrying over 300 books in my phone in my pocket.

    Technology is wonderful. 🙂

  35. domynoe

    We moved from a 3 bedroom split level to a smaller 3 bedroom single floor to a 2 bedroom apartment all in less then 6 months. I HAD to get rid of books and we picked up a Nook so I could replace some of the ones I got rid of and could still have new books to read. I'd still prefer to have a huge library of paperbacks, but have to admit, the first thing I grab to read at night? The Nook. And no, it's not the one with the light, and yes, I do have a small stack of hard copies by the bed waiting to be read. lol

  36. Anonymous

    I'm almost entirely ebooked now, but that's because my husband is military, which forces us to move a lot. We just donated over 300 books, and we still have three bookcases full. We're slowly culling all of our things that can be moved to digital media (CDs, DVDs, books) just because, now that we have kids, we need the space for their toys, not ours. I'll wait for the books I've loved most and will reread over and over to come to B&N's bargain prices, and I have quite a few of the leather editions. But for a book I'll only read the once, either because I didn't like it or it just isn't something loved enough to go back to, there's no reason for me to have a paper copy. I'm also really careful about having paper around now anyway after our apartment was flooded out three springs in a row and destroyed too much of our stuff. Ebooks don't get flooded out.

  37. Anonymous

    I'm almost entirely ebooked now, but that's because my husband is military, which forces us to move a lot. We just donated over 300 books, and we still have three bookcases full. We're slowly culling all of our things that can be moved to digital media (CDs, DVDs, books) just because, now that we have kids, we need the space for their toys, not ours. I'll wait for the books I've loved most and will reread over and over to come to B&N's bargain prices, and I have quite a few of the leather editions. But for a book I'll only read the once, either because I didn't like it or it just isn't something loved enough to go back to, there's no reason for me to have a paper copy. I'm also really careful about having paper around now anyway after our apartment was flooded out three springs in a row and destroyed too much of our stuff. Ebooks don't get flooded out.

  38. Ed Wyrick

    I don't leave my horse at the livery stable, but I do buy pretty much 100% e-books. There will come a time when this discussion will look silly.

  39. Lynda Schmeichel

    Because we've moved a number of times in the 16 years we've been together, during our last move hubby threatened to leave my boxes of books behind because he was tired of moving them. He told me I could buy even more books than usual without complaining even once if I bought them for my e-reader & he didn't have to move them anymore.

  40. Nathaniel Miller

    The only way I get eBooks is DRM-free, and convertible between formats.

  41. Ruth

    Heaven forbid the Apocalypse comes and I haven't bought a solar charger for my Kindle. Most everything I buy is ebook, unless the paper is full of color illustrations, less expensive, or somehow compelling in print. Why? I'll be retiring soon and only the best books of my thousands will be kept, because downsizing is in my near future. Because I can read a huge novel and not irritate my carpal tunnel or get too fatigued to read it in bed. Because I can carry them all with me all the time. Because a Kindle leaves one hand free for lunch or petting chihuahuas. I have hundreds of Kindle titles now, and I'm not stopping any time soon. Both have their place, but Kindle is here to stay.

  42. hegenabo

    I don´t have an ebook reader so I don´t really know if I´ll like ebooks at all. Then there´s the problem of me spending a lot of time in places where paper books still rule without questions. Wouldn´t bring my Kindle into the pool or on the beach. It wouldn´t do too well in a hot sauna or a tub either. That doesn´t mean I wouldn´t like a Kindle, it just means I quite like both kinds of books.

  43. Michelle Dear

    I own a first gen Kindle. I purchase somewhere between 250-300 fiction ebooks a year. The only books that I buy in hardcopy are reference books…I'm still old school when it comes to my guides and reference material.

    But I just don't see the need to keep an entire forest of fiction sitting around in my house.

  44. Marianne Harden

    Purchased my first paperback book in three years a week ago and I still feel guilty about it. Though I love the feel on one in my hand, I love the Earth more. It's worth the sacrifice.

  45. River Byrnes

    Because I am visually impaired, I read only e-books – as they are the only ones that I CAN read (long live large font sizes!). Yes, I know you can get the odd book in large print, but they do not tend to be my kind of books, and mean traveling a long way to get.
    I agree with all those saying that the DRM needs to come off; I bought a non-fiction book via my son's kindle (my own had a fault at the time) and now find I cannot transfer that title to my own…

  46. Tsana Dolichva

    You should make a gif of changing responses with years.

    I mostly read ebooks but still also have many paper books. Ebooks are much easier for me to read, especially on public transport and aeroplanes, and deal with because I travel a lot and don't currently live in the same country as most of my books.

  47. steventhowell

    I buy mostly ebooks now to avoid adding mediocre titles to my already huge collection of paper books. If I read an ebook and choose to add it to my library to re-read and have on hand for my children, I'll buy a nice hardcover.

  48. Carl Grimsman

    Licensed e-books fill my Kindle,
    But my bookshelves will not dwindle.
    I love my Kindle 'fore I sleep,
    But not for those to cherish/keep.

  49. Owldreamer

    I still buy paper books but this year I bought a new Kindle Touch and I have to admit most of the books I buy now are for my Kindle.I still buy paper books because I read constantly and have a fear of my Kindle not working and all of my beloved books disappearing,therefore I find myself buying both versions if I really love the story.I now have my original Sony E-Reader,my new Kindle and hard copies of my favorite books because I not a trusting soul and can't go even one day without reading:)

  50. Beth

    I think at this point I'm buying mostly e-books. With a new baby, it's easier to shop on my kindle then get to a bookstore, and it took me a while but I'm beginning to like my kindle. (Of course, the lack of physical space to keep books I already own could have something to do with this).

  51. Kastie Pavlik

    I have yet to buy an e-book. I'm too attached to the tangible nature of real books to give them up. Plus, I enjoy looking at my collection on the shelves.

  52. Unknown

    I'm on my second e-reader. They are getting better. I buy ebooks of titles that are throwaways. I buy real books for the ones I want to own and keep.

  53. Netbug

    I mostly use my e-reader for things only available online. I just love paper books!

  54. Jesse V Coffey

    I'm already buying mostly ebooks. I love my Kindle and I love carrying my entire library along with me when I go anywhere.

  55. Lesley

    I already do. I bought software to remove the DRM from my kindle books, use Baen a lot, as all the books they sell are DRM free ePub eBooks, and use Calibre to convert them to mobi.

    I made the switch due to failing eyesight rather than any love of an ebook format. Part of what I don't like is the fact I am made to feel like a criminal for wanting DRM free books. That They Know all I want to do is download pirated copies, and upload the ripped books to sharing sites. That I cannot trade my used book back. That I cannot share.

    Amazon now have a lending library if you subscribe to Amazon Prime. Am considering it.

    One thing about moving to eBooks is all I have on my bookshelves now are my Pratchett (could not get rid of those!), some cookbooks that my Daughter will not get rid of, maps. And coffee table books, cos the impact of a photograph is lost on a 6" screen!

    Love the site – came here via the poll (though I missed voting this year)

  56. Lesley

    Plus – Kindle app for phones! Good backup for your kindle breaking or not being charged. Not that that has ever happened to me!


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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