Quilting Blog

Leah Day’s Quilting Study: Printed vs. Digital Quilt Books

Just recently I experienced a massive digital wake-up call that forced me to acknowledge a new truth — digital books CAN be better than print.

download printed comicsMarvel Comic and Marvel Comic App

I received a free digital Marvel comic book as a bonus for attending the new Avenger’s Age of Ultron movie on opening weekend. I downloaded the app, created an account, loaded in the access code for my free comic, and was soon thoroughly entertained by comic images specially spliced to display in small chunks over my iPhone.

Suddenly I had a strange thought — I’m enjoying this more than the last time I paged through a real comic! The images were crisper and in most cases displaying larger and with better color on my phone than they would be on a printed comic book page.

I enjoyed the experience so much I kept the app and have returned to it again and again when I wanted a quick fix of a good story and cool art. Quite beyond my expectations, I really prefer the digital comics over the physical printed editions.

printed craft books

Falling in love with digital

It’s important to understand how shocking this is to me — I love physical books. I want to turn the pages and smell the ink. I’m a bit of a book abuser: I fold down the page corner to mark my place, write in the margins and underline sentences I like. I crave a tactile connection with the physical book that, up until this experience, hadn’t found in digital books.

This feels like a revolutionary transformation because I’m a self publisher and I’ve spent thousands of dollars over the years on cover art, book layout design, and eye-watering print costs because I feel so loyal to creating printed books. Why am I messing with all this expense when a well-designed digital version could provide a better experience and be far cheaper to produce?

365 free motion quilting designs bookYes, there will always be some books that you really want in print, and I like to think I’ve gone the extra mile to make my books stand out from the crowd. I also know the early days of digital download delivery were fraught with glitches, which still makes many quilters wary of purchasing digital content to this day.

Price of shelf space

But there’s a hidden tax to purchasing printed books: Space.

craft book shelvesPrinted books, especially big craft books, take up lots shelf space, and add weight and clutter to your home. This past week I was forced to reassess my craft book collection and purge more than 60 books from my shelves.

This was a challenging project because I really wanted to keep all my books, but they just weren’t being used enough to justify large amount of space they were taking up.

Had this collection been purchased digitally, would I ever need to do this? Digital books only take up a few kilobytes on my computer and I can easily store them in my Dropbox account. I could potentially keep hundreds of books, with the added bonus of never having to dust them!

Subtle switch to streaming

In the middle of my craft book purge, I noticed my messy DVD shelf and caught myself wondering, “Do I need any of this stuff anymore?”

DVD shelfBetween Netflix and Amazon Prime, most of these shows and movies are available as streaming online video. So long as my internet connection is working, why do I need to keep this messy collection of plastic DVD cases on this shelf?

The same is true for audiobooks. In college, I crated my entire collection of Harry Potter cassette tapes, plus tape player, from room to room. Now I can access thousands of titles from Audible.com and download the book I want to hear to my phone anytime.

In the case of movies, music, and audiobooks, the switch to downloadable or streaming content was an easy and convenient choice to make. These days I’m able to enjoy more content, listen to more music, watch more movies, but store far less as physical “stuff” in my home.

Printed craft books have been my final holdout, but I can see clearly that this will be changing, too. Quite apart from anything else, I don’t want to build another collection of cool books I love, only to run out of space to enjoy them.

So what is your take on digital verses print? Which do you prefer to buy and why? Share your experience in the comments below and explore!

Let’s go quilt,

Leah Day

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One problem I found with a digital book was when I bought a quilting book with patterns that needed to be printed out. The company that sold me the e-book remove printing rights from all their books, even if the original publisher allows it! I was unable to print the patterns out, even though the copyright information said I had the right to print the whole book for my own use.

Leah Day

Wow! That’s extremely counter productive, and probably completely unenforceable too.


I love digital books, but patterns are a problem. How to print them? And some apps or programs let you print the pattern page, but there’s no option to choose ORIGINAL size. They add margins to the printout which shrinks the pattern, and I couldn’t find a way around it. So for any book with patterns, I favor the print version. I just got a new iPhone over the weekend so maybe it works better there, I don’t know yet. My experience so far was with digital books on PC and Android.


I had a similar experience recently with digital vs printed apparel patterns. One of the patterns I wanted to sew was out of print for paper but still available digitally. I loved it! I loved being able to download it immediately. I loved having the instructions on my phone that I could read whenever I wanted. I liked it so much I’ve considered cutting the spine off of some of the paper crafting books I own and having them scanned.


More and more I prefer digital — something I never thought I’d say, having worked for years and years in book publishing. In addition to the advantages you mention, it’s great when links in the book you are reading can take you directly to information “outside” the book, like instructions for basics that the author or publisher has covered elsewhere, exhaustively. Wouldn’t it be great if your books could link the reader directly to your video tutorials? Or if pattern authors could link their books to errata found after publication? Similarly I love being able to refer back to something earlier in the book with just the press of a finger, no hunting required. And what about all the paper a digital book saves?
That said, there are plenty of advantages of physical books. Sometimes I miss being able to compare pages from different books by laying them side by side, for example. But in the balance digital wins, for me. I wish publishers would take even greater advantage of the digital platform.

Sheryl Kessler

My craft books and mags are treated like gold. I don’t even lend them out. I, too am running out of space and have boxed some books that relate to things I no longer do like machine knitting and beading. The problem is years later I may get interested in a book again so I keep them. I buy digital novels all of the time and just this week purchased the newest Danny Gregory book first hardcopy and then cancelled the order and purchased the digital version remembering that I wanted to pick up drawing again on vacation and did not want to carry the book. I already own two of his books (hardcopy) so it was not too hard a decision. I don’t like the wierd layout of digital books for my quilting, etc. I did purchase the digital version of Jenny Hart’s “Sublime Stitching” and found a way to print the patterns at work-I believe from the Kindle Cloud Reader. It was a while ago, but I think I turned it into a PDF. It was my first embroidery book and I did not want to make a big investment. Ha! Since then I have purchased 5 other related books–hardcopy.

Casie Williams

This is an easy one for me — I prefer digital! I am retired and spend half the year in Washington State and the other half in Arizona. That means I have two sewing rooms, two cutting tables, two fabric stashes . . . you get the idea. But I only have to purchase one copy of a digital book and I’ll have it with me wherever I am! I can even open it up and read a section while I’m waiting in an airport but planning my next project.

Some of the companies are solving the pattern problem by adding a 1 inch circle to the page so you can compare it to what actually prints out. Yay for them! Hope that idea goes viral.

Terry Chase

Digital, definitely. No dust, no clutter, and 1000 books and magazines do not increase the weight of the tablet!

Pat Richter

I love digital magazines and books but I always have two problems with them When they are out of my physical sight I can easily lose track of them. Books bought in one spot like Amazon are easy to keep track of and find however when you buy from individuals I lose them or forget passwords. Magazines are especially hard to keep track of. The biggest downfall is not being able to print the patterns or pages if you need to.

Up side you can read and do projects on the go. Less books to clutter your space. Its so easy to carry your library!!


I wanted to like digital, I love reading on my Kindle app, but I tried to crochet from a pattern I downloaded on my tablet and it was a huge hassle that killed my battery.


If the book has patterns that need photocopying etc., buy the physical book. I’ve also been caught out. I bought a hand quilting book with heaps of motifs but it is impossible to use them. I now need to buy the physical book so I can actually use the book.


Love both digital and physical books. Love to turn the pages. However, every digital book I have bought that has patterns, I am unable to print. I cheated and Print Screened each page, then dumped it into Word / PowerPoint, worked out the size and then printed these pages. For a book that the publisher says is printable and then unable to print is NOT ON.


I wish there were a way to know if a craft book available in digital format will provide patterns and or templates online that come with the hard copy version. I’be read reviews on Amazon to see if any mention is made of the availability of these files for the digital form of the book but with little success. I don’t want to risk ordering a book I can’t fully use. I contacted Amazon about it and they only told me that it was up to the publisher of each book whether or not they provide these. Why can’t the bookseller at least tell me how much of the book I’ok have access to?


They are both useful but how can you replace the feel and smell of a good book? Videos can give a lot of us migraines. Too much sensory overload for your brain.


Despite all the great reasons to go digital, nothing beats the feeling of paging through an actual book. I love comparing ideas in a few books all side by side. When I decide a book isn’t going to get much use, I donate it to my guild for our basket raffle or bring it to my weekly get-together of quilty friends and pass it on to a new owner. I love my ipad and iphone, but it’s a true pleasure curling up with a printed book.


I lose e books in that black hole of my computer. I forget about them. Hard copy it is for me.

Diane gutman

I use and like both but really seem to put more value on the printed book. Maybe I am getting too old to keep up with ways to store, find sort, print just what I need, etc. I think I will still be buying craft books for a while although Cratsy classes use up a lot of my so-called budget!


I love my hardcopy books, I will probably will never get rid of them. I think I have over 500 quilt books, and still buy more. I always have trouble with my lap top and should it go down for good I’d be in big trouble. I’m 70 and not really computer savy, I’d rather spend my time quilting than trying to find digital books.

Heidi Story

I’m still struggling with the change from hard copy to digital media. I know it is better to have less clutter – however I still love toting my current fav book with me everywhere. And laying out several books to compare details, patterns, ideas or facts. I am getting better. I now stream many movies, thanks to my son’s Netflix account, LOL. .


Love digital for some things, but NOT quilting books. 1). Can’t print without going to enormous trouble, even if you are supposed to be able to. 2). Spotty wifi in my sewing room in the basement. I need the pictures THERE. 3). Worry about losing digital stuff from a computer failure. Even though I back it up, it would be a pain to get it all back. I do agree that digital can be convenient and clear.


I am careful with what I buy to keep the clutter down but I have sometimes picked up a vintage book in op shop and these are out of print and not available online (such as prized 1980s knitting patterns and vintage fair isle patterns and quirky tapestry and cross stitch books). I say yay for hard copy books. There is a lot of craft knowledge pre internet and this is in the books of the time. I stopped buying quilting magazines a couple of years ago as there is so much free content on blogs. I do buy (Australian) Stitches magazine as it has a lot of dressmaking how tos.


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