Paperback vs eBook

Every time I am offered the choice between buying a book in paperback or ebook form, I have a really hard time making the decision.  It’s a really interesting time in media/publishing right now.  When someone writes a book, it is published in about 5 or 6 different formats versus the traditional 1.  We are in between print and electronic media.  Print is almost dead, but not yet, and electronic media is definitely taking over the industry.  It’s hard to make the choice for a number of reasons…

Printed Books


  • The battery never dies on a paperback
  • It’s easier to read in bed, in the bathtub, or at the pool or beach without fear of getting water on your ipad
  • Paper books are more tangible.  If a book is sitting on your desk, bookshelf, or is in your hands, people can see it and it starts a whole conversation.  If you are reading your ipad or kindle, no one can tell what you are reading and if it’s just facebook or if you are reading Catcher in the Rye, which happens to be their favorite book of all time.
  • You can easily lend it to someone, which I love to do, even if I may not always get them back.  Lending books is a great way to share experiences with friends or family and have conversations.  Rather than saying, “well it’s a great book, you should download it” and then the chances of them remembering to do it are slim.
  • I love the smell of old books
  • Bookstores – one of my favorite things in life is to casually peruse a bookstore.  I love   reading and just being able to walk around and read the titles and book jackets of books to chose the ones I want to read and find out about new books is a fun way to spend an afternoon.  (I could spend upwards of 3 hours in a barnes & noble – and have done it on numerous occasions).  There is also another conversation that will be missed if you buy all your books in an online store – chatting with a store clerk.   Used bookstores also fall into this category and will be completely extinct because of ebooks.
  • Being able to write/highlight/flag passages or pages in a book.  I am constantly underlining, writing in the margins, highlighting, and flagging pages of books.  I don’t just read them, I study them.  Sure some ereaders have these features, but it’s just not the same.
  • Easier on the eyes
  • I’ve always wanted a library in my home similar to the one in Beauty and the Beast with the floor to ceiling ladder on wheels.
  • When you are on a plane and they tell everyone to shut off their electronic devices, you can keep reading. haha, naner naner boo boo.


  • Having a ton of paper books is heavy, takes up space, and is annoying to have to move
  • They could get ripped, wet, burned, or in some other way destroyed
  • Easier to lose
  • More expensive
  • You need a lamp or light to be able to read it



  • Cheaper
  • Convenient – if you buy a book on iBooks on your iPad, it’s automagically on your iPhone as well so you can read it on either device whenever and wherever you go.
  • Lighter – actually doesn’t weight anything more than the weight of the device(s) that I already carry around everywhere I go.
  • Has it’s own back light so you don’t need a lamp or reading light.
  • Novelty/app features – It’s cool to be able to read a book electronically and swipe through pages, change the font size, background color, etc.


  • Basically that you can’t do any of the pros of printed books
  • If you don’t already have an eReader or iPad, you have to buy a device to read it on

I have both printed books and ebooks and love them both for different reasons, but for some reason I am more drawn to printed books because they just offer a more personalized experience that allows for all kinds of conversations to start.  Someday, my grandkids are going to think I’m so cool for having real books.  Books will be the new records.  People will collect them and hipster kids will think they’re cool for having a vintage or throwback paperback book.  They’ll always be my preferred format for reading.

Which format do you prefer?

A Technical Writer’s Bookshelf

Books. Yes, real books.  Black and white ink printed on paper.  I am a purist and one of the last remaining proponents of reading actual books.  No matter how cool, convenient, or affordable the eReaders get, I refuse to ever get one.  I like the experience of physically holding a book, turning the page, and writing notes in the margins.

I take books with me on airplanes and when everyone else has to turn off their electronic devices, I can still keep reading.  The battery on my book will never die, the hard drive will never crash, and water spilled on it will not ruin it. In fact, the older and more wear and tear that a book has makes it more valuable to me because it shows the character of the book.

Call me a curmudgeon, call me old fashioned, I don’t care.  One of my favorite things in life is the smell of an old book.  I love walking into a used bookstore, picking up a first edition, opening it to the middle, and planting my face in between its pages.  The smell of an old book takes me away to a different time when there was a slower pace of life.  You just can’t get that from a kindle.

So naturally at my desk at work, I have a bookshelf that is chock-full of paperback and hardcover books. Below is a list of the books on my shelf at work, which I believe to be a Technical Writer’s bread and butter.  I reference many of these books on a daily basis.

Style Reference Books

  1. Microsoft Manual of Style – Fact. Every technical communicator should have a copy of this book. It is 100% essential to producing quality (and correct) end-user documentation.
  2. Chicago Manual of Style – Goes hand-in-hand with the Microsoft one.
  3. AP StyleBook – If you are doing any sort of journalism or writing articles, you need a copy of this to reference as well.  These two styles are completely different and it is extremely valuable to know the difference.
  4. The Elements of Style By William Strunk, Elwyn Brooks White – The quintessential style reference book. Another must-have for any style of writing.
  5. HTML Manual of Style – Good for anyone who works with HTML.
  6. Merriam-Websters Dictionary and Thesaurus – Even though the internet can rapidly define almost any word, I still use this because it is more accurate.

Web Design/Usability/User Interface Books

  1. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability By Steve Krug  – If you are working in web design in any capacity, this book is a must-have.
  2. How to Design and Write Web Pages Today By Karl Stolley – A really good approach to writing web sites by today’s standards.
  3. User Interface Design for Programmers by Joel Spolsky – a little more technical than the others, but it provides a ton of great information.
  4. The Design of Everyday Things By Donald Norman – A great book that will forever change the way you think about design.
  5. Head First HTML, CSS, & XHTML – This is a phenomenal book that teaches even the most non-tech savvy person how to make websites from scratch.  I love the Head First books because they present the information in such a user-friendly and easy to understand way. I highly, highly recommend.
  6. Head First Javascript By Morrison
  7. Head First jQuery By Benedetti & Cranley
  8. Adobe Classroom in a Book: InDesign – I highly recommend these books if you are going to teach yourself how to use the Adobe Creative Suite.  Their instructions are very good and they come with CDs.
  9. Adobe Classroom in a Book: Illustrator
  10. Adobe Classroom in a Book: Dreamweaver
  11. Writing Effective Use Cases by Cockburn – If you’ve never written a use case before, you will benefit from this book.
  12. Software Engineering: A Practitioner’s Approach by Pressman – This is a good book if you are new to Software Development (as I am).

Marketing & PR Books

  1. Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore – This book explains the Technology Adoption Curve that I talked about in an earlier post.  It is really interesting and helps you understand how the general public encounters new technology.
  2. Inside the Tornado by Geoffrey Moore – This book explains more about the chasm as well as going into detail about Value Propositions.
  3. The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era By Theressa Iezzi


I also have the Hunger Games series on my shelf.  Because, it is one of the best fictional series I have ever read.  Fabulous.  I highly recommend it.  Fiction is my favorite genre of books to read for pleasure.  I usually buy paperback or hardcovers, but I also occasionally will listen to an audio book from Audible on my iPod at the gym or on cd in my car from an audio book I checked out from the library (yes, people still check out books from the library).  I am starting The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series this week.  What’s on your bookshelf?