Retro-Post: Personal Libraries- To Go All Digital, or Not…That is the Question.

Posted November 15, 2017 by Rowena in Discussions | 33 Comments

*****As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews and posts that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.*****

Holly: I love how we evolve as readers and book lovers. I know my reading tastes and habits have changed over the years, and I’m sure all of yours have, too. I used to hoard all print books. Whether I loved the book or hated it, I kept the print copy on my shelf. Now, I’ve culled down my print library to mainly favorites and full collections. I know Rowena has purged most of her print library in favor of expanding her digital one. I still have a lot of print books, but I’m buying/keeping fewer and fewer.

This post was originally posted on April 23, 2013


Rowena: When you’re a reader, you dream about having a library that rivals the library that the Beast presents to Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. You want to buy shelves to line the walls of your home and fill them with all of your favorite books. Then once you start building your library, you get a little thrill every time you pass by.

Soon, you fill up the shelf and then you have to buy another shelf. So you do and you fill that shelf up and pretty soon, you’ve got books coming out your ears because they’re everywhere. For a book lover, this is not a bad problem to have but what happens when you run out of space?

Ames and I were emailing back and forth when our personal libraries came up. I told Ames that I was thinking about getting rid of my print TBR pile and going all digital but haven’t actually done it yet because I’m scared.

Scared of what? I don’t really know but taking that first step to getting rid of my personal print library terrifies me.

Ames: I’m right there with you Wena. I recently purged my keeper and tbr shelves and what was left scared me…I’m running out of space! And considering one whole wall in my room is a bookshelf, that’s scary. LOL I decided right then and there that I would make the move to digital. But since then I’ve already come across a few problems. In the purge, I decided to put all my keeper books in storage until I had more space (meaning my own house haha). But lately I’ve been wanting to re-read some favorites and I can’t go digging through all those plastic tubs to look for specific books. So in some cases where the ebook was cheap, I just bought it…I want to make that switch to digital right? Right. But I can’t do that for every book.

And when it comes to new releases, my default thinking is still Chapters or Book Depository…it’s hard to really make that switch to digital. There are just so many factors involved in making that switch, that it does scare me to make that move to 100% digital.

Rowena: You bring up a good point. Purchasing all of your favorite books that you already have in print would get pretty expensive. But let’s be honest, how long have those books been sitting on those shelves? How many print books have you read in the last year? I can tell you that over 95% of the books that I read last year were all eBooks. And no matter how many times I’ve tried to participate in reading challenges to read more from my TBR pile, I fail each and every single year because I’m not reading print books anymore. That makes me sad.

Now, my TBR pile is nowhere near as huge as yours is (I’ve seen that wall of yours and am still so jealous!) but I still have so many books that I just know that I’m probably not going to read. I want to read them but I’m probably not going to so should I keep them? Send them off to better homes? My greed is getting the better of me, I know this but this is still a tough decision for me.

For me, I’m not buying print books at all anymore. I pre-order books right on my Kindle and when they come out, they get delivered straight to my device. Every other book that I get are ebooks for review through Netgalley or Edelweiss so my print book buying days are behind me. And have been behind me for the past year or two. It’s been more than a year since I’ve been to my favorite UBS too.

But I’m curious. How many print books have you read in the past year? How often have you read a book from your TBR bookshelf?

Ames: Because I’m a big nerd, I kept stats of how many books I read and in what format. I read 29 print books from my tbr pile last year. That’s like 85% e-books I read in 2012. And I can’t just keep adding to my tbr pile with print books when I’m mostly an e-book reader now. It just doesn’t make sense. But because I live in Canada, e-books aren’t the cheapest thing exactly either. So I still buy the odd print book from Walmart for example, where paperbacks are way cheaper. And this leads us into a whole other discussion about geographic restrictions. LOL But we’ll keep on topic. Sometimes it’s just cheaper for me to buy the print book. I do read from a variety of e-publishers though, so that’s one good result from looking past the big traditional publishers.

Another thing is keeping formats consistent throughout a series. I used to be bad for that and it’s a hard habit to break. But slowly and surely I’m getting closer and closer to 100% digital. If I’m working at getting digital copies of my keepers, the format issue won’t be a problem since they’ll all be e-books. One day…one day. Haha.

Rowena: So I guess the whole point to this post (there is one, we promise) is to find out how many people are still reading primarily print books. Are there any left? And when you think of the future, do you see yourself moving your personal libraries from print to digital?

Ames: I’m curious to know too, how buying digital has maybe affected your book buying habits. I mean, when it came to buying print books, I was always cheap. That’s still the same with e-books. LOL So I’ll shop around. I always look for good deals. Be it discounts or reward programs. And how many readers are now mostly digital?

Rowena: So, what’s the good word? Tell us about your personal libraries.  Are you going digital or still holding out for…something, like us?


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33 responses to “Retro-Post: Personal Libraries- To Go All Digital, or Not…That is the Question.

  1. I read almost entirely ebooks these days, and in fact am in the process of cleaning out my print keepers and TBR because I will virtually always pick an ebook when given a choice. And I’m replacing some of my keepers, especially when there’s a good sale. Since I don’t get to have Belle’s library, alas, the ability to save space is a real gift.

    But I’ll never go entirely digital. My children’s books… those have to stay print. Preferably the editions in which I first read them. And some favorites which I love to pick up and read certain passages of… too complicated with ebooks. And of course, technology can be tricky. Gotta have some print books around for power outages and so on.

    And I discovered recently that there are times when I just want a print book. After Newtown, specifically. The comfort of an old familiar book was immense.

  2. Anonymous

    I read primarily print books. It is easier to flip back and forth checking information. For books I want to keep, I especially prefer print because I own the actual copy and not merely a license.

  3. Anonymous

    I don’t remember when was the last time I bought a book in print that wasn’t for my husband. I was an early adopter of ebooks since I discovered them in early 2003. I live in a small apartment so space is at a premium and my husband and I don’t want to use storage units. As of right now. the only print books I have are older titles (pre 2009) from my favorite long standing authors like Lisa Kleypas or Julia Quinn. I admit that I strip DRM as I conside the ebooks I buy with my hard earned money MY property. I REFUSE to be locked to a sinle format or a single reading device (I own several), plus I keep 3 separate backups of all my ebooks as I don’t trust that places like Amazon or B &N will forever allow me access to my purchases.

    Additionally, as I have grown older, my eyesight has been getting worse, and ebook readers allow me to control font size making reading easier. I am also currently sporting a broken left wrist, thankfully I am a rightie, and I am able to hold my tablet with one hand as I keep my left hand elevated, and read in relative comfort using the largest font.

    I think that I will eventually do a full switch, but I do like having some bookcases with old favorites on display. Makes the apartment feel like home.

  4. I buy mostly print books, but read my library books in ebook format. I do it like this because I’m annoyed by DRM and was burned when I bought ereader (pdb) ebooks a couple years ago and it’s now an obsolete format, but I can’t strip the DRM from them nor read them on my Nook ST. At least with a print book, I know I can lend it out or give it away without any difficulty. Purchasing 100% ebook is fine if you don’t want to share your books with anyone else.

  5. Rowena

    @willaful: Same here, my kindle gets more of a workout than my print books which is why it makes more sense for me to go digital but I think I’ll always keep print books around. It just seems like the print books that I have are more for decoration than anything else.

    I hear you about the comfort of old familiar books though.

    @Anonymous: Do you own an e-reader?

  6. Wendy

    I’m probably mostly reading digital, although that’s likely because category romance and ARCs make up a good chunk of my reading (especially when I overextend myself on review obligations ::cough, cough::). I’m pretty much 100% converted to digital when it comes to category romance, with the exception of the odd backlist title I pick up used. I’m a major category ho – and holy mother those little books take up a ton of space! Especially when you’re an addict like I am.

    But for everything else? As in single titles? If I’m buying it, I’m likely buying it in print. Unless, of course, there’s some killer deal on the digital edition. I tend to read print faster (I know, a lot of readers say the opposite! They read digital faster!) and….I like print. I like seeing all those books on my shelves. I love having “tangible keepers.” Seeing them, touching them, petting them ::my preciouses:: makes me happy. Seeing a digital file on my computer? Doesn’t take me to the same “happy place.” It just….doesn’t.

    But the I’ve always been pretty stringent when it comes to books I keep. I tend to horde print in my TBR – but once I’ve read it? Unless I loved it (and we’re talking what, 1-10 books a year? Maybe?), it’s out the door fairly quickly…..

  7. Willa

    Oooh – ebooks all the way now for me! Even on the day I plunked money down for my ereader I wasn’t convinced it was the way to go, for me, and whether I would take to it . . but I love it!

    My book shelves were overflowing and space is premium, so there were different factors in my decision, as well as the ‘get-it-in-5-seconds-and-start-reading factor’

    I have a Kobo so I am not locked in to a retailer, can use various formats and yes, strip the DRM too.

    I then went through my bookshelves and sorted, to keep the really special ones – my signed Nalini Singh’s that I won, and other goodies. Some that are yellowed and looking sad I replace in e format as they become available.

  8. I liked the convenience of carrying over a hundred books in the reader, but once it died (and I’m still puzzled over how that happened), I felt no compulsion to buy another one.

    I don’t like the idea of having to jump through hoops (stripping DRM) just to have truly free access to what I buy–like Anonymous at 11:53, I’m not interested in purchasing a license to read, but in owning the book.

    So while space is an issue (said as I look at the creeping piles all over the house), I just don’t see myself moving to digital.

  9. Willa

    @Rowena I ♥ my Kobo . . I have the Glo, with the light. Started out with a Kindle which ‘fried’ after a year and Amazon said Pffft so I tried Kobo!

    YES – custom bookshelves are a go! You can do them directly on the Glo or with Calibre. Have found a good picture for you to have a lookee see – tis about 2/3rds down the page and say’s Shelves! I have mine labelled by author. At the top you just click on New Shelf and you can create a new one and name it whatever you like 😀

    I also like that when the book is in sleep mode or powered off, the cover of the book you are reading is the screensaver. Little things that just make it friendly 😀

    I do know that kobo are now selling to the US direct from their website – it was just from retail outlets up until recently.

  10. I do the bulk of my reading in digital. As a matter of fact, a print book feels strange to me now. I like the convenience of having hundreds of books at my fingertips. Especially since I never know what I’m going to be in the mood for.

    On the other hand, I still have a huge print library and I can’t imagine getting ready of my collection. I don’t know why I don’t want to get rid of it, I just don’t. Silly, right?

  11. I started reading ebooks years ago on my laptop. I now have a couple of Kindles, a Sony eReader, and an iPad. Still, I read almost entirely in print. Since book covers and cover art are so important to me, ebooks are not it. The laptop and iPad are too heavy for reading unless I’m in bed, and the Kindle doesn’t present the book covers when I read. I remember the books I’ve read by the covers and reading ebooks doesn’t give me that option, unless I specifically look for it.

    Like Wendy, I read a lot faster in print than in e so the problem arises that for an average length book, I would forget the beginning by the time I reach the end. Perhaps this is due to setting the Kindle to a larger font?

    Also, with the whole “license, not ownership” situation with ebooks, prices for ebooks have to be comparable to interlibrary loan fees for me to be interested. After all, I don’t own the ebook, just like I don’t own a book I borrow from the library. Recently, I was looking for a specific book at B&N which they didn’t have. The clerk suggested that I buy the ebook, but I told him that I’d rather wait for the print book to be in the store. I only buy the books whose cover art I like, otherwise I’d borrow from the library. And yes, where I live has a great library system, lots of Romance books and money to buy books requested by patrons.

  12. Rowena

    @Anonymous 2: I hear you about stripping the DRM and keeping back up files of your ebooks. I have both a nook and a Kindle and I want to be able to read on both devices without having to pay for the same book twice.

    @Dora: Yeah, going digital does come with drawbacks and it really does suck.

    @Wendy: I noticed at our last few So Cal Blogger Meet ups, we don’t visit very many bookstores anymore. That would be the only time that I buy print books. I haven’t been to my B&N bookstore in over a year. That’s some crazy business right there. How often do you purge books?

    As for the happy place, I get a thrill every time I see my ebooks on my computer and Kindle, I’d get up a do an entire happy dance routine if Amazon would let me set up shelves to organize my books on my kindle. 😉

    @Willa: I do love the instant purchase with ebook buying. No waiting for the store to open, no waiting for the postman to deliver your package, just click, purchase and read. I’m a huge fan of that. =)

    Do you like your Kobo? Would you recommend it? Can you organize your books onto custom bookshelves on your Kobo? Sorry for the 20 questions but I really HATE that I can’t organize my books on my kindle. It’s all just one big hot mess and it annoys me so much.

    @azteclady: Your e-reader crapped out? That really does suck but I think I would have saved up and bought another. I have so many ebooks that I haven’t touched yet that I would hate to have to read those books on my computer.

    Do you think you’d ever get like an iPad or something?

  13. Willa

    @Rowena – Kobo are launching a luxury 6.8 inch screen reader tomorrow – called the Aura . . check it out . .. looks rather swish!

    @Sheree – I love that the Kobo shows thumbnail covers, available in 2 sizes for people like us who recognise books by their covers 😀 I download my fav covers with Calibre and shove them on!

  14. Stripping DRM is definitely a must if one is going to go all digital. And not just because of wanting to read on various devices…I had to get a new laptop a few years ago. All those epub books with my adobe authorization had to be able to make the move. I need to back them all up though.

    Another question I have is organizing your ebooks. How do you keep track of them? With a big ebook collection, organization is key!

  15. Rowena

    @Willa: Ooh then I definitely need to look into getting a Kobo then. I’m so anxious for organization of my books on my actual reader…and not through an app, either.

    @Holly: If anyone’s library disappearing would make me sad, it’d be yours.

  16. Rowena: let’s just say that the budget doesn’t now allow for many luxuries, and an ereader would definitely quality–particularly an ereader that would tempt me to indulge in the “oh, it’s only 99 cents!” *click* behaviour.

    I am addicted to reading, such a level of ease to acquire anything/everything that caught my eye would wreck the budget in days (if not hours)

    I’m much safer sans ereader, honestly.

  17. I just went digital with a Kindle Fire. At first I wasn’t sure, but I must admit, I am sold on digital!

    However, I still have a few print ARCs to read and then there’s my actual print library, and drawers and boxes of books I have. So, I have been slowly going through the print stacks, and making a wishlist through my local library for the digital copies.

    If there is no digital copy, and I still want to read the book (because I’ve come across a few books that I looked at and said “What was I thinking?”) then I put the print copy in a stack to read. I switch back and forth: digital and then print. This way, I’ll eventually get rid of all my hard copies.

    Now what to do with the hard copies? I’ve giving them away slowly on my blog, or to people at work. However I have a box of books at home, that is being donated to library so they can sell them. I still plan to keep some hard copy books, but not that many. Like under 20 print books. That’s the goal.

    All this spring cleaning makes me feel very free and light too!

    Excellent post ladies!

  18. Holy cow, I remember this post. Since this post, I went completely digital and I can’t say that I’m all that sad about seeing my print books go. It took me a while to work up the courage to get rid of my print books though. Reader probs, man. 🙂

    • Willa

      You got rid of your print books shock I still have 2 small bookcases in the hall with my signed copies and ultimate faves but I purged the rest.

      Still have a Kobo but upgraded to an Aura ONE which is fab! It has a 7.8″ screen which my eyeballs love. I organise all my books in Calibre, strip the DRM, sort the covers and the back blurb which is then inserted into the front of the ebook and stuff them on and they are listed on the reader by author and then the series they are in. Bliss.

      • Jen

        Ugh, I keep meaning to get everything into Calibre but life keeps getting in the way of that project, and meanwhile my pile of DRM-intact, unorganized books keeps growing.

        • Jen!!! That’s a project that you should definitely do so that you don’t lose anything when you switch eReaders. It’s always good to have back ups.

        • Willa

          Get onto it Jen – that way if something happens to your ereader you have everything backed up. Of course I have back ups of my Calibre library too! Anal moi? 😀

      • Oh, Willa. Your organization skills for your eBooks speaks to my heart. I organize my books in Calibre and on my kindle just like you do. Bliss, indeed.

        • Willa

          I love being able to change the covers too to the ones I like best. I also go to There they have a few author’s I read and you request their autograph and a little dedication. They send it to you as a pdf and I convert it in Calibre and stuff it in the front of the ebook!

          • Oh wow, I’ve never heard of but that sounds fantastic. I’ll have to check it out and add some autographs to my books. So cool!

  19. Kareni

    I read paper books and e-books in about equal measure. And I have quite the paper library at home to which I still add though admittedly many of those are used books. I probably bought some of your discards, Rowena ….

  20. Jen

    I’m basically entirely digital at this point. Well, that’s not quite true. I PURCHASE entirely digital now. About the only time I read a print book is if I get it from the library. I also have a completely ridiculous collection of older print Harlequin Intrigues that I’ve bought for 25 cents at thrift stores, haha. I have no place to put them all so they’re currently in bags in the back of my closet. I’ve been thinking it may be time to purge all but a few of those. I don’t love all the policies and restrictions on digital books, but at this point convenience is outweighing those concerns!

    • You and I are the same, Jen. I don’t buy in print at all anymore. Every book that I purchase or request for review are eBooks. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t have the space for a print library or what, but my eBook library is a thing of beauty and I love looking at it and updating it when needed.

      I’m all for convenience, too. 🙂

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