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Are Paper Books Obsolete?

Updated on August 21, 2014

Will Paper Books Become Obsolete Relics as Ebooks Grow in Popularity?

Is it true that the Kindle and other ebook readers will make books unnecessary? Many people seem to believe this. I'm told that ebooks are the solution to the high cost of school textbooks. I hear from enthusiastic Kindle owners that they are very content to get rid of the bookcases and keep their libraries in a small and handy Kindle. I'm told that when you "turn the pages" in an ebook reader it's almost like the real thing. I'm told how many trees will be saved if we use ebooks instead of paper ones. I've even looked at someone's Kindle. But I'm not ready to jump into ebooks yet. The idea of keeping my library in a small ebook reader delights me, but I really wonder if my library would be permanently preserved in such a format. So far I'm not convinced that switching is a great idea. What do you think?

I took all the photos used in this lens except the product photos which come from affiliate links.

Sarah showing Mr. Cat a book about cats.
Sarah showing Mr. Cat a book about cats.

I prefer paper books.

Here's why.

When my children were young, there was nothing quite like sitting between them on the sofa with an open picture book in my lap as they snuggled up and we read it together. I don't think the Kindle would provide that same experience. Because picture books often have one picture on a double-page spread, it would be hard to see the art as it was intended in an eBook reader. Artists would have to change the way they illustrate books, and we'd be the poorer for it.

Would I want to keep my library in an electronic format? I don't think so. A Kindle might be OK for reading mysteries or other books I may only want to read once. But what about books I might want to keep forever? Since I started using a computer, we have gone from large floppy disks to not so large, not so floppy disks, and then to CDs, and now DVDs and all the various portable storage drives. Should I assume that eBook technology will not change and make my present eBook reader obsolete? If the technology changes, what happens to my library? How long will it be before I can't find any thing to play my old cassettes on or to use to change them to CDs or MP3? I see what advances in technology are doing to my music library. How do I know that wouldn't happen to an electronic book library?

As I think of children again, I am reminded that they have a lot of activities in their lives that compete with reading. Why might they choose to read? How about attractive and inviting books on their bookshelves or on the coffee table just begging to be picked up? Often the cover of a book tempts us to pick up a book and examine it. We start turning pages, and before you know it, we start reading. Why do libraries and bookstores keep as many books as possible facing out? Because book covers create interest in a book. Would it be the same to just look at lists of books to download? Even if we read a review and see a cover on a computer screen, it's not the same as picking up a real book and skimming it. And one has to be at some sort of computer screen to acquire such a book to even browse. Even though kids love their computers and spend a lot of time at their monitors, handling a book satisfies more of the senses than just the eyes.

How do eBook readers work in the bathtub or hot tub? What happens if you drop one in the water?

These are just some of my concerns. I'm told that the younger generation does not have such concerns. But it's hard for me to envision another format as practical as a book which needs no batteries or recharging, will not be destroyed if dropped hard on a concrete floor or in the bathtub, and you can take a book to the table without worrying about a spilled glass of milk or ice tea causing permanent destruction. I don't need to worry about the books on my shelves becoming suddenly unreadable, or, worse yet, just disappearing, as I'm told a certain book did on the Kindle once.

Would my daughter have done this with a Kindle?

Do you currently own a Kindle or other ebook reader?

Are you using an ebook reader for everything you want to read now? Or do you use it primarily for books you only want to read once. If you don't have a Kindle yet and want one,

you can search for a Kindle here

How do you use your ebook reader?

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Have I Failed to Convince You to Stick to Paper Books? - Then How About a Kindle Fire

It's compact and powerful. No, I don't have one. I haven't converted yet. But were I to go electronic, I'd want to have more than just an ebook reader. I'd want something with the power of a tablet. That would be the Kindle Fire.

Do you want to replace your library with an ebook reader?

I'll keep my library in paper. I can't imagine replacing my favorite books with ebooks. I want to be table to read fearlessly at the table if I find myself eating alone. If I had grandchildren, I'd want to read to them from large, colorful, picture books, cuddled together on the sofa. I want to browse my cookbooks for inspiration in the kitchen. I'll take a paper book anytime.

Do you want to replace your paper books with an ebook reader, or do you still want to keep some of your books in paper?

What happens when people forget how to read?

Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair
Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair

Of course, we're not talking about forgetting how to read by replacing paper books with ebooks. But when our libraries become all electronic, just what will happen to all the books now sitting on our shelves? Perhaps this book will give you some ideas.

In Triple Creek, TVs were so popular that almost everyone in the town had forgotten how to read. People loved their TVs more than anything and watched them all the time. That is, everyone but Eli's Aunt Charlotte. He called her Aunt Chip, and she was the only person in town who did not have a television and had never owned one. She had been the town librarian until no one used the library anymore, and after a while even forgot what it was for. Finally the city fathers had it torn down and replaced with a giant TV tower. And Aunt Chip took to her bed and vowed to stay there.

Eli loved his Aunt Chip and visited her often. She told wonderful stories, and when he asked where she got them, she said from books. That puzzled Eli. It was then that Aunt Chip discovered that not only Eli, but the whole town, could not read. They used books as building materials for fences, walls, doorstops, plates, and even to shore up the dam. For almost anything but reading. Aunt Chip shows Eli the inside of a book and explains about writing:

'Now look at this. Those are words. They tell about ideas, dreams, and feelings. They take you to places far from here. They show you how to be fair and just, and sometimes show your what happens when you're not. Books are a treasure. All you need is the key.'

'The key?' Eli asked.

'The key! Knowin' these words and their meanings,' she answered softly. 'It's called readin.'

Eli begs Aunt Chip to teach him to read, and she does. Soon his classmates discovered that he could "hear" things that they couldn't. He explained that he wasn't "hearing," but reading. They wanted him to read more. And he took them to Aunt Chip, who taught them to read, too. Soon there weren't enough books to go around, so the children started retrieving them from the places they had been stashed. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending upon your point of view) one book was pulled from the wall of books holding up the dam. I'll leave the rest to your imagination, but by the end the children have taught their parents how to read again and Aunt Chip lived to preside over the new town library.

Buy this book at

Navigating an eBook - It's difficult in comparison to paper.

Kindle X-Ray Screen
Kindle X-Ray Screen

Since I got my Kindle Paperwhite 2 eBook reader in December, 2013, I've downloaded and read a lot of books on it. I love it for reading in bed and when I'm having to wait while running errands or waiting for meetings to start. But I'm not as happy when I'm trying to write book reviews and I want to find passages I've highlighted or double-check the name of a character. In a paper book you can physically thumb through it until you find what you need.

On my Kindle, I have to take notes on paper as to what the locations numbers I've bookmarked are about. I have to bookmark every page I think I might want to come back to. Using the X-Ray feature only shows one page of results and I can't seem to scroll down to see the rest of what's there. Maybe this is a defect or a malfunction, but it's sure frustrating. For some books, the X-Ray function is grayed out and can't be used to navigate at all. If I want to write about what's in the book, I definitely prefer paper. Navigation is much quicker and more precise.

I took this photo of the X-Ray screen on my Kindle. The black line on the left is supposed to scroll down, but it doesn't work on mine, so I can only see the little that is there.

Would they have trusted me with an ebook at this age?

Would they have trusted me with an ebook at this age?
Would they have trusted me with an ebook at this age?

Let me know what you think about paper books versus ebooks. Which do you prefer and why? Do you envision paper books becoming obsolete in the future?

Here's another place to express yourself. - Please let me know you stopped by.

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    • Wednesday-Elf profile image


      5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      If paper books were to disappear, the world would be a sorry place indeed. There is just something irreplaceable about the feeling of holding a paper book in your hands, thumbing back through the pages to find something you needed to recheck, and reading in bed or while eating a solitary meal. And simply walking through my home looking at the books lined up in the many bookcases in each room holding books I've collected, read and reread for many years is like being surrounded by a group of special friends.

      As far as eReaders are concerned, my 12-year-old grandson started 7th grade this year and ALL his school books and assignments are on a school-furnished laptop computer. This makes sense to me - saving schools money in books and saving kids from having to lug a bunch of school books back & forth every school day. But I'll never go to an eReader for MY reading pleasure. Give me a paper book any day!

    • BarbRad profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      5 years ago from Templeton, CA

      David, I certainly agree. Ebooks are OK for casual reading, but they are hard to navigate and don't always work right when you want to look up something. It's a pain when I'm trying to review an ebook. For any kind of scholarly work, there's nothing like paper.

    • David Paul Wagner profile image

      David Paul Wagner 

      5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Paper books vs. ebooks? In my opinion what suits your needs and circumstances might not suit mine - and so both formats should remain available. Personally I am a lover of the printed word which I see as still offering many unique advantages. However, I am afraid that the disappearance of paper books is a "done deal". In many countries libraries and bookstores are downsizing and often closing down. We are constantly reassured that there are digital versions on the Internet of all the paper books that were once available through those libraries and bookstores (actually, there are definitely not). A fortnight ago the Sydney Morning Herald published a major article entitled "Library book dumping signals a new dark age". That title perhaps says it all.

    • Zut Moon profile image

      Zut Moon 

      8 years ago

      I think paperback books will always exist but are going to take a backseat to eBooks. But what do I know ... I'm Canadian ... LOL

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      8 years ago from La Verne, CA

      It is still too early to know what I may be doing a decade from now, as far as storing books. Will I have them in e-reader or still all over the house and attic? We'll see. I have read one book on a kindle. It was not a new thrill, so I am only slightly warm to them.

    • jethrosas profile image


      8 years ago from Philippines

      We all know that everything has an end.. So this paper book stuff also. But I hate to imagine one day, every paper books are all replaced by ebooks just like what happened to VHS, cassette tapes, typewriters and others..

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      l think books for children should still be on paper because the pictures are so important. However, I am totally sold on e-books because of their portability. When we moved into an RV we gave away almost all of our paper books. There just is no room for them. But I take my Kindle to bed with me every night and happily read whatever I want. It is going to be rather expensive to replace some of my favorites, but I find I don't want as many as I thought I would. I also like that it saves paper. I think we will still have paper books for a long time, but more and more people will move over to e-books.

    • Wendy Leanne profile image

      Wendy Leanne 

      8 years ago from Texas

      I love to have a real book in my I can jot notes in the margin, one that I can dog-ear pages with fantastic quotes, etc.*~Blessed~* by a certified English teacher.

    • Paul Ward profile image


      8 years ago from Liverpool, England

      A nerd writes: paper is a naturally-occurring non-volatile storage medium! e-Readers have their place bit for me it;s a very subordinate place.

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 

      8 years ago from So Cal

      I will get my child a Kindle for the core books he needs to read for school. There are some history books that will also be added. However, for bedtime reading (even at 11-yrs-old) he and his grandfather still read together and it has to be a paper book. All bedtime reading and reading for pleasure has to be paper. The world is not lost yet!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      i'm still on the paper books side though the Kindles are tempting

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      8 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Nice look at paper books. I love them. Always have. I can't image I'd ever replace real books entirely.

    • Hedremp profile image

      Sandra Wilson 

      8 years ago from Wilson Education Resource Centre

      I agree, you can never have too many books and it is nice to have so many options on how to read them! I like to clutter my shelves and fill my kindle!

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 

      8 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      anything electronic could be dust one day..but paper books have lived thousands of years..I think this trend will continue :)

    • Serenity30 profile image


      8 years ago

      I could never give up real books...I love the feel especially the smell of old books.nice lens!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      I'm a book lover and that means just the feel of the book, the smell of the paper, the whole experience of reading a book is special to me. I think I'd use an ebook reader for the convenience when traveling, but won't give up my book collection.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens. I can't imagine giving up my "real" books. They probably will become obsolete someday, but I hate to see that day come. I have a lens on this too-- it's called "To 'e' Or Not To 'e'?" if you want to visit. As for me--I'll hang onto my books as long as I can!

    • CruiseReady profile image


      8 years ago from East Central Florida

      I still like paper books, but sure love the idea that it's usually cheaper to download one.

    • BarbRad profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      8 years ago from Templeton, CA

      @BarbRad: Yikes! I see I just called my mother a "moused." I wish I could train my fingers not to make these mistakes behind my back.

    • hsschulte profile image


      9 years ago

      I have been toying with the idea of purchasing a Kindle. However, I know that I don't need one. Did you know that you can download software from Amazon that lets you read books in Kindle format for FREE? Finally, I just love my books. I like to have them cluttering up my home. I like the way they smell. It's too easy to lose digital files.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image


      9 years ago

      You were SOOOOO cute!

    • BarbRad profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      9 years ago from Templeton, CA

      @MargoPArrowsmith: Gee! I don't know what to say. (Blushes) When my moused to take me out, I attracted attention in markets and such places because Shirley Temple was all the rage back then, and people thought I looked like her.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      What a great lens. I have many of the same thoughts as you. I don't have an e-reader and still enjoy regular books. I don't think I would ever get an e-reader, though if I could ever afford it I would get an iPad. Not for books, but because I could use it for so many of things. But I've never tried an e-reader either.Thanks for stopping by my blog-button lens. :)

    • BarbRad profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      9 years ago from Templeton, CA

      @FanfrelucheHubs: Thanks for your comment. Most tomfolio sellers ship outside the United States. Several are, themselves, Canadians. If you go to the home page and click on Booksellers on the top right, you will see a list of all our booksellers in order of country. There are presently seven of them in Canada. Most sellers consolidate shipments of more than one book, so when I find a book I want, I try to see if the same seller has something else I want to get more bang from my postage buck. When I ship to Canada, for example, I can normally send orders for up to eight or nine workbooks in one flat rate box. Regular hardcover books can also be consolidated, but flat rate boxes won't hold quite as many of them. If you are in doubt as to the real cost of postage, since the shopping cart sometimes overestimates my cost, just email the dealer and he or she will give you a quote.

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 

      9 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      Thank you for the link to tomfolio. It is news to me. I am going to check them out, hopefully some of their sellers ship outside the uSA


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