How-To Geek

Reader Poll: Do You Buy More Ebooks than Physical Books?

Yesterday Amazon announced that they now sell more Kindle books than physical books. Where do you fit on this shift towards digital reading?

The Kindle is barely approaching its 4th birthday. Yet in less than four years the Kindle has begun generating enough digital sales that Kindle books account for more book sales at Amazon than paperback and hardcover combined. Now, it’s worth noting, ebook sales still account for a very tiny amount of the total book sales but it still raises the question: how many of you are buying more ebooks than physical books?

[via CNN]

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 05/20/11

Comments (29)

  1. Jason Fitzpatrick

    I’ll admit to being all over the map on this one. I do almost all my reading on my Kindle now… but many of the texts I use for class (both as a student and a teacher) are available on the used market so cheaply. It’s tough to pay $9.99 or $50 for a Kindle book when the used hard copy is $0.50 or $10.

  2. Anon

    Real books. + Side of it you may meet some cute girls at borders or w/e book store you goto. :).

  3. superfish

    You left out an important question on your survey. We don’t buy many books at all. Our library is a wonderful source of reading material and it’s all free. I wouldn’t mind having a reader but then I’d need to buy books.

  4. Chronno S. Trigger

    I like the idea of ebooks, and I do have quite a few free ones (legal); but if I’m going to pay that much money for one, I prefer a physical book. Why would I pay the same or more for an ebook?

    So, I buy more physical books then digital ones. That’s probably not going to change until the price of ebooks reflect the $0 cost to replicate them.

  5. crab

    I read free ebooks but I don’t buy e-books at all. I like bookstores, I like real books, and I refuse to pay real-book prices for DRMed ebooks that are effectively only rentals (I guarantee there will come a time when all your Kindle books become unreadable). If I could rent a title for a few weeks for a few bucks I’d be much more likely to put up with the DRM shenanigans.

    Also IMO e-reading technology has taken a step backwards with the death of PDAs in the marketplace. Dedicated readers cost as much but don’t run apps or light up when reading in bed like even my 1999 Palm Pilot did, most smartphones have small screens and are too expensive (data plans in Canada are extortionary), and most internet tablets (as well as many dedicated e-readers) are too big to fit in a pocket, or read and scroll one handed while standing up on the subway.

  6. Gyffes

    Yes, I read a lot of eBooks on my iPod Touch.

    No, I don’t use an eBook reader.

    Yes, I buy lots of paper books, still.

    No, I hate DRM.

    Yes, I hate the pricing of eBooks (no shipping, storage, printing costs, so we’ll charge you NEARLY as much as for real books — but you can’t share them?)

    I try to buy DRM-free books. Those with DRM, I strip using various python scripts. I BOUGHT the books, dammit.

  7. Carlito

    I just download them for free (filecrop, edonkey), and read the PDF on my NOOK COLOR but whats interesting , if its a really really good book i just buy the physical one

  8. trd

    I’m so glad that I bought a Pocketbook 602 for my girlfriend. She reads so much Vampire-Historical-Romance-Stuff, we wouldn’t have the space for all those books. Our library also lends ebooks and there are special offers all the time so it’s cheaper then hardcovers. I installed a program called fbreader180 so she just has to tilt the reader to “turn” a page.

  9. Lady Fitzgerald

    This is actually an improper survey. The choices should be yes or no without conditional embellishment. I love my e-book reader (a Jetbook Lite) but I have actually purchased only a couple of e-books (I do have a large collection of DRM free public domain e-books). I do all of my reading away from home on my e-book reader and, when at home, I read off the the 32″ TV patched into my computer. I have a huge paperbook collection I’m in the process of chopping the spines off and scanning into my computer. I buy new and used books since they are DRM free (and, often, cheaper), then chop and scan them before reading. There is no way I will buy DRM infested books!

  10. KB Prez

    I love to read, but I have no interest in Ebooks. I already spend most of my day staring at a computer screen. Besides that, I would miss folding the corner of the page where I left off!

  11. Mitch Bartlett

    Originally, my girlfriend and I liked the physical feel of holding a book. When we purchased our Nook, we thought it would get minimal use. But it’s been all Ebooks since. It’s the way everything is going. People don’t like clutter when they can have books, music and movies on a memory stick or sd card.

  12. Geoffrey

    I do not buy paper books any longer. I live on a boat (limited storage) and enjoy reading and shopping for new books anywhere. Can read in bed or outside in the harsh tropical sun. I have read more books, fiction, texts new books and classics in the two years of owning my Kindle than at any time of my life. I have found most people critical of ebooks have never owned one. This little device has enhanced my life more than any new technologies that have come down the pike in my 65 years of existance.

  13. carlb

    I buy some e-books. I read them my andriod.
    Reference i usually buy hard copy. No more waiting with nothing to do.

  14. Khalid

    I actually think it’s a bad question although I voted yes.

    Actually, I buy more ebooks for my personal work where they are computer-related. Eg: JQuery. The reason is that I can search, copy/paste example code.

    But I also buy (I think more) physical books for my kids…

    So if this is a question about personal purchases for Amazon to know what people may buy from them, it certainly is e-books. But if Amazon needs to know what the world buys mostly, it’s definitely paper-based.

  15. jon_hill987

    @Crab: I guarantee there will come a time when all your paperback books become unreadable, they only last so long before pages start to fall out.

  16. StevenTorrey

    I have several [free] ebooks downloaded onto my computer. Books long out of print and of scholarly interest on Greek grammar. I would love to have Johannes Reuchlin’s HEBREW GRAMMAR.

    There is nothing like a physical book. A computer book or Kindle book just doesn’t work, either for ease or convenience. Put the book in your back pack and your there. The Kindle does not translate other languages very well–in fact poorly.

    Equally important: people will take that book and print out paper copies of the book; so the only thing that has happened is displacement of the cost of printing the book from a publisher to a private reader. Nothing is saved, no trees, no diminished cost.

    A Kindle costs $150 which can buy a hell of a lot of second hand books. As more than one person suggested, the local library will sell books for a dollar a less. Any day: a physical book.

  17. Wayne

    I still buy physical books for gifts, special collectors editions or leather-bound editions. However since my wife and I switched to ebooks on our iPhones and iPads, we primarily by ebooks. We prefer the Nook software over Amazon’s kindle but that is just personal preference. When all of our reading was on paperbacks, we purchased 1-2 books a month. Since moving to ebooks, we purchase 7-10 books every month. Much easier to purchase books online and have them immediately instead of driving 20 miles to the nearest bookstore to get a new book.

  18. Wayne

    No edits here and got caught by a few autocorrects in my typing. Sorry for the grammar mistakes.

  19. Ushindi

    I have four large floor to ceiling bookcases jammed with hardbound books I’ve purchased over the years (plus a desk with stacks of books piled on it), and have no room for more. I broke down and bought a Nook and now it’s ebooks. Besides my local public library online, there are also free ebooks at Project Gutenberg, Library To Go, Open Library, etc. on the internet where free books may be downloaded (and when I feel the need for an actual book in my hands, I have my wall to wall selection to pick from again). I also see no need to spend a lot of money on an ephemeral electronic transaction – older books may be public domain and newer ones are available at my library.

  20. Joolyer

    I love the look, feel and smell of paper books; I love my iPad too, and have downloaded many free books frm Amazon and iTunes shop. I resent paying such a high price for an e-book so quite simply don’t, just have to be satisfied with the free ones for the moment.

    I do think that rooms lined with shelves of much-read books feel more attractive than barren walls adorned with occasional life-stylee objects designed to make the occupier seem oh-so-tasteful. Give me broken spines from multiple reads anytime.

  21. Kae

    I’m like a lot of the folks here: intrigued by the whole e-reader thing, but leery of (hell, hostile toward) DRM. I think it’s ludicrous that Amazon and the publishing companies expect me to pay more than full price for a book, but they essentially keep permanent control over my ability to access it. And you can bet that the actual creators of the work (who many of the commentors have left out of their discussion of who gets paid) are NOT seeing much of an extra dividend from this arrangement.

    When the AUTHORS can load their works directly AND make the lion’s share of the profit from those sales, then I’ll consider becoming a regular e-book reader. I’ll pay the pimps for hardcopy, because I know what goes into the process of getting a books “out there”. But I won’t pay them extra for doing nothing.

  22. tommy2rs

    While I love the feel and the smell of a real book I do read ebooks on my old Asus eee pc. With the text rotated it reads and feels like a hardcover book. Turning a page is just a thumb press. Can’t see getting a one trick pony ereader to do what one of the many ( free ) programs on my netbook does. As for buying ebooks, why would I buy ebooks when there are so many free (legal) ones I haven’t read yet. Project Gutenberg is just the tip of the ebook iceberg.

  23. Beta Brain

    As an academic I spend about $4000 a year on books. I give them away to students & libraries when I no longer need them. However last time I moved with physical books, the pantechnicon dragged 7 tons of books to my new place. And then there were the paper copies of PDF files. Now I have no book cases, just an iPad & iPod Touch.

  24. John alvey

    I have the kindle 3G & I use the nook app on my iPhone. I switched to ebook for one huge reason. Space. I needed to take my house back from my personal library. I had books & magazines everywhere. All of it was organized & squared away but it just took up too much space. I actually had a spare bedroom with rows of bookshelfs absolutely full. Not to mention bookshelfs in every other room of the house. I called the local library & told them I’d like to make a huge donation ,( there selection sucked unless you like trashy romances). It took 5 trips with the bed of my full size truck full. ( sad i know) Now if I want to read those again I can go to the library. But I allow no extra paper in my house now & of it comes in it goes no farther than the kitchen table. Very close to a trash can. Ebook = freedom for me.

  25. AbbaDabba

    I can get paperbacks NEW in the store for under $5, but the exact same book in eformat is $9.99. RIP OFF! I can also go to the used book store and get early volumes for 50 cents, but the exact same book in eformat is …. drum roll… $9.99. MORE RIP OFFS.

    Someone needs to tell them that 20 year old books should not be the same price as new books.

  26. Cheryl Stoy

    I think most pricing on ebooks is a rip off…My husband uses them for his online classes and he says some are reasonably priced. But both of us will never, ever, tire of trying to find a place in the house for a new used book, donating used books to the library, going to the library, getting used book deals off Amazon and at garage sales and stubbing our toes on a stack that was lurking near the couch.

  27. Prashant

    Beside being a high end geek, I still loves to read PHYSICAL books. I am fascinated with those sweet aroma of new books and proud i feel when i put them on my racks… :)

  28. Ollalla

    I love to read real books, but I hate to store them: I already have 6 floor-to-selling bookcases. For my tiny apartment this is more than enough, so I switched to Kindle, and am very happy with it.

  29. Paperback Writer (and Reader!)

    No, I don’t buy e-books and never will. (Nor do I download them for “free,” lol :) ) I’m a writer myself and an English major in college, and frankly, Amazon, I don’t give a dot-com about the supposed “consumer shift.” Granted, the publishing industry is changing rapidly towards a focus on the Internet (basically an author is *required* to have a website and/or Facebook, Twitter, some type of online presence or else no one will read his/her work, which I find tragic and pathetic — I’ll never have a bestseller unless I get assimilated by the Twitbook Hive Mind). :(

    The “good thing” about self-publishing/e-books is that anyone can be published, and guess what’s the bad news? *Anyone* can be published, from an unlucky “starving artist” (and utter genius) lacking the resources to publish his/her Great American Novel, to stay-at-home moms who self-publish cutesy cookbooks and kitten calendars, to your friendly neighborhood 12-year-old anime geek who uploads a PDF of his/her Pokemon fan fiction to CreateSpace or Lulu — and there’s that poor aspiring Hemingway stuck amid the chaff of Mary Sues, cookie recipes, and the “OMG Twilight” cult mob with an IQ roughly around their page count.

    I’m a rare bird myself in that I’m 25 and don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account; I buy my physical textbooks in the school bookstore, use the library for reading rather than checking email, and haven’t used Amazon for anything in years (our microwave died and we needed a new one pronto; it was snowing, so I ordered one for my grandmother online — but that’s been about it). The future of ebooks as a viable media format for the publishing world calls to mind the quiz-show principal from “Billy Madison”: Everyone and anyone who bothers with ebooks is now dumber for having contributed to the fall of Western civilization. I award Amazon no points, and may the literary gods have mercy on all our souls. :(

More Articles You Might Like

Enter Your Email Here to Get Access for Free:

Go check your email!