E-readers vs. Paper books?

Or more specifically, kindles vs. paper books.

I’ve had a kindle since November and since then it’s become somewhat of a constant companion of mine.
There are so many things I love about it but lately I’ve  been thinking about kindle versus paper books. I have always loved paper books. Everything from the smell to the feel. But since getting my kindle my purchasing of paper books has declined. Lately, I have bought dozens and dozens of ebooks but only two paper books (and they were to complete series that I owned other paper books from. I like having complete collections.)

So here is a list I’ve compiled of pros and cons of both – kindles and paper books – to help me work out for myself which I prefer.

Kindles:

PROS:

  • Text to Speech function. For people with failing eyesight or those who love audio books, it’s incredibly easy to set their kindles on text to speech and have their books read to them!
  • Ability to change text size. We bought my grandfather a kindle for this past Christimas for this function alone. He was once a great reader but as he got older and his eyesight started to deteriorate, he could only read big print books. After reading all the larger print books his local library had to offer, he stopped reading altogether. The ability to change the text size of ebooks has changed his reading habits for the better. He can now read books again!
  • The internal dictionary. I think my vocabulary has increased experientially since I started reading ebooks. No longer do I need to go track down a dictionary or remember to look up a word later when it’s more convenient because now all I need to do is move the little cursor in front of the word I was unsure about and the definition pops up on the screen.
  • Free books. If you know where to look you can find many free and legitimate ebooks to download. Classic books can be downloaded from sites like Project Gutenberg  and Amazon have many free ebooks on sale every day.
  • Instant delivery! No more waiting 6-8 weeks for a book to be delivered (no kidding… Amazon takes an INCREDIBLY long time to deliver books internationally). You can receive books instantly on your e-reader.
  • Variety. Living where I do, most bookstores don’t have the books I’m looking for. I order a lot of the books I read online because of this and often have to pay a premium for postage as the books have to come from overseas. E-books don’t cost anything for postage! And the variety the ebook stores offer is incredible.
CONS:
  • Batteries. Although the kindle does have  a great battery life (depending on how much I used the light that’s inbuilt in my kindle’s case) the battery is great. It only requires charging every few weeks. But compared to paper books which never need you to remember to charge them, they do need electricity.
  • Cost. If you only read a few books a year then the initial outlay for an e-reader of any kind is a rather large expense that you won’t make up with the savings you spend on ebooks vs. paper books.
  • Not always practical. I was on a plane a few months ago and due to weather conditions, electronics were not permitted to be used at all during the flight. I was so disappointed. It was the first trip I’d taken my kindle on and I didn’t have a paper book back up for this kind of situation. I was left with no other option but the in-flight magazine to entertain me during the bumpy flight. Thank goodness it was only a two hour flight.

Paper Books:

PROS:

  • There’s nothing like that feeling of holding a real book. There’s the smell, the feel and the look.
  • A decorating option. I have bookshelves all over my house and they look fantastic when all filled up with books. They suit my minimalist version of home decorating.
  • They serve as a conversation starter. Many times I’ve started a conversation or had one started with me over book. You see someone on the train reading the exact same book that you just finished reading! Instant conversation starter! It feels a lot less natural to start a conversation after you spied what book someone was reading on an e-reader – it feels a little more voyeuristic if you have to read the page rather than looking at  the cover of a book someone else is reading.
  • Clumsy? No worries! As someone who has broken the screen on her phone after dropping it, I worry that my kindle will someday suffer the same fate. But with paper books – it’s no problem! Just pick the book up, dust it off and continue on your merry way. 🙂
  • Lending. Borrowing books and sharing them with friends and family are a lot easier with paper copies than with ebooks.
  • Browsing. I love book stores. I love the variety and just the option of picking up a book and reading the blurb. Shopping online for ebooks doesn’t quite deliver the same opportunity and experience.

CONS:

  • Not as good for the environment. Paper books require a lot of paper (wow… shock I know! 😛 ) and because of this they are more of a burden on the environment.
  • Space. Before I got my kindle I would carry at least one book with me at any time and often had a spare in my bag just in case I finished the first one. All the weight of those books does add up! With an e-reader I can carry hundreds of books and weight isn’t an issue.
  • Highlighting and notes. I am not one who likes permanently damaging books. And notes made in paper books last forever no matter how careful you were with that pencil. E-readers allow you to make notes and highlight passages and then reverse the process without leaving a permanent mark.

Verdict?:

I think I’ll stick to buying both paper books and ebooks. They both have a lot going for them. I don’t think e-readers will ever be able to replace that feeling I get when reading a paper books – and I’m not sure I’ll ever feel comfortable enough to take a e-reader into the bath… water and electronics? Not a match made in heaven – but they do have a lot of functions that I like.

But I do have a rule for most ebooks – I won’t pay more than $7.99 for one unless it’s by one of my favourite authors. I can often find books using booko.com.au for less than $10 (including postage) and if cost is going to be relatively similar for ebook vs. paper book, I’ll buy the paper copy.

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2 thoughts on “E-readers vs. Paper books?

  1. Great post! You had more pros and cons listed than I ever thought up 🙂 But for me, it’s paper books all the way. I think I just love the feel of papery pages and the smell of printed books too much to give up 🙂

    • Thanks! I don’t think I could ever give up paper books either. But I think that maybe e-books and read books can somehow manage to live side by side in on my bookshelves… 😛

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