E-cookbooks: Love ’em or hate ’em?

I hear that every year, more e-cookbooks are published and sold.  Yet few people I know seem to use them (even though everyone seems to use online recipes at some point or another). It occurred to me that maybe I just hadn’t put the question to people directly.

So, EYB members, how about you? Do you use e-cookbooks?

I’m thinking of taking the plunge and at least giving it a try, but right now I’m safely in the dithering stage.   Here’s what I see as the pluses and minuses:

Advantages: There might be helpful videos, sidebars and tutorials I can click on or not.  I’d be able to search the book without dealing with the index, plus the Post-it can’t fall off.  I wouldn’t have to go hunting for the book on the bookshelves, since I always know where my tablet is.  If I went on vacation somewhere, it’s weightless.

Disadvantages: I can think of a hundred ways the kitchen can hurt the tablet. (Though I understand you can put it in a ziploc bag for protection).  It won’t be as easy to flip back and forth.  I won’t easily be able to make notes.  And I think I’ll have problems with the page layout, especially since my iPad is a mini.

Of course, having Eat Your Books bequeaths the search advantage to our physical cookbooks.  And lots of people who aren’t EYB members seem to prefer digital versions of everything except cookbooks.  What do you think? Are cookbooks just an exception? 

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  • AnnetteNisbett  on  February 25, 2014

    Hi, I use my IPad everyday and that use includes recipes. So far I have purchased just one recipe book online and love being able to read through it where ever I am and whenever I want. I have found surfing the net for recipes can become tedious, but having an e-recipe book that is become familiar to me, is satisfying. I also take photos of recipes that I find in magazines and use the when cooking the recipe. The only problem I find when using my IPad to follow a recipe is that the IPad times-out and I have to reset it, though I don't find this to be too much of a bother. Keeping my IPad clean while cooking hasn't proved to be a problem. In summary, I would definitely purchase more recipe books online.

  • lydia  on  February 25, 2014

    As someone who writes e-cookbooks (and also owns several hundred print cookbooks), I want to share some of the great advantages of e-books. I've made the decision to publish my books only in e-book format for environmental reasons, so I don't plan to make my books available in print unless they are already being sold in print.

    Your iPad or tablet won't get any messier in the kitchen than a print book. I'm sure we all have cookbooks with pages stuck together from dropping ingredients on them during our cooking adventures. If you would normally wash your hands to turn the page in a print book, you'll do the same for your tablet– in fact, you'll probably be even more careful!

    You *can* make notes in an e-cookbook. You *can* leave bookmarks so you can find a particular note later. And, yes, you can search, easily.

    As an author, I can offer my readers direct links to many additional related recipes from my blogs and elsewhere. I can include videos to demonstrate a technique rather than take paragraphs to try and describe it. My books include color photos of every recipe. The experience of the e-book is infinitely more rich in many ways.

    But, here's the big thing. I'm downsizing my cookbook collection because I no longer have room to keep hundreds of cookbooks. If I owned all of them in e-book format, I could keep every one of those beloved books, in my iPad. And, on the tablet, I could toss the whole collection — a lifetime of cookbooks from my travels around the world, and classic books published here — in my purse, and carry those books with me.

  • hillsboroks  on  February 25, 2014

    I have downloaded cookbooks from the library (mainly to read and see if I would want to purchase a hard copy) but have not yet purchased an ebook version of a cookbook. I have tried using the IPad for online recipes in the kitchen and it works but like AnnetteNisbett I find I prefer the paper cookbooks or paper copies of online recipes so that I can make notes right on the page about any changes I may make to the recipe. There are also issues of where to set the IPad so that it is safe and easily read. I reset my IPad so that it didn't time out quite so fast but even so if a recipe takes several hours you will find the IPad has timed out many times and you have to log back in again over and over. Even with a full size IPad you cannot see the same amount on the screen as you would on a page in most cookbooks. I like to see all the beautiful photos so many of the new cookbooks have on the page adjacent to the recipe I am making and I can't do that with the IPad easily and still read the print. There are pros and cons to both but in general I find I still love the paper cookbook in the kitchen and I use the IPad for research on recipes and cookbooks. The perfect combination for me so far has been searching EYB on the IPad for a recipe and then grabbing the book and heading into the kitchen.

  • Cubangirl  on  February 25, 2014

    I have not bought any print books other than cookbooks since I got my iPad. I do have several ecookbooks that were less expensive than the print one, e.g., China Moon. I too am getting rid of many of my print cookbooks, don't have room. I also have all my Living Cookbook recipes on my iPad on Hot Pot and use it to cook. Setting the time out to zero before starting to cook is very helpful. The last 3 print cookbooks I bought were Jerusalem, Modernist Cuisine at Home and Under Pressure. But I bought Plenty as an ebook and one the SousVide chapter from MC@H digitally. I am glad I have MC@H hard copy. Wish I had Jerusalem as an ebook and Under Pressure is not available as an ebook.
    You can make notes, book, mark, etc. I don't need more cookbooks, but if I find another I have to have, I hope it is available as an ebook.

  • Rinshin  on  February 25, 2014

    Not interested.

  • Kimsa  on  February 25, 2014

    I picked up a tip ages ago to hang cookbooks with wooden pant hangers.
    For example: http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/331132973033?lpid=82
    It was very useful. Except for my beloved
    Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone by Deborah Madison.
    Now I've created a modified method where I put my Nook HD+ in a ziplock bag, roll some scap papper with an end of the bag to give the pant hanger something sturdy to hold on to, then hang it from whatever cabinet handle is convenient. Protects the tablet, keeps recipes at eye level, and it's the cheapest method you will find.
    I now have that cookbook in an ebook format for ease of use.
    Most of my cookbooks are ebooks.
    Tablet pros: easy to search for specific ingredient names, recipe names. Notes and bookmarks easy to make with a good reading app.
    Tablet cons: dependent on battery life. Best to keep it charged.

    I think an e-ink device, like a kindle touch, might be a better choice because of the lengthy time they can display without depleting the battery quickly.

  • tsusan  on  February 26, 2014

    Thanks for all the comments – fascinating stuff! We must really be at a turning point in the medium. I bet you in 5 years it'll have gone one way or another – mostly print or mostly digital, but right now everyone's just figuring out what works best for them while the interfaces are being built.

  • MelMM  on  February 26, 2014

    I have over 150 ecookbooks on my iPad. I can't speak for all the formats out there, but most of the iBooks format books I've bought have been easy to use, and there are many advantages. First, I'm running out of shelf space. Second, there is the portability of the ebook , if one goes on vacation or needs to cook away from home. The ebooks are searchable, both on the iPad, and, if they are indexed, here on EYB. In the iBooks format at least, you can make "sticky notes" on the recipes. So I can still write in the margins, so to speak. The only downside is when a book doesn't have an index. Of course, that would be a downside in a physical book as well, but in the ebooks, having an index that links to the recipes makes navigation a lot easier. It also helps if recipes are listed in the table of contents. I recently bought Sunday Suppers at Lucques as an ebook, and it has no index and the table of contents does not list recipes or even descriptions of the menu. That one is hard to use as an ebook. But it is the exception. I suspect as ebooks become more popular, publishers will take these usability questions into account when deciding on the format of a book.

  • JustOneDonna  on  February 26, 2014

    Like lydia and Kimsa I have made the transition to eCookbooks. I started long ago after realizing that the cookbooks I own spend their time on shelves just taking up space. First I embraced the online search, copying recipes and saving them to files on my computer. I still do that, but now I save the recipes to a file in the cloud so they can be accessed from any device. I started my own blog as a repository for my favorite recipes. Now, in addition, I am buying eCookbooks that I access on my Samsung tablet. I cook with either my laptop or my tablet in the kitchen and find both to be an improved experience over the physical books used in the past. The problem I find with eCookbooks is that authors are NOT structuring the books to take advantage of the capabilities of current technology. Too many of the eCookbooks I have don't have pictures, don't utilize a dynamic table of contents/index, don't include helpful links and don't leverage the power of video. Lydia (above commenter) is one eCookbook author who is breaking the mold.

  • Christine  on  February 26, 2014

    I only recently got a tablet, so I hadn't even considered ecookbooks before the last few weeks. I've downloaded only a few and will admit it's because they were free Kindle deals. I've been tempted when I see indexed titles available for $3 or less, but have come to realize I'm a complete sucker for the design and layout of print cookbooks. While convenient and accessible, I find the generic layouts and fonts of most ecookbooks unappealing — they all start looking the same to me! If there are some out there that look closer to the print versions, I have not encountered them yet. What I DO love are some of the incredible digital magazines out there. My favorite is FoodieCrush (http://www.foodiecrush.com/holiday-2013). With a PDF reader app, they are searchable on my Kindle Fire which is useful, though I don't think I can bookmark. For me, the experience of reading them is much more similar to reading print. Some bloggers such as Two Peas and Their Pod have also come out with PDF cookbooks and I enjoy those as well.

  • hillsboroks  on  February 27, 2014

    This post has kept me thinking all week about how technology can keep improving our lives but does not always totally supplant everything that came before. The closest thing I can think of is the microwave. When they became available in the late 70s my boss rushed out and bought one for his wife declaring "She will never have to use the stove or oven again!" Years later when I got my first microwave oven I tried all the various recipes in the book that came with it and I began to realize that some of them were just easier and better made on the stove or in the oven. The microwave was a whiz at certain tasks (reheating, melting, defrosting, and making a quick mug of hot water for my tea) but it was not going to replace my stove and oven for all cooking tasks. I wonder if we are at the same point with the Ebooks and paper cookbooks. There are great things about Ebooks but maybe they just won't be able to meet all our needs and paper cookbooks will fill the gap. Maybe Ebooks will find a niche in the kitchen where they co-exist with paper cookbooks much like my microwave oven co-exists with my stove.

  • boardingace  on  February 28, 2014

    I really enjoyed reading all of the comments to see what other cooks are doing. Personally, I am working on a project to cook through all of my cookbooks that was inspired in part by this website (http://usemybooks.wordpress.com/), so I'm just cooking from the cookbooks and cooking magazines that I currently own. I have never used my ipad in the kitchen. However, there certainly do seem to be a lot of advantages for cooks to use this technology, so I'm guessing it's going to be pretty popular in the future. Especially as technology evolves, and features can be added easily such as photos, cooking tutorials, ingredient searches, menu planning, etc.

  • Kirstin_the_Kiwi  on  March 2, 2014

    I use my tablet in the kitchen when following recipes I have found online. I haven't bought any e-cookbooks yet.

    I have a Kindle and I am happy to use it for reading fiction books. I have not yet been able to make the leap to reading non-fiction on my Kindle.

  • ccav  on  March 25, 2014

    I have borrowed e-cookbooks from the library but have yet to buy them. My biggest complaint is that they are not always as well designed as print books. And a concern I have is of longevity. I treasure my printed cookbooks and art books and like the idea of having them around for many years. e-books might be good for portability but
    I am still holding out for a better reading experience with them, one that is more like reading the printed page.

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