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To E or to P? Ebooks vs paperbacks

Friday, 21 September 2018

The popularity of the ebook in relation to the physical book has fluctuated a lot since its inception. At first the ebook had the novelty factor, but now we are all ten-screens-a-penny. Now we can swipe in our sleep and perhaps enjoy the break from screen glare, accidental scrolling and low battery warning signals. Equally though, more than ever we are commuting to work, and able to travel far and wide on holidays and adventures, so who wants to make this harder by carrying a stack of weighty tomes?

Whether or not you like or want to use an ebook is about more than just ‘I’m old skool’. It’s about what’s available, your lifestyle, the type of book you read, your budget, your techno skills, and yes, a bit of just what you actually prefer.

For the interest of it and to understand more about how you, the reader, might be using our ebooks, I asked some of the VP team to tell me their thoughts on ebooks, and one of our loyal ebook readers. I got the following replies:

I guess for me it is a way for us to publish obscure, old and sometimes unloved books that really cannot justify a printing. It is a way to gauge people’s tastes and interest, it is a way to get books like the utter classic Camp Six from Frank Smythe back into circulation.’ Jon Barton, MD

I love e-readers because they're super convenient – there is no longer a need to ‘umm and ahh’ about which book to take on holiday (because unfortunately you can’t fit your whole bookshelf in your suitcase) because well, now you can – and I have to admit, being able to take my whole digital library with me everywhere I go is fantastic. With access to book after book, I’ll never be bored on those long car journeys again!’ Sarah Gunton, Digital Assets Editor

I have only ever bought one ebook; I enjoy the feel and comfort of paper so that is my preferred choice.’ Jane, Head of Design

'I do really like ebooks. Ultimately when I am reading a book it is the words that transport me to another place, to the side of a mountain or wherever I am reading about! I do like a 'real' book and its design, quality of photos and layout etc, but it is the words that take priority. ebooks and ereaders than offer the ability to be really portable - I do tend to have several books on the go at once and go away a lot with work so it really helps just to take the ereader. Also, the backlight feature on ereaders is helpful when reading in bed as having the light on can disturb my wife when she's trying to sleep! So the practicalities win over design for me, other than for books like route guides and 'coffee table' books!' Alan Paulley, Ebook Fan

Ebooks - Everyone carries their phone! They are great for when you have a minute on the go – even with the busiest of schedules – to grab the opportunity to a have a quick read to unwind/relax whilst travelling light!’ Sophie, Office Manager

For me? I think I find it easier to become absorbed in a physical book, possibly just because that’s what I was brought up on. Perhaps younger generations find it easier to read from screens because that is the norm for them? I like physically flicking the page over when I am in that zone where you can’t read fast enough because you are enjoying the book so much. What I do love about ebooks though is the search function – I do quite often want to go back and check something as I’m reading, even with fiction, and in this day and age I am always surprised for a millisecond when I can’t enter a search term into my paperback.

I guess the answer is that you don’t just have to be into one or the other. For holidays, commutes and long waits – ebooks are perfect. Variety at your fingertips, and no preplanning ‘what you might fancy’ reading in advance and then being disappointed when you’ve only packed non-fiction and you don’t have the brain power (done that). Conversely, it’s a chilly, miserable Sunday afternoon and have you have a glass of something tasty in hand, a beloved pet curled up next to you and a roaring fire at your feet. I’ll take the physical book, please!

Because of this diversity in people’s preferences and the needs of different situations and lifestyles, we at Vertebrate try to ensure that we offer a range of products – quite often having a hardback as well as a paper back version, and an ebook to match. Old titles that are no longer being printed we are bit by bit working thought a backlist to digitise for you – there are some classics out there that must not be forgotten. We are even venturing into the world of audiobooks, with our first title to be published later this autumn – watch this space.

Excellent quality outdoor-adventure literature should be available to everybody, from first ascensionists to armchair mountaineers so we like to think we've got the formats that are right for you.

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