Will you ever buy mostly e-books?

by | Nov 20, 2013 | E-books | 37 comments

It’s that time of year!

It’s time for the seventh (!!!) annual poll on our e-book future, which I first started in 2007 when the first Kindle had barely launched and when 2013 seemed so far into the distant future it may as well been the setting for a science fiction movie.

Now, yes, caveat, this is a totally unscientific poll as were all the rest. I know it, you know it, we all know it. Entertainment purposes only.

Here are the past versions of the polls:

2008 (technically beginning of ’09)


So. Do you think you’ll ever buy mostly e-books? Do you already?

Here is the poll. If you’re reading this in a feed reader or via e-mail you’ll need to click through to the post to see it:


  1. Matt Borgard

    I basically switched over this year after moving out of an apartment, buying four new bookshelves and still overflowing them. It's a little distressing that my eBooks aren't permanent unless I take the time to download them and back them up, but I guess paper books aren't really permanent either.

  2. Savannah

    I usually buy only ebookks. The major exceptions would be coffee table-type books, used books, and children's books. But I'm that one-in-million reader who actually doesn't like the way printed books feel or smell.

  3. historywriter

    Went to a workshop put on by my local archives. They are saying that you'll need to change storage for your writing and pictures every 3-5 years as it changes that often. Store in 3 different places. I would assume that the books we have on our devises will need to do that too. I love my Kindle Fire and do read from it, but it's also my mini-tablet/pad for email, FB etc. I have books from 1857 on my shelf and I love to open them and hold. ebooks are numbers. Maybe for trying out a book on Kindle. Buy hard copy if I love it.

  4. JohnDopp

    I was given my first Kindle as a gift a few years ago, and I've been a passionate ebook enthusiast ever since.

    I'll only buy dead trees if there's no ebook alternative.

    After we bought my son's reading assignments in ebook format, his teacher informed me that ebooks were not allowed in his class because he was "trying to preserve the tangible act of using real novels" — as if an ebook version was somehow not literature.

    His reasoning was that the students can highlight passages and write in the margins, something that filled me with horror when paper books were the only option. Apparently, having dismissed ebooks as not "real books", he overlooked the fact that you can highlight and annotate text in most ebook readers.

    It pains me to watch the dinosaurs thrash about in the tar pit.

  5. jenna123

    My current feeling about ebooks is mixed. When you buy a book, it's yours and no one can tell you what to do with it. When I buy an ebook, it's got DRM and can only be read on certain machines and if the company that I bought it through goes under I lose my book. Last year I welcomed my ebook overlords. This year I'm a little more on the fence.

  6. Anonymous

    For fiction, I only buy ebooks or audio books. I fell in love with the Kindle the minute I saw it and have never looked back.

  7. Stephanie Cain

    There are some authors I've been reading for twenty years. I just can't see myself switching those books to e-books. If money were no issue, I might, aside from the number of signed copies I'm slowly amassing.

    Aside from that, though, I can't stand reading non-fiction in e-book format, because I can't mark things up as easily. I know, e-books are searchable etc but still.

    That said, I love e-books, and I am amassing quite a collection of them. For that matter, I currently have a short story available for purchase on Amazon Kindle that isn't available in print. So I'm not at all prejudiced against the e-format. I just can't see myself ever making a 100% switch.

  8. Tom Braun

    I wish I remembered how I voted last year. One thing I can say is that in the year and a half since I bought my Kindle my hard-copy book purchases have plummeted and my eBook purchases have sky-rocketed. It hasn't been a gradual thing, either.

    The future is now.

  9. Karen Myers

    I take the trouble to de-DRM my ebooks, convert them to the preferred formats, and back them up with all the rest of my data. So they're mine, more accessible than the ones moldering in boxes which overflow my 100+ bookcases.

    For all fiction, and for little-illustrated narrative non-fiction, I'll pay a premium to get it in ebook form over used print copies.

  10. Serenity

    I do think it would add a level of scienficity if those of us who read your blog would ask this question of our friends and neighbors who still read newspapers and stuff. I have two passions at war here: Simplicity versus aesthetic-appeal. A group of beloved books on a shelf brings the happy, for sure. But I'm so into letting go of stuff and things and clutter that "will you ever MOSTLY buy ebooks" is definitely a yes.

  11. Melissa

    Is there anyone out there who chose "Never" several years ago but has since switched to "Absolutely"? If so, what caused you to change your mind?

    For the record, I'm a long-term member of the undecided camp on this issue.

  12. Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli

    Since I have a Kindle (2 years) I definitely mostly buy and read ebooks. They cost less and they have an increased readability. I just buy the paperback books of a couple of authors, because I want the object for my collection (like I do for CD's).

  13. John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur

    I think you're asking the wrong question. It's not about whether I can't wait to only buy ebooks, or never want to give up dead-tree book. I can see a time coming soon when ebooks are the only way to buy new books, whether I like it or not.

    People always go on about how they'll never give up the feel of a book, or the smell, or the sound of the turning pages. Those are all very real reactions. BUT – the function of a book is not to sound a certain way, or feel or smell a certain way. The function of a book is to convey words, thoughts, ideas, from te writer's mind to the readers. And books in an electronic format just do it in a more efficient, cost-effective way.

    The day is soon coming when we won't call them ebooks. We'll call them books, because for the vast majority of readers, that's the only physical object they'll relate to that word.

  14. JeriWB

    The only time I now buy print books is for travel books for better images and because I like to flip through them, highlight, and dog ear the pages. But for fiction, I'm all for eBooks and have been for a few years now.

  15. TheJuliaNelson

    Ebooks are easier for me to read because I can make the type bigger and don't have to bend the heck out of a paperback to read the words too close to the spine. I've also discovered lots of beginning authors at low, low prices.

  16. Norma Beishir

    I've converted my library to ebooks. The only print books that remain are those that haven't been released in ebook or audiobook format.

  17. Christina Baglivi Tinglof

    Some books are better on a reader; others require paper. It all just depends but the technology is getting better so I find myself buying more. P.S.I'd love to see all the years on a graph to see the progression.

  18. Robin Constantine

    Not to get all hippie-dippy but I still prefer the tactile experience of reading a physical copy of a book. E-books are great for vacation, instead of lugging a bag of books around, but I think there are some books that just lend themselves to being experienced in that 'nose in a book' kind of way. I also can't stand saying "I'm 63% done with this book" Oh, and I'm a total page flipper – if I get impatient I need to flip toward the end to see if a character is still in a book if I feel like they are in peril or something. You can't beat the "oh I want to read that, look I can download it" convenience of an e-book, but I can't see myself switching over totally unless that becomes my only option.

  19. Lisa Shafer

    I've been voting "maybe" since 2007. 😀
    I now own an iPad w/ a kindle app and an iBook app, so I have a lot of e-books, but I still prefer holding a book in my hands.

  20. Bruce Bonafede

    I've had an e-reader only for a few months, and I've been surprised how much I enjoy having it. I find them convenient, not to mention some ebooks are priced so ridiculously low it's cheaper to buy them than waste the time thinking about it. But if I am going to spend a lot of time with a book – I read a lot of military history & they tend to be rather long – I'll buy the print edition.

  21. Lynda Schuessler

    Love my Kindle (just the plain old e-reader) and I buy many more novels now than before. Before, I usually checked books out in the library only buying books I really wanted to have on my shelf.

  22. Aggie Cowboy

    I'm severely dyslexic and, for some reason, I can read an e-reader much easier than paper. I've seen other dyslexics say the same thing. So e-books are now a major part of my library.

  23. Anonymous

    I've been in social settings where I've found myself feeling bad for people who don't know anything about e-books. It used to be something they boasted about…"I don't read those dumb new-fangled e-books! Not me!" But now I get embarrassed for them.

  24. Steve MC

    Looks like the flip happened in 2010 and things have stayed nearly the same since.

    For myself, a book isn't really a book unless you can use toilet paper for a bookmark.

  25. wendy

    I'll admit it: I've done a 180 on the ebook situation. A few years ago I was adamant that I'd never be interested in reading from a device. But now the convenience of buying any book online and having it delivered immediately – plus the cheap prices – have won me over. As some one else mentioned, the only reason I'd go for a print book now would be if it was a beautifully illustrated coffee-table book or children's book — or graphic novel.

  26. Sarah Duncan

    Given the choice, I prefer a physical book over a ebook every time. Sometimes there isn't a choice, which is fine and I go with what's there, but I'd rather pay a bit extra to have a physical object.

    What has changed is my need to own and keep books. I got rid of my books last year – over 10,000 of them, so a big deal – except for those that would be hard to replace, usually OP books, because I knew that I could easily download or obtain another copy if I really wanted to read it again. I'm using the library a lot more too this year.

  27. Nick LeVar

    I love ebooks for the convenience (I'm also sort of a techie). However, there is something to be said about the "struggle" to buy hard copies. By struggle, I mean fighting traffic, browsing Barnes & Noble, and hoping they have the book you want in stock. Most people see those things as detriments, but I don't. I can't explain the psychology of it (maybe it's the old "nothing worth having comes easy" cliche?), but I seem to appreciate a book more when I've gone through the struggle to get it. Ebooks are so convenient, I don't feel as connected to it as I should. And by that, I mean that I don't feel connected to the book; it doesn't change how I feel about the story!

  28. Sophia

    For me, it comes down to price. If the ebook has the best price, I choose it. Often, however, it's less expensive to buy a used hard copy.

  29. Ghost Girl (aka, Mary Ann)

    This year I have bought far more print books. As Nick LeVar said, there is more to buying the print book than just the medium. It's the whole experience. I like the feel of a book. The artistry, which I think might become a bigger selling point as technology gains a stronger hold. I like my ebooks, but there are certain types of books I will never buy as a digital copy. The ones I truly love, I want in hard copy.

    And frankly, it's a hell of a lot harder to wipe out a physical library than a digital one. One bad keystroke, virus, blown motherboard or power surge and it's gone. It would take a much bigger act of God or man to destroy my physical library. Moreover, I feel so much more connected to my physical books. They are like family.

  30. Joanne Huspek

    It's about half and half now. Yes, I still buy physical books because I like the feel of them in my hands. I also like to flip through them and read a few pages before I buy. But on the other hand, it's so convenient to have books downloaded into my phone, especially when traveling. Who wants to be bogged down by pounds of books?

  31. Nathan Bransford

    ghost girl-

    I actually don't agree that it's easier to wipe out a digital library than a print one. All of my e-books are stored in multiple clouds and if I ever lost whatever device I was reading on I could easily download them on another. It would basically take an alien invasion for me to lose the books I've acquired.

    But meanwhile, if I have an apartment fire or a flood or something like that then I really do lose my library.

  32. Doug

    What Nathan said about losing e-books. Mine are copied in six places: the dealer (not guaranteed to always be there), two hard drives on my machine, an external hard drive, a cloud backup, and a netbook connected to the cloud backup. Selected titles also are loaded onto three mobile devices.

    As I approach retirement, having extra space in my home just to store books is a luxury I can no longer afford. My e-books take up essentially no space.

    It wasn't too long ago that having a library in your home was a status symbol. Some who couldn't afford such a thing might say it was ostentatious. It's possible we're swinging back in that direction, at least to some extent.

  33. The Daring Novelist

    I was reading ebooks whenever I could way back when I had to convert them myself for my Palm Pilot.

    And yes, I've read almost exclusively ebooks for a couple of years now.

  34. G. B. Miller

    On the rare occasions that I do buy a book now, it is print.

    I own a NOOK, but haven't used it since early summer. The main impetus for not buying e-books boils down to not having any spare funds to go towards it.

    Plus, I have a public library here so I'll always be doing the majority of my reading as print.

  35. David Hill

    I'm in a kind of middle ground here. For my favorite authors (Brandon Sanderson, Jim Butcher, Mary Robinette Kowal) I aim to own physical copies of their books.

    For new authors, or authors whose work I am unfamiliar with, I start with an e-book, and go from there. Sometimes I only get the 1 e-book, or I'll get more but stick to the e-book realm if I haven't truly fallen in love with the author's writing.

    Sometimes, as with Mary, they get moved from the e-book to physical book list before I've even finished reading the first book.

  36. Autumn Kalquist

    Once you start reading on a device, it slowly takes over. Then one day you realize you're getting angry at a paperback because it lacks Kindle features.

    Just wrote a post about my accidental conversion and I was a bookworm who thought ebooks would never win out over paper.

    I don't want to have to pay a higher mortgage because I need extra room for my personal library. I don't want to own a big tv stand and tons of CD cases just to store my movies and music.

    In fact, I honestly don't need to *own* these things at all. I'm really happy with the Netflix / Spotify model of paying monthly to choose my entertainment.

    If it's entertainment, video or pictures that bring back great memories, or important paperwork, I want that stuff in the cloud and on my hard drive.

    I haven't taken the plunge and actually given away all my books, but that's partially because I don't want to have to buy them in digital form. The only time paper wins out is for reference books.


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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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