When talking about a physical book, as opposed to an e-book, which is correct: print book or printed book?

  • 2
    Isn't "book" sufficiently specific? To my mind the word book refers to a physical object, whereas an e-book refers to a particular type of electronic document.
    – Lumberjack
    May 11, 2015 at 15:13
  • 1
    If forced to qualify the word, I would choose "printed book" over "print book," but neither would be my first choice. I would probably say "real book" or "actual book."
    – Lumberjack
    May 11, 2015 at 15:17
  • In "slang" it's called dead tree and here is another related question The opposite of paper being a dead-tree
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 11, 2015 at 15:45

1 Answer 1


As lumberjack pointed out, book should suffice here, but I answer to talk about the alternatives.

When talking about one individual book, and to set it apart from an eBook, using printed book is more common than using print book. As in,

"I bought a printed book"

Although in my opinion, in this situation, you're better off using the classic terms of paperback or hardback. As in:

I bought a paperback (or hardback)

Print books is used rarely, and mostly in formal situations

Print isn't really an adjective. But one of its senses is this:

[uncountable] used to refer to the business of producing newspapers, magazines and books

which is used to form compound nouns like print media or print unions. Print books would be uncommon and sound a bit formal, but it's not unheard-of.

But, since print technically refers to the whole business, proper usage would require it to be used in that context. As in:

Our survey shows that readers prefer buying eBooks over print books.

(Printed books is equally applicable here.)

[Source - Oxford]

  • 1
    I have recently produced a book and during the promotional stages am being asked whether it is an ebook, soft cover (paperback) or hard cover (hardback). A book today can exist in digital or paper versions. I agree that print, as an adjective is rather arcane, but it is a useful collective adjective embracing hard and soft cover paper books, as opposed to digital books, and I prefer it to printed.
    – Dan
    May 11, 2015 at 21:29

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