Paperbacks vs eBooks: A Comparison

We live in a golden age of content.

We have as many books, documentaries, podcasts and movies to fill a lifetime with, and then some.

However, when it comes to reading, it is not uncommon for people to debate the method of delivery for this content. Sure, the debate is somewhat there for watching a movie at the cinema vs watching at home, but nowhere is the debate more lively than when it comes to people preferring Paperback Books or eBooks.

I have my own opinions on this debate, and thought Id share my perspectives on the pros and cons of each.

Let’s begin.

Benefits of eBooks

Without a shadow of a doubt, eBooks are a revolutionary invention, anyone who has used one knows of its benefits.

Here are some of them.

Font & Sizing

When reading an eBook, the text itself flows in a very flexible manner. We can change variables such as the size without having any impact on the reading experience.

Whether your eyesight isn’t so great or it just feels more comfortable, having the ability to scale text and even change fonts is a game changer. There is simply no comparison to a traditional paperbook on this point, unless of course, you carry a magnifying glass chained to your book.

To take this idea a step further, it is possible on Kindle (and I’m sure on competing e-readers) to change the font which the book displays in. Whether its to be easier on the eyes or to personalise your reading, there is no downside to having this option.

Ecologically Friendly

Something not often considered is the ecological effect buying digitally has versus buying a physical book. Although not zero, eBooks don’t have to be printed at all and the effort required in sending the book to you electronically is almost negligible. If this is an important factor for you, then eBooks are a clear winner in this regard.

Cheaper

As a general rule, eBooks are cheaper to buy than their physical counterparts. While the prices sometimes seem closer between the two than you might expect, the rule still holds. If you want to save on buying books, eBooks work out cheaper.

Instant Delivery

Whether its from Amazon or any other seller, buying an eBook means instant delivery. The file sizes are small compared to other types of media which means the ‘instant’ part really feels as such. Instead of going to the store or waiting days for physical delivery, you have your book on your device within seconds. This leads onto the next point about portability.

Portable

Compared to other types of media such as video or high resolution pictures, eBooks are much smaller in file size. This means a hard drive or SD Card which is only 1-4GB large is able to hold thousands of books even if we would otherwise fill it up with a few video files.

While we might otherwise balk at a size of 4GB on a modern device (compared to phones and tablets started at 64-128GB), for an eReader it is more than enough. Its safe to say that not even 10% of this would be used by a heavy reader.

Practically, this also means that you can carry thousands of books with you in a device not too much larger than your phone. In addition, you run no risk of exceeding the storage on your eReader because you have the option to keep the book linked to your account even if you don’t have the book physically on your device.

Dictionary

An inbuilt dictionary is one of the cornerstones of any eReader. While it might not seem like a big deal initially, being able to look up a word while reading a book, in the same screen while not interrupting your flow is priceless.

I have used this feature countless times and it has helped me to learn many new words without taking away from the immersion of the book I am reading. Compare this to a paperback where you would either have to consult your phone, laptop or a real dictionary to do the same thing. It would take more time than it needs to and you find yourself breaking the flow of your reading in a much more abrupt manner.

Blue-Light Free

This isn’t so much of a benefit over paperbooks, but more of a point to dispel doubts and equalize the playing field with them. Usually when using any sort of mobile device, lights are shone through the back of the device, through the screen and into your eyes. While this allows for brilliant colours and high levels of brightness, it can also cause more eye-strain for extended periods of use.

Its a common misconception that the same applies to eBooks when they are read on eReaders such as an Amazon Kindle. Even though the device has a light, it is front-lit, meaning that if you turn the light on to read in the dark, it will shine light onto the screen from a vantage point slightly above it, looking down upon it. This allows us to read the screen without having light shone directly into our eyes, almost exactly like a real book. No eye-strain here, win-win!

Saving Snippets

Reading eBooks inherently means the ability to highlight and save sentences and paragraphs you come across in your reading digitally. If something strikes you while you are reading, usually nothing more than a swipe of a finger allows you to save, store and share the gems of wisdom and knowledge you read. Compared to reading a physical book, this would involve taking a pen, pencil or highlighter and carefully applying it.

It is without a doubt much easier with eBooks.

Benefits of Physical Books

Despite the numerous benefits that eBooks carry, there are a few points where physical books just cannot be beaten.

Let’s take a look at some of them.

Traditionally Respected

Carry an eReader such as a Kindle to many places around the world and you may get a few curious looks. Carry a physical book however and anyone at any age will understand what it is.

There is a certain respect that physical books carry to all and which is universally accepted. eReaders may be cool, futuristic and slim, but nothing commands respect like a book whose heaviness is an indicator of the knowledge you are learning. Whether or not you care enough about what others think is a different topic, but for those who do, they will know the weight of this factor on their choice.

Book Covers

This is more of a personal pet-peeve that I have only felt rarely, but part of reading a good book is promoting it to others. A good book cover is a brilliant, passive way of doing so. Book covers are usually eye catching and sell the book both to you and anyone who catches a glimpse of it. How many times have we read the covers of books others read on public transport?

Sadly with eReaders there is really no such option. As far as you and anyone else is concerned, you are reading any book about anything. When you take this into consideration, it feels very standardised and impersonal. The only thing you and anyone else ever sees is the same device again and again. I’d personally never advocate taking other peoples opinions about your device as a reason not to have an eReader, but its something you end up feeling nonetheless.

Physical Feel

This one is a bit harder to explain unless you’ve experienced it yourself. Sometimes you want the book to feel heavy. Sometimes you feel that its not right for a dense book to be as weightless as a thin plastic slab. You read the heavy ideas within and deep down may wish for it to be reflected in the hefitness of the book….no? Just me?

Let’s continue.

No Charging

By far the biggest benefit to a traditional paper book is the fact that you never have to worry about charging it, ever. As obvious as it sounds, the benefit of just being able to pick up a book and read what you see without having to worry about anything else in the world cannot be understated.

You never have to worry about the software being laggy, your book needing an update, not having enough battery etc, these are problems that simply never cross your mind. Despite eReaders only needing charges every few weeks, I’ve still rarely been caught out by low batteries every now and again. It’s definitely not a common occurrence, but it is possible.

Never an issue for traditional books however. Pickup and read, you’re good to go.

Conclusion

You’ve made it this far! Let’s summarise the benefits of both physical books and eBooks that we have covered until now:

Benefits of eBooks

  • Flexible Font and Sizing options
  • Ecologically better
  • Cheaper
  • Instant delivery
  • Portable
  • Dictionary on-the-go

Benefits of Physical Books

  • Traditionally respected world-over
  • Recognisable and interesting book covers
  • The ‘feel’
  • No charging required

Remember however, that whatever the method, the content is the same across all means of access. There are some who may look down upon certain forms of reading, unaware that even the modern form of the book isn’t how ‘books’ have always been either.

Ultimately, the real takeaway from the books we read are the content, not the method of delivery. As long as we are learning and applying beneficial knowledge, the method of delivery is less important than the way we are able to change our lives.

Whatever your decision, read the content and embody its advice. You can’t go wrong.

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