Paper Books And E-Books: A Literary Tug Of War Continues



The way we read has changed but how much?

The last few years there’s been a literary tug-of-war. On one side is the traditional book made out of paper. On the other side – the e-reader – a technology that exploded about eight years ago when Amazon’s Kindle arrived on the landscape.

At the time, many people wondered if the traditional brick-and-mortar bookstore was doomed. Many are still wondering.

Bookstores haven’t disappeared – at least not yet -- although there are fewer than there used to be. So where does the bookstore biz in Las Vegas stand in all of this? 

Myrna Donato is the co-owner of Amber Unicorn, a general-interest seller of used-books. It first opened as Donato’s Fine Books in 1981.  Donato is also the co-founder of the Las Vegas Book Guild. The Guild’s members are antiquarian, out-of-print, and collectible book stores.

She told KNPR's State of Nevada that her customers do read e-books but they come to the shop for something more.

“Yes, they read on the e-readers, but they come back to us because the like the smell of the books," she said. "They like to hold them. They like to feel them and they like to share them.”

She said some of  her customers tell her that they love their e-readers, while others say they hate them.

Support comes from

Donato feels like her bookstore fills a niche. 

“I can’t imagine anybody reading a 22 volume set of Hamilton’s complete works on an e-reader,” she said.“So that’s where we fit in.”

Drew Cohen is the co-owner of The Writer’s Block, which opened in November 2014 on Fremont Street. The Writer’s Block is a general interest independent bookstore.

“I think that there are some books that are maybe better experienced in print form and others that are just as well served by e-book distribution,” Cohen said.

Children's books and art books are genres that Cohen believes are much better in print. They're books where the physicality is important.

He said his customers generally have some books in print and some on a device like an iPad or Kindle. Cohen said people still like the social aspect of going to a bookstore and finding a book.  

"There is something to be said to going to brick and mortar store and having a conversation with a real live human being who isn't going to recommend Q-tips with your book purchase because an algorithm suggested that it do such," Cohen said. 

Tom Allen, the president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), Washington, DC. said the explosive growth e-books has leveled off. 

“I think it's clear that the e-book market may have leveled off for the moment, but print is here to stay,” Allen said.

He said that most publishers are just interested in having more people buying books in whatever format they choose. However, the cyclical nature of the book business in general has a big impact on book sales.

For instance, e-book sales for young adult books dropped 45 percent this year, not because people don't like to read on e-books any more but because there weren't any blockbuster books release this year like John Green's "Fault in Our Stars."


Tom Allen, President and CEO, the Association of American Publishers (AAP), Washington DC; Myrna Donato, co-owner, Amber Unicorn Books, Las Vegas; Drew Cohen, co-owner, The Writer’s Block, Las Vegas

KNPR and NPR Thank-You Gifts including t-shirts hoodies and cap