You Save Your Eyesight, but Not The Trees? E-Readers vs. Paper Books

words Alexa Wang

There are those people who are totally at home in the digital world and prefer to read from an e-reader such as a Kindle or a Kobo. Some are only happy with a paper book, one that they can touch and smell, and who enjoy the ritual of adding it to their bookshelf library once read.

But many use both and understand that e-readers and physical books have their particular advantages and disadvantages.

What all the above are likely to share is the love of a good book, and the numerous benefits they provide. You can read this article to learn more about the importance of reading. So let’s look at the pros and cons of e-readers and physical books and decide once and for all, which is superior.

E-Readers Paper Books

The Pros and Cons of e-Readers

PROS

A library at your fingertips – It will depend on the e-reader how many books it stores, but most can hold thousands of books on them, likely more than you can read in a lifetime. If you prefer the minimalist look in your home or just don’t have the space to store a growing book collection, then an e-reader is the best solution.

E-readers are the greenest option – We alluded to this in our article title; if you want the most environmentally friendly choice, then the e-reader wins. Even taking account of the raw materials that need mining and the manufacturing required, a Kindle will create fewer carbon emissions over its lifetime on average, according to this article.

Convenient and fast –  So, you’ve decided to read War and Peace on your daily commute, coming in at over 1,200 pages, or for the less high-brow and a similar size, Stephen King’s The Stand. You’ve got the choice of carrying a book the size of a brick or a sleek e-reader; what’s it going to be? Finished your latest book, and at a loose end, you have the choice of purchasing any one of a million books online and have it delivered to your device instantly.

CONS

Easy to lose or get stolen – You’re on that same commute, sitting all smug and happy engrossed in War and Peace on your e-reader when you suddenly realize it’s your stop. Next thing you know, you’re on the platform with your $100 e-reader that you left on the seat hurtling away from you, never to be seen again. Damn, you wish you’d purchase that paperback edition!

Battery life – However long your device’s battery life, you can guarantee that at the most exciting part of the novel or the most significant self-development tip is being revealed that the battery goes flat. Just like all electronic devices, you not only will have to keep it charged, but at some point, it will just stop working and need replacing.

EReaders Paper Books

The Pros and Cons of Paper Books

PROS

Sensory appeal – Physical books are items of beauty, as well as being easier on the eye to read than e-books, the smell and physical sensation of holding a book is important for many. Besides, while the idiom states, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ we often do, an attractive-looking book can be a decorative addition to our home.

Kinder on the eyes – while modern e-book readers have been improved over the last few years to cause less eye strain, paper books are still the best option. With electronic devices, you are more likely to skim the text and not absorb the information to the same degree as with a paper book.

Books to share – The books in our Kindle library can’t be shared with our friends; an e-book isn’t the most alluring of gifts. But a paper book that you enjoyed can always be lent to a friend. A first edition signed by the author is going to be a gift with meaning.

A paper book won’t break – If you drop your Kindle and it breaks or the screen cracks, it’s the end of the line for this particular device. Physical books can last hundreds of years if treated right, and if we drop the dog eared novel we have been reading in a puddle, it probably won’t be a keeper, but if rescued is likely to be readable.

CONS

Need lots of space  – Books are hefty objects that require a lot of space if you want to build up a collection; in addition, you’ll need bookcases and spend time dusting them, keeping them free from excess sunlight and at an optimum temperature if you don’t want them to age and yellow.

Limited options when traveling –  For avid readers, who swear by physical books when it’s time for vacation, deciding on which books to bring or discard can be the most demanding part of the trip. Narrowing the choice down to two or three books isn’t an issue with e-books, and if you do run out of books for the beach, you can instantly purchase and download a new one. 

And the Winner Is?

As you have probably gathered, there is no clear winner. It all comes down to you as an individual; you might feel strongly about environmental issues, and e-books are by far the greenest option over purchasing physical books.

For the confirmed bibliophile, the idea of reading a book on an e-reader will send a shudder down their spine.

For many of us, we might prefer reading our favorite authors or self-development books in a physical format so that we can place the book in pride of place on our bookshelves. However, when we commute to work or travel on vacation, we appreciate the lightweight convenience of an e-reader.

Whatever the format of the book, I’m sure we can all agree with this final quote from author Umberto Eco “I sought peace in everything but never was I happier than in a corner with a book.”

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