/ Travel & Leisure

Is it the end of the story for ebooks?

ebooks vs books

Are you an ebook convert, or do you prefer to stick to printed books?

I’ve never owned, contemplated owning nor as much as physically handled an e-reader.

Being an English Literature graduate and having been in publishing all my working life, I guess I’m not naturally drawn to reading a good book on a screen.

So when I read that sales of consumer ebooks fell 17% last year, to the lowest level since 2011, while printed book sales reached a five-year high, I did an imaginary high kick. Despite what the doom-mongers say, print is not dead after all!

Screen fatigue

The analysts are putting the decline down to ‘screen fatigue’ – with people looking at so many throughout the day, be it laptop, smart phone, tablet or smart TV, a good old-fashioned print book provides a welcome reprieve.

But for me it runs deeper.

Nothing beats that feeling you get poring through the pages of a good book, putting it down and picking the story up from where you left it. For me, the same applies to magazines.

If it’s really good, I want to share it with my friends and family. Hopefully, I’ll get it back eventually, so I can put it on the shelf along with my other well-thumbed, dog-eared favourite reads.

Some books I even get quite sentimental about – especially the ones I’ve scrawled in while studying.

I just can’t see how you can get any of that joy from an e-reader.

It doesn’t seem that there’s even a cost benefit either. The e-reader device itself comes in at around £100 or more, plus the ebooks you download on it.

Not to mention that there’s the risk that it can break – being an occasional bath-time reader, mine would definitely get water damaged.

Easy read

Of course, I do see the merit in e-readers, too. When a friend went back to uni to study zoology, she raved about how hers saved her from lugging heavy textbooks about.

And if you’re a fast reader heading on holiday for a couple of weeks then you may not have enough luggage space to store a few good reads, whereas an e-reader is pretty compact.

Plus, provided your wi-fi isn’t on the blink, you can buy an ebook and start reading it there and then. You don’t have to wait for it to be delivered or visit the bookshop. Although, in my opinion, you’d be missing out on that wonderful experience, too.

So, are you in the real book corner or a fan of ebooks? Are you surprised that sales of ebooks are declining?


It’s true sales are falling rapidly, but those whose eyesight isn’t up to tiny print find ebooks very useful. And when all you need is an iPad pro or kindle to carry around an entire library there’s really no contest.


Its not very often I agree with a convo 100 % usually I am pointing out flaws, giving a critical assessment , not usually appreciated, but Melanie , as someone who,s top subject was English I am right behind you body+soul . I have spent my life reading , I have a very large collection of books not just confined to technical subjects , but esoteric, I have read just about every American si-fi mag from the 50,s onward , books on psychology, philosophy , world event, global economics , military strategy, spying in all its guises, the Human Condition, political parties from the far Left to far Right , medical books read cover to cover , military history ( modern ) specialising in Germany 1900,s up to now , American history , including its economic + militaristic rise to global power in all its wars . All religions and their rise to power and so on. I spent days and nights reading well into the small hours , sad to say its affected my eyesight now but even knowing that I would still not change 1 iota as Books are still the worlds best information gatherers as most have not been censored , restricted, banned from view , blocked by both western governments , as happens as we speak on the digital realm of the internet. Knowledge is power and those already in power now wish to restrict that from the general public.


Many of my books are technical or out of print and used mainly for reference. Having electronic versions would be useful but I don’t think that’s going to happen and I’ve already got enough waiting to be read or read again.

Ian makes a good point about small text in books. Sometimes I wish I could enlarge the text in a book or magazine using two fingers. I occasionally do this in moments of absent mindedness.

I thought it was now regarded as a myth that reading and watching TV might damage your sight.


Seemingly not in my case Wavechange as regards books but if anybody can prove its does not over a long term I am willing to listen ?


I spent a great deal of time reading during my adult life, and since the 80s staring at computer screens. Years ago I bought reading glasses and then varifocals but did not like either. I don’t need glasses in natural light or if I use a good reading light. I avoid reading when I’m tired, but have no idea if this could cause problems. I’ve noticed that I automatically use the trackpad to make text larger on the computer, even if it is large enough to read.


Which doesn’t publish convo,s for no reason , I knew something was behind this and a possible cause could be the Amazon deal struck with major publishers where Amazon agreed to lesser discounts on the books than it was selling them at. This seems to have misfired badly proving that greed doesn’t win in the end and surprisingly doesn’t make Amazon look bad but the book publishers. While its not the total picture it certainly contributed to it. Sales (2015 ) are down a minimum of 10 % worldwide -(UK-2.4 %) to about $600 million (2015 ) , as usual the publishers are putting forward alternate theories , but where it counts – the USA – economists /economic strategists/ NYSE/US financial newspapers get down to the truth.

Patrick Taylor says:
25 May 2017

Seems we have been here before in Conversations.

The article from the Guardian recounts the increase in some areas and the decline in fiction ebooks so the easy answer is no it is not the ” end of the story for ebooks”.

Once again I will mention the existence of the 9.7″ and 13.3″ ebooks from Onyx which Which ? has consistently refused to mention as existing even as far back as 2013. These are excellent for pdf’s , with twin columns and for people with impaired vision, or people who read very quickly.

A Which? senior exec has said to me that as Onyx are not widely available they are not included in the tests commissioned by Which? I have no problem with them being not tested ; I do have a problem with Which? hiding their existence from subscribers who may benefit -and are old enough to make up their own minds.

If you want to read up or buy them then they are available on the well-used Amazon. I have had two different 9.7″ ereaders and for me they are far superior to the mini-screen versions. I would urge you not to buy a dark coloured cover to any ereader as sitting on them becomes more likely.

I prefer paper books and have a couple of thousand plus, or as Librarything tells me a requirement for 401 linear feet of shelving. I think much more is required for subject breaks and some gaps between the books. I do also have over 3000 ebooks which primarily come from Gutenberg.org where around 36,000 are in epub. or another format.

Whilst these take less shelving they are infinitely less useful for maps , identifying plants and admiring photographic travel books.

Lastly if going on holiday I recommend seeing if there is a second hand bookshop in your vicinity where with luck you will pick up good paperbacks for a fraction of the original price.


I would support Which? mentioning larger ereaders and suggesting that potential purchasers consider various alternatives such as large tablets, laptops and even desktop machines. These are likely to be more versatile than an reader, though the battery will need more frequent charging. A friend who suddenly lost most of his sight during the last year is able to read small amounts using the 24″ iMac that he already owned and the computer also reads ebooks to him.

I’m sometimes surprised by what Which? reviews and what is not covered. A year ago, there were no reviews of carbon monoxide detectors, despite the recommendation that every room with a gas/oil/solid fuel appliance should have one. When reviews did appear, it was discovered that dangerously substandard ones were on sale.