Forget the origins of the universe, animal testing, voting age and the correct pronunciation of ‘scone’ – the debate occupying pretty much everyone in the literary community at the moment is the rising popularity of eBooks. Are they a wonderfully convenient new piece of technology, or leading to the demise of literature as we know it?
In this article I will look at a wide range of opinions and research, summarising them into your handy guide to the pros and cons of paper vs. eReader.
Factors to Consider
- Browsing experience
- Purchase convenience
- Reading experience
Particularly if (like me) you’re a poor student on a tight budget, price can be one of the most important factors in the eBook debate. As a little example, I have calculated how much money my Kindle has saved me so far compared to the new paperback price on Amazon.
|Book||Kindle Edition||New Paperback||Total Saving|
|The Beautiful and Damned||£0.00||£2.50||£2.50|
|The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde||£0.00||£3.18||£3.18|
|Uncle Tom’s Cabin||£0.00||£2.50||£2.50|
|Keep the Aspidistra Flying||£4.99||£4.98||-£0.01|
|We Have Always Lived in the Castle||£4.99||£4.49||-£0.50|
|The Remains of the Day||£3.79||£3.99||£0.20|
|The Sense of an Ending||£4.99||£6.99||£2.00|
|The Mirror World of Melody Black||£0.99||£7.99||£7.00|
|The House of Hidden Mothers||£4.99||£8.99||£4.00|
|I am Pilgrim||£4.99||£3.99||-£1.00|
|The Tenant of Wildfell Hall||£0.88||£5.69||£4.81|
|The Pickwick Papers||£0.49||£8.62||£8.13|
However, as you can tell the price difference will depend a lot on what you read! See the section ‘Questions to Ask Before Investing’ for more details.
2. Browsing Experience
Are you someone who loves to while away an hour wandering your favourite bookshop, or does browsing online from the comfort of your sofa have more appeal?
3. Reading Experience
There’s no denying that reading an eBook is an entirely different experience to reading print books. Although there are percentage functions, it’s not as easy to tell how much of the book is left! Some people also prefer print because the covers jog their memory, helping them to remember which books they have read.
I prefer print books as I remember the covers more easily – if I’m using an eReader I always forget which books I’ve read before.
4. Purchase Convenience
A major advantage of eReaders is that you can get access to new reading material almost immediately if you find yourself bored on a dull Winter evening.
eReaders are super handy for storing lots of books when travelling, so you don’t have to panic about running out halfway through your holiday! They are also more convenient to read on-the-go, if you want to pack in some extra pages on your commute.
My Kindle is so handy for going on holiday, it means I can take as many books as I like without worrying about the weight limit!
One significant advantage of print books is that they are much easier to share with friends and family. The sense of community from passing recommended books on to friends, or being part of a book swap group, is something eReaders just can’t replicate.
Personally, I I usually read eBooks to save money but I still relish the chance to treat myself to a traditional paperback.
I’ll let the experts speak for themselves…
- A study reported in The Guardian found that people recall more information from a print book than an eBook.
- Harvard Medical School found that reading a light-emitting eReader before bed can interfere with sleep and affect alertness the following morning.
- It isn’t just the older generation wanting to keep print books alive – 62% of 16-24 year olds prefer print books to eBooks
- eReaders may encourage more children to read, particularly boys and those not that into reading
The number of factors influencing the eReader vs Print Books debate means it is mostly down to personal preference. So here are my top 5 questions to ask before you consider buying an eReader!
Questions to Ask Before Investing
- What genre of books do you like to read? eBooks are often much cheaper for the classics, but if you read contemporary thrillers there is less of a price difference.
- Do you read mostly at home or on-the-go?
- Do you tend to keep books to yourself or share them with lots of other people? Bear in mind that sharing becomes much harder with an eReader.
- Do you have easy access to a library or book swap group where you can read books completely free?
- What is your book budget? It may be that if you’re trying to save money eBooks could work out cheaper in the long run.
I like the convenience of my eReader, particularly when travelling, but overall I prefer print books as a more authentic reading experience. I don’t think I connect as much with an eBook as with paper books.
I hope you found this guide helpful! Now it’s time to join the debate – please do post your thoughts in the comments!