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Actual Books vs. E-books – Which is Better?

Updated on October 30, 2015

There is an ongoing debate on which is better: owning actual books or investing in an e-book reader and turning digital? Readers from all over the world have weighed in, some with sentimental reasons while others with more practical explanations. Before deciding, the pros and cons of each option should be checked out.

What are E-books?

To those who are not yet familiar with the term, e-books are electronic copies of the books available in print. These e-books come in various formats depending on the e-reader that will be used. E-books also come in the more common PDF format which makes it easy for book lovers to read them on computers, tablets, and even mobile phones.

A person wanting to convert his physical library into a digital one will have to invest in an e-book reader. Varieties are also present, but some of the more popular ones are Kindle and Nook. Think of this as the counterpart of your shelves. The reader will contain your e-books and these can also have an application that can be installed in desktops, tablets, and smartphones. The existence of the reader and the e-books makes it possible to have a digital library with you wherever you go. Your progress is synchronized across devices so that you can continue where you left off even when switching to a different reading device.

Advantages of Real Books over E-books

With every decision you make, you must first weigh the pros and cons. Before switching to a digital library, acquaint yourself with the advantages of real books. Real books have a list of advantages that e-books cannot promise:

  • Resale value – Unlike e-books, actual books can be resold. These copies, in time, gain value, especially if they are collector’s editions or first editions. They can also be given as gifts without worrying about copyright infringement. You are not making a copy of the book; you are selling/giving away the one that you already have.

  • Independence from power sources – With actual books, as long as there is light outside, you can read. There is no need to use batteries or electricity, as with the case with e-readers that need to be charged beforehand.

  • The smell and feel of actual reading – The use of e-books is indeed convenient in certain aspects, but the smell and feel of actual reading can only be achieved with a real book in hand. This is one of the arguments book lovers point out, that the authenticity of having that actual book and feeling yourself turn the individual pages is something that cannot be replicated with any device.

  • Easy reading in planes or under the sun – There is no need to turn off your reader along with your other devices when in a plane. You also don’t have to worry about the sun’s glare making it impossible to read because the naked eye can adapt better to sunlight than the screen of a reader can.

  • Autographs – An autographed book is a prized possession for any book lover. Having a book autographed is one of the reasons why many still opt for the physical title rather than the digital one. However, with the way things are progressing technologically, it will not be impossible to have digital copies signed in the near future.

  • Bookshelves – The presence of a bookshelf in a home not only makes the place look better, but it also shows the interests of the inhabitant even before starting a conversation. Some liken it to owning paintings displayed on the walls of a house—one can already see the artists and types of art the owner likes.

  • No distractions – When reading books in a reader or on applications available on your gadget or desktop, it is easy to get distracted by incoming mail or other notifications. These are not present in an actual book and you can immerse yourself completely in the world of what you are reading.

Advantages of E-books over Real Books

Leaving behind real books in favor of e-books is a hard decision to make. This is why you need to make sure that the e-book and digital reader can give you the things that you want. Even with the contents of the actual and digital books remaining the same, in some aspects, e-books prove to be on the winning end over real books:

  • Portability – Readers, along with every e-book that you have, can be taken with you anywhere. It doesn’t matter how many e-books you have, the weight of the reader will not change.

  • Weight – The weight of the portable reader in itself is not that heavy, which makes it a good companion on a long travel. You can read to your heart’s content without the additional baggage of however many books you decided you wanted to read.

  • User-friendliness – One sound argument on the preference of digital readers is the fact that you can change the settings of the font size and style so that you can find something you are more comfortable with. People with eye disabilities can have smaller or bigger fonts. This is simply not available when buying physical titles.

  • Storage – While bookshelves are pretty and decorative, the space it occupies in the house can be used for something else. It also makes moving houses easier. There will be no need to fill carton after carton with your books and carry the bookshelves out.

  • Price – E-books can be cheaper than actual books—thanks to the lack of printing costs. There are also some e-books that are free.

  • Adjustable lighting – The avid reader will have experienced reading in bed with poor lighting courtesy or a small lamp or reading light. With digital readers, lighting need not be a problem. There is an attached reading light to the reader so that you will have ample light while reading comfortably in bed.

  • Delivery speed. Purchasing an e-book almost comes with automatic delivery. Once payment is done, the book will be delivered electronically to your device. Meanwhile, having a physical book delivered might take days.

Can the Two Coexist?

The ongoing debate as to whether one should choose physical books or digital ones doesn’t see an end in the near future, but while it is happening, readers have the option to get the best of both worlds. Owning a book reader does not mean that you will have to get rid of all your books. Conversely, owning a bookshelf does not make you illegible to own a digital reader.

For the avid reader who also happens to be a traveler, there is the option to keep shelves at home and keep a reader for all those travels needing a good book as a companion. You can have digital copies of your favorite books even if you already own a physical copy. It will be like buying another copy, but the portability it provides should make up for the cost.

It’s All about Preference

Some frown upon the idea of switching to a digital library while others are all for it and are slowly starting to get rid of their libraries at home. There is no immediate need to decide. You can keep your books, digital or otherwise. These options exist to give you a more comfortable reading experience, and with that in mind, you are free to choose whichever you prefer to be better.

Those who prefer the look and feel and the memories associated with holding a physical book can continue to read in that manner, while those wanting to minimize clutter in their homes and progress to a more digital lifestyle are also free to do what they want. In the end, it’s all about preferences and continuing to read to enjoy.

Which side are you on?

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Submit a Comment
  • kgmonline profile imageAUTHOR

    Geri MIleff 

    4 years ago from Czech Republic

    Hey there, Fran. Glad your kids are enjoying the books. :) Reading books really does keep culture intact among people's treasuries of important things.

  • kgmonline profile imageAUTHOR

    Geri MIleff 

    4 years ago from Czech Republic

    Hey, @Lexine thanks for reading! :)

  • profile image


    4 years ago

    I bought the enirte collection of books for my kids, and also for my nephews who live in California. The kids' ages range from 4-10 yrs. old, and all of them enjoy the books. My kids find the books to be funny and fun to read. My husband and I appreciate the creative way that the books reinforce the Armenian language and culture to our kids. Great initiative by the author to capture in story-form what we as Armenian parents have experienced during our youth. As more and more generations of American-Armenians grow farther away from our foreign-born parents' customs and rituals, these books allow us to bring the concepts back and share the funny anecdotes with our children so that they can continue to exist in their repertoire of the Armenian culture.

  • profile image


    4 years ago

    Heck yeah ba-ebye keep them coming!

  • kgmonline profile imageAUTHOR

    Geri MIleff 

    5 years ago from Czech Republic

    @WillStarr, great insights! Holding a book in your hands has no match indeed. :)

  • kgmonline profile imageAUTHOR

    Geri MIleff 

    5 years ago from Czech Republic

    @mbuggieh, couldn't agree more. It's actually all about preference though e-books are more convenient these days. :)

  • WillStarr profile image


    5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    They both have their place. My Kindle enables me to conveniently carry a library with me, and that's wonderful. But there' s just something comforting about holding a book in my hands and turning pages that an e-book can't replicate.

  • profile image


    5 years ago

    I prefer print editions of books, but clearly, e-books are more environmentally-friendly and much more potentially user-friendly in terms of the possibilities for active reader engagement with e-books. I think e-books are particularly useful as textbooks for both formal (K through college) and informal learning.


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