Jeanne Ruth writes:

I recently printed out an eBook and it took both of my cartridges of ink. This one did have a lot of photos in it, but it cost me nearly $40 in ink to print. Is there a setting  I can change to save ink?

Jeanne, all I want for Christmas for everyone to stop printing eBooks and, of course, world peace. It does take a whole lot of ink to print a book, that’s why it’s just not a good idea to do it at home. eBooks are designed to be viewed electronically, either on a computer, tablet or phone using a reader app of some kind like Kindle, or if the book is in PDF format, a PDF reader such as Adobe.

Some eBook formats can’t be printed at all, such as eBooks from the Kindle or Nook Reader apps.

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Another reason that printing isn’t a good idea is that many eBooks offer interactive features like links and video that are totally lost when you print off an eBook. eBooks are generally not designed to be print-friendly documents. Much like websites, there are a lot of images and the layout is not formatted for printing, but for viewing on electronic devices. If a PDF or other document is mean to be printed, it will usually include “print-friendly” or “printable PDF” in the description.

An image-heavy eBook could take an incredible amount of ink to print. The lack of printing costs is usually reflected in the price difference between an eBook and a physical copy.  Note the price difference between the hardcover and eBook edition of this book

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The eBook format allows many books to be published that otherwise might have never been sold. Companies don’t have to commit to spending thousands of dollars printing and shipping copies, when they aren’t sure how many books they will sell. It also allows for more color images in books. For example, WorldStart’s recent Android 101 Guide contains hundreds of color images and would have been cost-prohibitive to print and and sell as a hard copy. 

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The cost of printing is so high now that many magazines and newspapers are switching to online only editions or cutting drastically back on the number of physical issues they print. For example, papers in New Orleans , Birmingham and Huntsville only print three editions a week.

Printing off an eBook doesn’t give you a book. You just have a large stack of papers. And carrying around a large stack of papers is certainly more bulky than an eReader or tablet. Since they aren’t bound, it’s easy for them to get out of order and get lost.

If you absolutely feel you must have a printed copy of an eBook, the cheapest route may be to copy your file to a flash drive and take it to someplace like a FedEx Print Center to have it printed for less expense than printing it at home. However, the issue there is that you don’t necessarily have permission to print that material and may need to have a signed waiver from the copyright holder. When you purchase an eBook, you are purchasing the rights to an electronic copy of that book, not the rights to print it.

Printing eBooks is a whole lot of effort and expense. If there’s just a page or two you want a hard copy of, printing just those pages isn’t so bad. If you must have a physical copy, make sure you purchase the physical copy and not the eBook copy. If there’s not a physical copy available, maybe you can find another book to read, but you may find that you have to pay a lot more for it.

~ Cynthia