October 10 – 16: “Print books vs. an E-Reader?

thriller-roundtable-logo5This week we’re joined by ITW Members Benjamin Dancer, John Hegenberger, Christina Hoag, Margo Kelly, Mona Karel, Barbara Nickless, Lisa Turner, R.G. Belsky and Arthur Kerns as they discuss print books vs. E-Readers: Do you prefer to read a print book, or on an E-Reader, and why?”




patriarchrun_front_final_rgbBenjamin Dancer is the author of the literary thriller Patriarch Run, the first book in a series that will include Fidelity and The Story of the Boy. He also writes about parenting, education, sustainability and national security. Benjamin works as an Advisor at a Colorado high school where he has made a career out of mentoring young people as they come of age. His work with adolescents has informed his stories, which are typically themed around fatherhood and coming-of-age.



Unlocked BGcvr.inddMargo Kelly is a native of the Northwest who now lives in Idaho. Her award-winning debut, Who R U Really?, was published by Merit Press in 2014. Her second novel, Unlocked, released October 1, 2016. A veteran public speaker, Margo welcomes opportunities to speak to youth groups, library groups, and book clubs.



superfall-coverAward-winning author, John Hegenberger  has produced more than a dozen books since mid-2015, including several popular series: Stan Wade LAPI in 1959, Eliot Cross Columbus-based PI in 1988, and Ace Hart, western gambler in Arizona in 1877.  He’s the father of three, tennis enthusiast, collector of silent films, hiker, Francophile, B.A. Comparative Lit., ex-Navy, ex-marketing exec at Exxon, AT&T, and IBM; and happily married for 46 years and counting.  Active member of SFWA, PWA, SinC and ITW. His novel SPYFALL won a 2016 award at Killer Nashville.


bloodonthetracks-222036-cv-ft-finalBarbara Nickless worked as a raptor rehabilitator, instructional designer, technical writer, astronomy instructor, sword fighter and piano teacher before turning to writing. Now an award-winning author, she lives in Colorado where she loves to snowshoe, cave, hike and drink single malt Scotch—usually not at the same time. She is the author of the Special Agent Parnell series featuring a railroad cop and her K9 partner.



skinoftattooscoverChristina Hoag is the author of Skin of Tattoos, a literary thriller set in L.A.’s gang underworld forthcoming from Martin Brown Publishers, and Girl on the Brink, a romantic thriller for young adults forthcoming from Fire and Ice YA/Melange Books. She is a former reporter for the Associated Press and Miami Herald and worked as a correspondent in Latin America writing for major media outlets including Time, Business Week, Financial Times, the Houston Chronicle and The New York Times. She is the co-author of Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence, a groundbreaking book on gang intervention (Turner Publishing, 2014). She resides in Los Angeles.


front-cover-finalMona Karel is the writing alter ego of Monica Stoner, who wrote Beatles fan fiction and terribly earnest (read just not very good) Gothics in her teen years. She set aside writing while working with horses and dogs all over the US, until she discovered used book stores and Silhouette Romances. Shortly after that she also discovered jobs that paid her for more than her ability to do a good scissors finish on a terrier, and moved into the “real” working world. Right around then she wrote her first full length book. It only took her twenty seven years after that to be published, and not that book! She writes looking out the window at the high plains of New Mexico, with her Saluki dogs sprawled at her feet. Distraction much?? Sometimes these silly dogs take over her life, but there is always room for one more set of characters in one more book.


devil-sent-the-rain-pbEdgar finalist Lisa Turner is a Southern mystery author fascinated by good people who do wicked things. She examines human nature against the rich backdrop of Memphis and the Mississippi Delta. Her second novel, Edgar nominated The Gone Dead Train, delves into long buried secrets of Memphis’s civil rights struggles and the power of Santeria magic. Turner’s mysteries coil the roots of Southern identity around her characters and then drag them into a world of blues, murder, and heartbreak. “I’m a story archeologist,” she says. “I keep digging into my characters until I strike the bone.”


blonde-iceR.G. Belsky is an author of crime fiction and a journalist in New York City. His new suspense thriller, BLONDE ICE, will be published by Atria on October 18, 2016. It is the latest in a series of books from Atria featuring Gil Malloy, a hard-driving newspaper reporter with a penchant for breaking big stories on the front page of the New York Daily News. The first book in the Gil Malloy series – THE KENNEDY CONNECTION – was published in 2014 and SHOOTING FOR THE STARS came out in 2015. Belsky himself is a former managing editor at the Daily News and writes about the media from an extensive background in newspapers, magazines and TV/digital news. At the Daily News, he also held the titles of metropolitan editor and deputy national editor. Before that, he was metropolitan editor of the New York Post and news editor at Star magazine. Belsky was most recently the managing editor for news at NBCNews.com. His previous suspense novels include PLAYING DEAD and LOVERBOY.


yemenArthur Kerns is a retired FBI supervisory special agent and past president of the Arizona chapter of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO). His award-winning short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies. He is a book reviewer for the Washington Independent Review of Books. Diversion Books, Inc. NY, NY published his espionage thriller, The Riviera Contract, and the sequel, The African Contract. The third in the series, The Yemen Contract, was released in June 2016.



  1. Joseph Campbell the mythologist scholar used to say, “Follow your bliss”. But he also used to say that his number one purpose in life was to underline sentences.
    I love to read a book with a pencil in hand. Wonderful phrases can be re-enjoyed and remembered years later when they have been underlined. I also make notes and other authors books. Things like, “what if this had been 10 years earlier?” or “The author is smart, but the killer is dumb.”
    I have read many books on my Ereaders, but when I’m through, the experience was more like having watched a movie in a theater where you have to keep quiet, instead of reading a book where you can become more physically involved. So please follow your bliss and feel free to underline that last point.

    1. It’s very interesting what you say, John, that the experience of reading on the two different platforms is so different. Do you think that’s because we do more of one than the other? I have a similar experience when I listen to a book as opposed to reading it.

      1. I have a few books out on Audible, Barbara, and I have to say that it’s always a treat to hear your words spoken aloud. It’s almost like the books has gone public in an alternate universe. This is certainly what I wrote, but it takes on a whole new life in the audio world!

        1. Oh, I agree. The first time I heard my debut novel as an audio book, I felt like it had taken on a whole new life. To hear my words interpreted by a narrator, gave the characters a whole new spin. It was an alternate universe for my story.

      2. I felt the question was too limited because audio books had been left out. I keep up with my reading with my tiny iPod plugged in my ear while I cook, drive, clean the house and when I wake up at 2am and can’t sleep. Listening to the cadence of other authors helps me know when my manuscript, read aloud, is coming alive.

    2. You make some great points, John, but mark a book with pen? *gasp* Sacrilege!

      In all seriousness, my library is split between e-format and print. Most of my best loved books (translation: series) that I turn to again and again, are in print. There is something very visceral about holding the story world in your palms. The ones I cherish the most are the ones I’ve dragged from childhood bedroom, to dorm, to apartment, and through the various homes. Their covers are worn, the pages are aged, and their stories remain a great escape. Yet, in the last five years or so, I’ve been collecting more and more e-format escape routes, mainly because I’m running out of shelf space. Well, and during the last move the hubby threatened to call in the Marines to help move all the book boxes. Print or e-format, so long as I get my reading fix, I’m good.

    3. Hi John. My husband found a ragged, soft-cover copy of The Iliad his mother had highlighted and made comments in when she was in her late twenties. He said reading it was like having a discussion with her. What a gift!

  2. Print books. I got my first cell phone in May of this year. I’m just a late-adopter, a backwards person, and waster of tremendous amounts of paper. I have never read an ebook. Hooray for all of you who do! Probably by the time ebooks are obsolete, I’ll get an ereader. We’ll see.

    1. Oh … books will never be a “waster of tremendous amounts of paper.” There is no better use for paper than to create a book. And aren’t we blessed to have the choices for how we want to read our books?!

  3. My first thought is to acknowledge the instant gratification of E-Readers versus the tactical allure of print books, which I prefer. Then I realized the question opens the door to a second, interesting question:

    Are the positive gains from E-Readers—the convenience, self-publishing options, and lower prices for readers—worth driving the oxcart of standard publishing into the ditch?

    1. First, studies are showing that teenagers are choosing the print version of books, because they want their fictive reading experience to be different from their daily device-driven lifestyle.

      Second, you pose an important but controversial question of “driving the oxcart of standard publishing into the ditch.” There are benefits to the slower process of traditional publishing. Taking the time to revise based on an agent’s editorial suggestions, taking the time to revise based on a publisher’s editorial suggestions, taking the time to wait for the process … these steps improve the finished product in my opinion. But many people now believe it’s ridiculous to wait this long to put out a book and these are unnecessary steps.

      1. Doesn’t that speak to self publishing vs using a publisher as a filter and checking application? And haven’t we all seen major authors from major publishing houses with MAJOR problems in their books?
        At the same time we find incredibly edited self published books. Digital or not.

        1. I think the key is to not rush the process. While traditional publishing can be slow, I believe there’s something to be said for the wait. The time between revisions and edits at the different stages in traditional publishing allows for fresh eyes on the manuscript. And yes, that process can be achieved in the self-published world as well.

        2. I suppose there are instances of that, MonaKarel. But overall, I don’t think there’s any question that books published by major houses get more – and usually better – editing than someone self-publishing. I’ve had 10 novels published by major houses, and I’ve always been grateful for the editorial input and checks they’ve provided. I do agree though there is an advantage in getting a book out quicker in these days of instant communication.

    2. I think paper books will be around for decades to come, but I certainly think there’s space for ebooks and these days you have to have both. Lifestyles are changing. Now there’s audio as well (see my below query). Although this is still a small segment of the market, it seems to be growing.

    3. I don’t think we really have a choice, Lisa. I’ve spent most of my life as a newspaperman, and those are disappearing quickly as people get their news online – mostly from mobile devices. I miss the old days of newspapers too, but those days aren’t coming back. I think there will always be books (and newspapers too) but there’s no question that the younger generations are turning to electronic transmission instead of paper.

      1. Almost faster than a speeding bullet, Dick. The electronic delivery mech will continue to evolve, but books will always be here. (Unless they invent a VR program that simulates reading a book.) 🙂

        1. I’ve lived through the newspaper industry trying to figure out the right formula between brink and online news coverage – with lots of confusion and missteps along the way. I think the publishing industry is going through something similar.

      2. Hi R.G. I have several journalist friends who are either out of a job or close to it. They’re working on novels, which they can now self-publish if they can’t land a deal, but that’s a difficult road to take if you want to replace a real paycheck. I’m not sure the addition of the E-Book is as much the problem as the price drop caused by the free and .99 books. Big publishing is having trouble maintaining it’s overhead, or “filters” as Margo mentioned with such low margins. The Internet closed my bricks-and-mortar, customer service oriented decorating shop out of business. But then that’s progress.

        1. Well, as you probably already know, Lisa, even getting a novel published with a major house is not as easy way to make a “real paycheck.” I wrote a number of novels that got published while I was working as a full time journalist – but it was mostly for the love of doing it, not the profit! There is – and always has been – so much of a gap between the big best selling authors and the majority who make so little. Maybe the growth of ebooks will help that situation a bit going forward. Hope so!

  4. Both! Traveling always involved a quandary for me: What books should I take? The hardcover I’m reading? The trade paperbacks I want to read next? When I heard about a journalist who smuggled his entire research library into Afghanistan on his Kindle, something sang in my heart.

    After I lost thousands of physical books in a Colorado wildfire—my entire library—I gave up on the idea of trying to recreate what I’d had. Instead, I decided to focus on e-books. No more overstuffed shelves. No more teetering stacks of tomes. Just one small electronic device.

    But … but. I love physical books. Their smell, their feel, their weight. I love being able to flip ahead or flip back in a tactile manner. I love highlighters and sticky notes. I even love falling asleep with my finger holding my place in the book.

    So, four years after losing my library, I have another one. Not thousands of books, but a good many. I have overstuffed shelves and teetering stacks. And I have an e-reader stuffed with all kinds of literary bliss.

    1. YES! Even if you packed a hundred books into your suitcase, what if you didn’t bring the ONE book you’re in the mood for that particular day? An e-reader gives you more options when travelling.

      And yes, there’s something comforting about falling asleep with your finger in a book.

      Love your comments!

      1. YES…that one book we promise ourselves we finally have the time to read! Sigh.
        My dogs prefer the e-reader vs the hard cover book. It has less impact when dropped from my suddenly boneless fingers.

        1. LOL! I think my cat likes basking in the glow from the e-reader screen.

          And WhisperSync prevents my (not completely irrational) fear that I’ll leave behind the one book I really want to read.

  5. Don’t get me wrong, I love books. Books in cases line the walls in nearly every room. Books on horses, on dogs, on art, on pretty much anything striking our fancy over the last decades. My current favored possession is the middle book of The Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences c.1765. Well read but still usable and a joy to leaf through.
    When it comes to books I read for pleasure or excitement, I’ve found the print on most paperbacks (especially those complex fantasy series)difficult for my aging eyes. Not to mention the books are difficult to read while I’m washing dishes or folding clothes. Hardcovers are lovely to own but they can get pretty darned heavy after a while. Especially when I’m reading in bed.

    For portability, ease of reading, and economy, my e-reader has proven to be an ideal solution. Plus it’s not nearly so easy to page to the back of the book and figure out whodunnit!

    1. Hi Mona. I think the side discussion about audio books is the perfect answer for enjoying an author’s work while doing the dishes or driving a car. So many good books and not enough time, eh?

    2. Mona, have you considered letting your furry babies assist in perhaps being Book hounds? You know, those mighty steeds who’ll pull the wagon full of books around so you’re never without?

      As a fellow spectacle wearer, I have to agree that the e-readers’ ability to increase font is a boon. Even better, is adjusting the backlight so I can read well into the wee hours of the morning without hearing complaints from the peanut gallery.

      1. More likely the ones who destroy a limited edition of Master of Sunnybank? That would be Albert Payson Terhune, Somewhate a prophet in Collies. I suppose my Saluki felt I was crossing over into unapproved territory.
        It’s not the spectacles,it’s the font size. When I’m deep into a story (Kyn Kronicles for example) and trying to read well into the night, being able to bump font size is a HUGE help

  6. Fabulous question: “Do you prefer to read a print book, or on an E-Reader, and why?”

    My answer: It depends.

    I have found with non-fiction books, I prefer a print book, because I read with highlighter, pencil, and Post-it flags in hand. When I’ve finished reading, the flags and highlights make it easy for me to refer back to the text I found helpful. On an e-reader, it is more challenging for me to sift through the text I’d highlighted or made notes on while reading.

    Reading fiction, I prefer e-readers, specifically Kindle, because I can switch between devices flawlessly. I can read the larger screen while walking on the treadmill. I can read a smaller screen in bed. I can grab my phone while sitting in a waiting room somewhere and continue reading – because all of the devices sync with each other, never losing my last page read. I can also highlight passages to quote in my reviews on Goodreads.

    I have found that my all-time favorite way to read fiction is with Kindle and the companion audio from Audible. I can listen to the story while working with my hands on a project and then later, the story syncs with my other devices, allowing me to read the words where I’d left off with the audio.

    1. I didn’t know that you can sync Audible with ereading devices! that’s good to know. Listening is my least favorite type of “reading.” I find my attention wanders too much, but it’s obviously a growing market. Has anyone here turned their books into audio books? I’d be interested in hearing experiences as I’m eyeing doing this.

      1. My agent sold the audio subrights for my first book, WHO R U REALLY?, and so it was made into an audio book … but I have never done the actual work myself.

    2. I definitely need to get onboard with Audible. I listen to books on CD in the car, then find myself having an NPRish driveway moment when I can’t tear myself away from the story.

      And I, too, prefer physical research books. It’s so much easier to find what I highlighted when it’s on paper.

  7. I read both and each has its merits. As others have noted ereaders are great for travelling, but you do have to worry about battery life and have an adapter if travelling abroad. Since I do a fair amount of international travel, the other danger for my iPad is theft, from hotel rooms, etc. since these are extremely coveted products for thieves. I also don’t want to leave behind my iPad in a hotel room or other place, whereas if I left a paperback, it wouldn’t be a big deal.
    I like books because I also like to end my reading sessions at the end of a chapter. With a book, I can readily leaf ahead to see how many pages I have. It’s annoying to do that on an reader because it’s easier to lose your place when swiping ahead, at least for me. Maybe there’s a trick I don’t know about.
    The nice thing about ereaders, though, is that if I wake up in the middle of the night, I can read without turning on the light, and I can adjust the brightness of the screen. And ebooks on hot titles often have shirer waiting periods at the library.
    So for me, it’s a mixed bag. I read both. I also have both Kindle and iBooks, both Overdrive and Hoopla. I think these days you really have to have everything to stay up to date.

    1. Battery life and adapters are always an issue. And the risk of theft. It will help as battery life gets longer and devices get lighter. (And a very interesting background you have, Christina!)

    2. I always traveled with adapters for my computer and phone, the e-reader uses the same charger as my phone so that wouldn’t be an issue.

  8. Besides the ability to have my entire library with me wherever I go, the older I get, the more I appreciate several facets of e-readers. First, the ability to increase the print size making it possible to read without reading glasses. The second is the self-lit aspect so I can read late at night without worrying if my reading light is disturbing my sleeping husband. And finally the ability to immediately purchase the next book in a series when I finish a book in the middle of the night and can’t wait to start the next.
    These days I find I only read physical books at the beach or by the pool where the bright sun makes an e-reader too hard to see.

  9. Personally, I prefer print books. I can understand the convenience of e-books for some people. However for me, e-books are not real books. I need to hold a book in my hand, to physically turn the pages.

  10. I assume that a lot of people will still say: I prefer print books to e-readers. I love real books. There’s something special about holding an actual book in your hands. About browsing in a book store or library. Or looking up at a shelf in your house at the great books you’ve collected over the years. And all of those things are true.

    Having said that, I find myself going to ebooks more and more these days. It sure is easier to carry an e-reader when you’re traveling rather than a pile of books. It’s easier to buy ebooks too – just one click, no going out to a store or waiting for an Amazon delivery. They’re generally cheaper. You often get to sample the beginning of a book for free, before deciding whether to buy the whole thing. And you can do all sorts of cool things like changing the size of the type, searching for keywords etc. Finally, I think ebooks have a big advantage over print in reaching a younger audience – who pretty much read everything on their ipad or smart phone.

    In the end though, of course, a good book is a good book!

    1. More people are reading books on smartphones, which I find pretty amazing since the screens are tiny, even the larger phones are still small. I find my thumb joint gets sore with the constant scrolling. (I guess I’m turning into a crotchety old lady!)

      1. Hi Christina, I can understand reading on a smartphone in a pinch but not as a tool of choice. It has to change the reader’s experience of the book.

      2. I’ve never read a book on my smartphone, for the same reasons you point out. Seems like it would be difficult because of the small screen. Although I’ve been surprised at how easy it is to watch TV or movie video on my smartphone. So maybe I should give the reading a try too.

      3. I thought it would be hard to read a story on a smartphone … until I tried it. I love it because the phone is so lightweight and easy to hold. You can also make the text any size – so reading is a breeze. I find that I actually read must faster on a smartphone than with any other format.

  11. For those who’s brought up the issue of audio books, I have to say that I’ve never gotten into “reading” books that someone is narrating to me. Too distracting, annoying and slow (I’m a pretty fast reader) for my tastes. I know a lot of people like audio books, I’m just not one of them.

    1. In the late ’90s, I used to run around listening to Books on Tape with a cassette player in my jacket pocket and a pair of headphones. I went into a hospital once like that and everyone thought I was a doctor.

        1. And I like your “story archeologist” concept. It’s so much fun digging into the characters and setting to find new and fascinating ideas. Most of the time you strike real GOLD.

  12. What’s great is that we have so many forms of books to choose from nowadays. Who knows what will be next?! Maybe some sort of holographic book that turns words into images so we can “see” books.

  13. As a teenager, I remember receiving in the mail the monthly Book of the Month selection. (Anyone remember that?) I’d tear open the cardboard box and pull out the book, run my hand over the rich feeling cover. Then open it, flip through those heavy pages, and take in that good feeling smell of quality paper.
    A print book still has a place in my reading life. Like John I keep a pen or pencil in hand just in case a particular word or phrase strikes me as special. Being able to flip back and forth through the pages is also enjoyable.
    However, when traveling, I prefer an e-book. It solves the problem of lugging heavy books, especially if you’re like me and have a number of books in reading progress. Another thing, I’ve loaded some old classics on my tablet, many I’ve been meaning to read since high school. They are there, even if just to read a chapter or two.

    1. Hi, Arthur! Your experience with Book of the Month Club is similar to what I used to feel when my Scholastic Book selections arrived at my school. Heaven, when the teacher put a stack on my desk.

      And, like you, I’ve loaded up my e-reader with the classics. Makes me feel good just to have them there.

      BTW, I love my local chapter of the AFIO! Now I really can’t wait to dig into your books.

          1. Okay, so maybe only 60. Could have sworn when I checked in a few minutes ago the number then was 99. Still nice to chat with everyone here. Let’s hit it again next week.

  14. What about libraries? What would happen to them if ebooks totally took over at some point? Now that’s a distressing thought. Hopefully we can keep a mix of both print and ebook popular for a long, long time!

    1. I agree! Where would we be without libraries? (Although I’ve heard some libraries are offering digital books on physical shelves–I wonder what that looks like.) When I was growing up, we initially had no library. Then suddenly, magically, there was a Bookmobile. I can still picture every inch of that place. My mom and the librarian never put a limit on how many books I could check out–essentially it was what I could carry.

MATCH UP: In stores now!


ThrillerFest XVI: Register Today!



One of the most successful anthologies in the history of publishing!