What is slang for a book that has pages made of paper; the opposite of an ebook? I used to know. It's something like "tree book", which I know is wrong, but I can't come up with anything better. A printed book must be discarded because it's neither slang nor humorous.

Google search did not help me much. (sad emoji)

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    "real" book :-(
    – Mike M
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 10:41
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    I suggest no such term exists, and if it did the simple exercise of explaining how it could would bring it back to mind. To me, even Mike M's 'real book' gives too much latitude since the object in Question is simply a 'book' and an 'e-book' is comparable only in a very general sense. Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 18:20
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    A cis-book, possibly? Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 12:41
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    It would be called a "book", as opposed to an "ebook".
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 14:28

4 Answers 4


The slang term is...

dead trees (techopedia.com)
Dead tree edition is a slang term used to describe any publication that comes in printed form, even when there is a paperless edition available.

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    +1 And to note that the wording from that source is poor because it allows for an e-book to be called "dead tree edition" if it happens to also come in printed form. For instance, the e-book "50 Shades of Grey" also now comes in printed form, but it's incorrect to call the e-book form a "dead tree edition". I'd state it: "...any publication in printed form when there is also a paperless edition available".
    – gotube
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 20:39
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    @mmmmmm It's the definition I have issues, with, not the term itself.
    – gotube
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 23:15
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    @gidds I think you're being overly critical. It doesn't say "also comes in printed form" or "may come in printed form". It's describing that specific edition, just as you might have "paperback edition" and "hard-cover edition".
    – Barmar
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 14:26
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    @mmmmmm: Ngrams not found: dead-tree format clearly shows that the "standard" expression is dead-tree edition. Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 15:56
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    @gotube A different reading of "a publication", I think. The difference between "a publication" meaning all editions, volumes, etc., of something, vs. meaning one specific instance. With the latter meaning it seems clear enough that only the versions actually on paper count as dead tree editions. Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 19:27

I would personally choose to use what is called contrastive focus reduplication (thank you, Vsauce, for that one) and call it a book book.


Hard Copy

Although not typically applied to books, the slang term hard copy, would, when contrasted with an e-book, be immediately understood within context to mean the printed-on-paper version of the book. As the link explains, 'hard copy' is a neutral term while the 'dead tree edition' suggested by FunbleFingers is a pejorative term for the same idea.

You might also use print copy, print version, or paper copy.

  • Thank you for posting an answer but "hard copy" is not slang.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 3:44
  • @Mari-LouA Since the paper is neither literally hard, nor is this sense using the term in its original sense of "a manuscript or typewritten document that has been edited and proofread and is ready for typesetting or being read on-air in a...broadcast", I would consider using hard copy to refer to a book as slang. Of course, as the querent, it is what you mean by slang that matters, but since that doesn't seem to be very well defined on this stack, making your own definition explicit would help potential answerers.
    – Kirt
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 6:54
  • Books that have physical pages and either hard or soft covers could be referred to as hard copies I suppose, but I was looking for a term that was slang (very informal language usually uttered and created by a group of native speakers e.g teenagers) and humorous. The term "hard copy" is well-established across all English dialects, quite formal and not humorous,
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 8:35
  • I believe that the meaning of slang is communally understood, and easy enough to look up in any dictionary. The user's post you linked is really asking if their question was downvoted because they misused the tag "slang". No one disputed that person's analysis or definition of the term "slang" and the tag "slang" was consequently left alone.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 8:50

You could use the term 'pulp' perhaps. It does have a certain connation relative to books that may or may not fit your needs:

pulp (noun 5):

a magazine or book on cheap paper and often dealing with sensational material

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