Ebook or Print: When Do You Buy One Over the Other?

Photo by welcometolearn via Flickr CCSo yesterday Agent Sara put the question out to Twitter about book buying habits, and I briefly butted in on her convo with Miranda Kenneally. Miranda had said she buys print because she loves to put books on her shelves but buys ebooks when impatient. And that got me to thinking what makes me buy one over the other for a particular book.

I'm a reading omnivore both in genre and method. I have a Kindle Fire and love it. I also have a wall of bookshelves in my office that are so packed with print books that I have books stacked on the floor and stuffed around other places in my house. So I don't necessarily favor one over the other.

But then why do I buy book A in print but book B in ebook? Here are some of my reasons. But I'm really curious to hear yours, so I'd love for y'all to let me know in the comments.

When I Buy Ebook:

  • If it's a new to me author, I'll usually try them first in ebook IF the ebook is cheaper than the print.

This is an untested author. I don't have room on my shelves for books I'm not going to want to keep. Plus, I'm going to risk less money on an author I haven't tried before.


  • If the book is probably something I'm only going to read once.

This is not saying anything bad about the book. There are just some that are a great ride but not ones I need to go back to necessarily.


  • I'm a sucker for Daily Deal ebook sales, so I buy the crap out of those.

I'm a girl. I'm an obsessive reader. The ability to resist a sale, especially on books, is against my genetic makeup. Of course, I do this selectively. I only purchase ones I truly think I'll read or that come recommended.


  • If a book is only available in hardback, and I don't want to wait for the paperback to come out.

I don't read hardbacks. It's not even about the price so much as the bulkiness. I don't have room and they're not as easy to tote around.


  • If the book is only available in ebook, obviously that's the version I'm buying.

This happens a lot, particularly in my genre. There are so many fantastic digital first publishers out there, plus there's lots of great stuff available in the indie market these days.


When I Buy Print:

  • If it's an auto-buy author, who I already love. I'm buying the print, often pre-ordering so that it arrives the day it release.

This is a good risk. They've proven that I like their writing. And for books I love, I want a print copy so I can go back to and read again or reference. This is especially true if it's in my own genre because I like to "study" what other authors do well and why that story worked.


  • If the cover is gorgeous.

So I can pet it and stare. Duh.


  • If it's a series I plan to stick with.

I've even been known to buy an ebook version, fall in love and then buy the print as well so that I can start buying the series to keep on my shelf.


  • If it's non-fiction.

Unless it's a memoir or something, I want to be able to use it as a reference, to be able to flip forward and back with ease, etc. All of my writing craft books are bought in print.


  • If the book is LOOOONG, I'm torn.

For some reason, I like seeing progress in a long book that isn't just a percentage on my e-reader. I remember reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander on my old Kindle and I loved the book, but I remember it feeling longer because of reading on the device. I felt like I was running and not getting anywhere. BUT I've heard the newest e-readers give you more info about time wise how much longer you have, that'd be nice. On the flipside, buying a giant book in print is a pain in the ass because you have to carry this brick around and if it's paperback, it's harder to hold open when it's so thick. 

As for the reading experience...

I love a paper book--the feel of it and such. However, more and more I find myself attracted the convenience of e-reading, especially now that I have an I-phone and can pick up where I left off in a book when I find myself stuck somewhere out and about with nothing to do. So honestly, in my ideal world, there'd be a set up to where you could buy the print and add on the ebook for a dollar or something so that I can read it in print at home but have access to it if I'm on the go or traveling somewhere. Maybe one day that will happen...

But in the meantime, those are some of my convoluted reasons for purchasing one or the other. But regardless of why or when, one thing is for sure. Since I've bought an e-reader, I buy more books overall. I basically haven't changed my print buying at all--I always purchased a lot, but I've added in the ebook buying. So it's probably twice as many books as I used to buy. :)

Now it's your turn: Tell me why you buy an ebook or a print book for a particular story. What makes you pick one over the other? Are there situations where you prefer one format but other times where you prefer the opposite? I want to know! :)