Ebooks Vs. Paper Books: The Pros and Cons

What Makes a Book?

In essence, the two formats are very similar. Both allow you to do the most important thing - read a book. The text is the important thing, not the medium. Reading Sumerian legends on clay tablets can feel more "authentic", but doesn't necessarily enhance your understanding of the subject matter - just your experience.

Depending on the type of material you'd like to read / look at, however, one does have advantages over the other.


PLEASE NOTE: The 2012 addendum to this article you've all been asking for: Ebooks vs. Paper Books: The Pros and Cons - 2012. The article below is still very valid. The 2012 version gives you (as a reader) a different perspective, and a handy guide to when you should be buying an ebook reader.


The "Classic" Paper Book.

Paper books offer multiple advantages:

  • They're easily obtainable (Bookstores are everywhere).
  • They're easily portable.
  • They don't normally cause significant eye-strain.
  • They're cheap.

Okay, that much was obvious. Specifically, some types of content paper books are better for are:

  • Textbooks (or any books which are generally large-format).
  • Picture / Photo books.

Another factor to bear in mind is that paper books don't need power to function. They can be read anywhere with sufficient light, and are perfect travelling companions for exactly this reason.

The obvious cons are:

  • Paper books are bulky and heavy. Carrying more than 2-3 around can become a chore.
  • You need a light source to read them - another thing that you'll probably carry around.
  • If you make notes in them, those notes are there to stay (Yes, even pencil. You can always see the imprints, even if you erase every last shred of graphite).

The eBook

eBooks offer the following obvious advantages (assuming you have an ebook reader):

  • They're easily readable. Most readers offer zoom functions, letter resizing, and so forth.

  • They're easily portable. You can carry multiple books on one device.
  • They're much more environmentally friendly. You don't have to kill a few trees for each book, and let's not even talk about the ink. Recycling only goes so far.
  • Note-taking is much more powerful, and the notes you write can be found and referenced quickly and easily. And they don't have to be permanent.
  • Lighting conditions essentially become meaningless. Many readers incorporate display lighting allowing you to read whenever and wherever you like.

eBooks are useless without a reader. There are a few on the market, such as Amazon's Kindle, Jinke's Hanlin reader series, Sony's eReader series, and a few others. These are mentioned because they incorporate a technology called e-ink, which resembles paper very closely, and eliminates most eye-strain issues.

Some types of books especially suited for a reader are:

  • Novels or non-fiction books without many pictures.
  • Web-sites with html links and cross references.

The disadvantages of ebooks generally stem from the hardware you're reading them on. If it's a computer, you've got the normal computer problems which detract from your reading pleasure:

  • Eye strain and RSI. Long periods spent in front of a computer are healthy for nobody.
  • Power. Your average laptop has 4-6 hours of battery life.
  • Portability. Why lug a laptop around if you can simply carry a book?

The cons of the reader devices are a little more subtle:

  • You still have battery life to worry about.
  • Nasty software bugs in the reader can cause it to freeze up.
  • They're not very robust. If you spill <insert beverage of choice> on them, chances are that's the end of your reader. Not to mention scratches, dropping them, and so on.

In general, ebooks suffer from other cons as well:

  • They're not readily available, and format wars are making the decision to buy a reader very difficult. Will you go for the Amazon one, and buy books (only) there? Or the Sony?
  • The pricing model hasn't been worked out yet, causing some major discrepancies.

So What Do I Use?

Personally, I mix and match. I have an old Palm pilot and an ipod touch, and read novels, websites, blogs, and so forth on that. The selection of novels isn't very broad, but as I read public domain books most of the time, this doesn't really matter as I can simply download them.

Paper books are still my favorite though. They don't need batteries, and I can read them just about anywhere.

Time will tell whether ebooks are a viable alternative. At the moment, the whole thing is still in it's infancy, and a decent solution has yet to appear.

More by this Author


Comments 65 comments

thooghun profile image

thooghun 8 years ago from Rome, Italy

Very nice repsonse! I noticed the request but didn't think I could make a good hub of it. Just goes to show. My hat off to you sir!

THoog.


Coeus profile image

Coeus 8 years ago from All over the world and then some. Author

Thank you for that. Very kind. This is my first hub, and I hope it helps!


Coeus profile image

Coeus 8 years ago from All over the world and then some. Author

Darien: I had a look at your hub, and I think it's a great idea. Do you have a website or something where I can have a closer look at this?

At the moment, I think the best place for writers to publish first works is in magazines or online. The first gives them the opportunity to 'pitch' their writing to an established base of readers, and the second allows them to grow this group from scratch.

Once again, I'd love to hear more on this.


automated ebook software 8 years ago

Another thing is that when you live abroad and don't know the lanuage you can't get books... A reader is like having a book store in you pocket... I miss public libraries.


Belal 7 years ago

thank you but were could you buy them and could you tell more info

you welcome


Stephen Beck profile image

Stephen Beck 7 years ago

Coeus, great info on the pros and cons of paper vs. ebooks. Thanks for the highlights of different ebook readers. I would enjoy a review of the different readers and learning more about e-ink if you have time for another hub on this topic.


GregDea profile image

GregDea 7 years ago from Darwin, Australia

Super wrap up of the two kinds. I've written my own book on Ankle Injuries - completely researched and experienced as a physiotherapist for 9 years with a Masters degree in Sports Physiotherapy, but I didn't publish it because most information is free on the topic anyway. I think I'll release it to a free ebook site, and assess the response. I also recently launched a site selling both ebooks and paperback. If you're interested its http://wfm.ebookvendingmachine.com


Judy Cullins profile image

Judy Cullins 7 years ago from La Mesa, CA

eBooks are great for non fiction informational materials. Good comparison :)


Louise 6 years ago

Thank you very much. I just saw the ereader on tv and was not sure what it was. Now I know. I love to read books and wanted to know if the ereader would be cost effectiv than paper back. You helped me with my decision on buying one. I think I'll wait and see if the price will go down enough for me to buy an ereader.


isha 6 years ago

what will be the next level to this ebook?i would like to know the next level technology to this ebook


bre 6 years ago

good advice on the cons i was working on a project and it helped


alex  6 years ago

i have in ebook sony pocket edition and every thing you said does match up


alex  6 years ago

i have in ebook sony pocket edition and every thing you said does match up


Michael 6 years ago

A very nice article. I would like to point out that textbooks and picture/photo books are not necessarily better on paper unless we allow that ebooks must be straight reproductions of printed matter. If not then the multimedia nature of ebooks will make them the option of choice for textbook and picture/photo book publishers.

Your comment that the permanence of notes in paper books is a con seems to me inappropriate. Many people put notes in books, as I do, in the sure knowledge that 10, 15, or 20 years from now when I pick up that book to re-read it, I will be able to see what I was thinking at an early stage of my life. If the notes were easily lost, or erased by an "upgrade" it would be a tragedy.

The statement: "They're easily readable. Most readers offer zoom functions, letter resizing, and so forth." also gives me pause. If a paper book is well designed it is, at least for the moment, always more easily readable than a ebook. As for "zoom functions, letter resizing, and so fourth", these things are a crutch that is implemented because of the current state of ebooks. Eventually the market will settle on a or a few preferred screen sizes for reading devices (be they tablets or eInk readers). Therefore I see in the future buying ebooks based on the screen size for which they are formatted or in "large print" if that is more preferable. Or, in which publishers package multiple "versions" formatted for different screen sizes/reader capabilities, in one package.

As for myself, at the moment I am still a dedicated print book reader. The fact that each one comes with its own "screen" sized specifically for the content, is a large part of that. And a well designed book is a thing of great beauty.

However, after seeing the iPad version of Theodore Gray's book "The Elements" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHiEqf5wb3g) I can't feel my resistance to giving up my paper books crumbling.


Liz 6 years ago

A good article. Both formats certainly have their pros and cons, although I am definitely a printed book girl. I don't just love reading, I love books. I want to be able to hold them in my hand and display them on my shelf, you know. And as a writer I definitely want to be able to hold my own book in my hands - seeing it on an e-reader screen isn't much different than seeing it on my word processor. Ebooks I think are actually better for information books where your main goal is to spread knowledge quickly. I have my own article on this subject on Squidoo.


labon 6 years ago

An excellent debate - any views regarding texts books will be welcome as I am just considering what would be welcomed by students


charles toftoy 6 years ago

Printed books must always remain. Ebooks are OK, but should never take over the industry from printed books. Think of the logging industry. Paper items would soar in price(paper towels, toilet tissue,other.


MrsJones 6 years ago

This has helped me immensely- I was doing a research paper on this exact topic and your article has given me great insight. Thank you!

P.S. Paper books for life! ;)


unknown 6 years ago

i think this is a very wonderful web site!!!!!! i will use this on a lot of stuff!!!!(: i hope all of the schools will get technology for everyone that would be AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!(: i hope everyone has a wonderful day at school, work, and home!!!!!! love to all, unknown


kirutaye profile image

kirutaye 5 years ago from London, UK

I currently download eBooks onto my smartphone and also still buy paperbooks. I am holding off buying an eBook reader since i can read ebooks on my phone.

Useful hub. Thanks for sharing


Robert 5 years ago

It is a major advantage to be able to change the font size. I have some old classics that have a tiny font on yellowing paper, and it is hard to read. But on the e-book, it is easy to read. OTOH, if bookstores go away, that is a loss, but they are already being driven out by Barnes and Noble and Borders. If paper books go away, reading could go from being a cheap hobby to being an expensive luxury. Right now, you can read for free by borrowing books from the library, or you can pick up used books for a dollar or even less. But if all that is available is ebooks, you have the up-front cost of the reader, and if you are low-income, you may not be able to afford it. One of the major upsides of a paper book is that paper stays written. In principle, e-books could be sanitized and the original sent down the memory hole. On the other hand (there are a lot of hands) old obscure books that were once hard to find are now easy to find in e-book format.


Rachel  5 years ago

I agree! my favourite are plain paper books although i still like eReaders or downloading books on my laptop.


anonymous 5 years ago

it was very detailed and described both sides of each topic thoroughly. Congratulations.


Carol Siles 5 years ago

Either I mis-typed or the machine did not pick up all that I typed of my name. Please revise it to Carol Smiles.


Carol Siles 5 years ago

I have self published 3 books and now have PublishAmerica marketing a 4th book. I had thought to cut out the middle-man and start an e-book business of my own, but am not encouraged to do so after reading this site. However, I am also discouraged from continuing to try to find a publisher to print and market the other books I have ready, due to the fact that so many publishers will not accept manuscripts from unknown authors. Others put you on hold for years and don't even bother to send rejection slips if they actually do read a manuscript or portion submitted for their perusal. The whole "getting published and having the public read your work" process is frustrating and very discouraging for new authors.


yoman1701 5 years ago

Thanks for the info Coeus!


Anj 5 years ago

Hi there! Your hub is very useful for this topic. I actually wrote an editorial about this topic also and used quotes and references from this. Of course, appropriate credit goes to you. :) Kudos!


M.K.BHATIA 5 years ago

Innovations will go on bringing changes but they cannt change Wife-Husband relations. Printed Books are just like wives or vice-versa. You love them, keep them close to your heart, open them as many times as you can, kiss them, feel proud to have them in your bag. They are the true friends whom you feel proud to keep in your reading room or bedroom. No comparison. Printing Books will never fade away.


Snuffles 5 years ago

Don't fool yourself..Ebooks means they can resell you the same content over and over again..Plus you don't own the book either..you only license it. So soon they can delete it whenever they want. See the example of how amazon remotely deleted copies of a book which people had purchased.


Cheap Nursing Textbooks 5 years ago

I find note taking to be rather cumbersome on eReaders. I have owned a Nook (older version) and a Kindle 3. The Kindle is easier to notate, but certainly no easier than using a piece of paper and a highlighter. I'm a fan of permanence, I guess :)


cale27 5 years ago

i was doing a speech for school, this really helped!!!


photomass 5 years ago

give me a paper book any day! This article also conveniently ignored the cost to environment in terms of the metals and plastics used in production of kindles etc. paper is and can be recycled more and inks can be much more environmentally friendly. E-books have a place, but essentially it is motivated by profit!


Coeus profile image

Coeus 5 years ago from All over the world and then some. Author

photomass - that's true to a certain degree. However, how many books can you carry on the ereader? The environmental cost of processing the paper alone far outweighs that of an ereader's whole life-span.


kcyow 5 years ago

Coeus, how long do you think the batteries and the e-readers can/will last? Do you think they can last for more than 5 or even 3 years? Do you think the disposal or re-cycling of them are easy, cheap or harmless?


kcyow 5 years ago

Coeus, 3 more important/crucial points that you've missed in your comparison:-

01. How sad or frustrated would you feel if you lose paper book as compared to losing your e-reader?

02. Hence, would you bring your e-reader *everywhere* you go or put/leave them in *any place* such as the side of a pool or on the beach?

03. Full text search function of ebooks is *invaluable*, especially for people who are "working" on information/knowledge!!!

I've to stress again here that zooming is a VERY important function of e-reader! You'll really appreciate it when you're old, OR, after reading on your computer screen for many many years! So, never read/stare at your computer screen for long hour(s), remember to have breaks/rests in between!!!


Hunter 5 years ago

I like textbooks bett


Abdi 5 years ago

i like laptop better than anything


jesse 5 years ago

laptop are better than books by far


sarah 4 years ago

you wont want to use your ereader in the tub, but you can with a real book. If you happen to drop it in, most likely it will still be legible, or you only have to replace that one book and not the whole system.


Collin 4 years ago

Am doing an article for my school newspaper and this helped


J E Gilbertson 4 years ago

It would break my heart o see an end to published paper books. I don't want them to go the way of the hand written letter. An e book can never be a keepsake. The reader can not feel the paper or the weightiness of the e book. I don't want technology to rule every precious thing.


cassandra carter 4 years ago

this helped sooo much!!:) thx so much,i have to do a debate at skool and this was my topic thanks to this i got a 100% in the debate:D


Ami 4 years ago

To J E Gilbertson:

As much as I love my eReader and use my computer and email, I still write letters by hand and mail them to people via the postal service when acceptable and needed. I also have some books that are just not as satisfying to read as an e-file and my bookshelves at home are filled to the brim with printed books I've had for years. Anyway, believe me, you are not the only one who still writes letters by hand amidst reading an eBook or email-reading/writing world.

~Ami


cassandra carter 4 years ago

I've been doing a debate in school and my topic is; books are just as important as electronics. And im affermative,so this information really,really elped me thank you soo much.


cassandra carter 4 years ago

helped*


____ 4 years ago

:)Good:)


kate 4 years ago

I like it a lot .Lots of information .Thanks


Catherine 4 years ago

Hi this site heped me with my debate at school.Thanks a lot......Hope to see more:P


anne 4 years ago

i agree with your debate and i do prefer a book myself


cat 4 years ago

thnx! this really helped a lot


KANISHK GAUR 4 years ago

ITS FANTASTIC NOW I CAN PREPARE FOR MY DEBATE COMPETION


Archit Jain 4 years ago

Thanks to the sight. It helped in my school's group discussion


eric-mikols 4 years ago

Nice Hub. I do both but you do a good job of laying out the pros and cons. I agree that the ereaders are a little iffy but I think they're making a strong augment for themselves.


Jessica Kim 4 years ago

Thanks! I'm a students. I using this page as evidence. It is a nice Hub!

★★★★★


vrishti kaushik 4 years ago

it was very nice whatever you wrote was wonderfull


Eve Ainsworth profile image

Eve Ainsworth 4 years ago

As a reader I enjoy both. I love being able to download samples at a click of a button. Read on holiday. It's so easy and flexible.

But I still love going into a bookshop and holding a book.

As a writer, The Blog of Maisy Malone http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Blog-Maisy-Malone-eboo... works well on a kindle format and I'm hoping will appeal to readers. For that reason, I think ebooks are great for getting certain books to market that traditional publishing might miss.


Anonymous 3 years ago

The point about power needed for e-books is a good point. If the power of the device runs out while reading, that would be very frustrating.


hi 3 years ago

i heart books


iheartbooks 3 years ago

The pros and cons of both items are both helpful in the process of purchasing either ebooks or paper books.


Matto 3 years ago

E books are better


Kumi0429 3 years ago

Hello. It's very useful to have my students read this essay of Ebooks VS Paper Books. (I'm an English teacher in Japan) May I use this essay as a reading material for my TESOL students? If it's OK, can I revise it easier about several words for them?


YoungMistake 3 years ago

A well-done comparison and contrast! What I love about books are their scents and papers. On the other hand, I love the built-in dictionary in the eReaders. I, as well, mix and match but I still prefer books.


redfive profile image

redfive 3 years ago from California, USA

It's the sound of the paper as you flip through, the progress you realise as you read on, and just having a collection of physical books etc.

Thanks for writing this hub, pal! Voted up :)


theBAT profile image

theBAT 2 years ago

I think ebooks are slowly changing the way we read. It may be a matter of time that paper books are no longer seen in libraries and carried by students. Yet no matter what, having a real book and having it signed by the author is way much better than an ebook.


Sally 19 months ago

I don't think that classic books are easily obtainable , easily portable or cheap. Because all of the paper books that you buy add up to the price that you could buy an Ipad. And you can't just find bookstores anywhere but with Ipads all you need is wifi and you can buy books at home. And I think that Ipads are easily portable because for example if you are going to a sleepover you could fit 10 books, youtube, facebook and instagram and even more in just a Ipad.

Those were just my opionins :)

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