Let’s Talk: E-readers vs. Physical Books

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Hello again, readers! This post is going to be the start of my new “Let’s Talk” series in which I’ll be writing my opinions on certain topics pertaining to the book world in hopes of generating discussion and also getting readers to think about these topics in new ways. I have several ideas lined up already for future posts, but I thought I would start with this. E-readers vs. physical books. Oh, the controversy. I love it! *rubs hands together* Let’s get right into it…

Before a week ago, I had never owned an e-reader. I never had a need for one, and I was always more concerned about building my physical library. It’s not that I had anything against e-readers, but it also never crossed my mind that I would ever get one. I only started thinking about them when I got my acceptance to study abroad in the UK for the fall semester of the upcoming 2015-2016 school year. I knew I would have limited space to begin with for packing, but I also knew I couldn’t go the three months abroad without reading at all. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m a re-reader. Which basically means that I like to own all my books just in case I decide to re-read them at some point. It happens a lot, actually. At this realization, my thoughts became something like, Uh oh. Maybe I will have to buy an e-reader after all…

And so I did. Simple as that.

Truthfully? I’m really enjoying it. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer physical books every single time, but it’s just so appealing to read a huge novel on a Kindle and not have to see how many hundreds of pages I still have left. I know that for many people, there’s something magical about feeling the pages of a book and smelling it’s newness or its long history. I get that. In fact, I wish that had been my reason for being hesitant because my hesitance with buying an e-reader was always something much shallower. I didn’t want one because I wanted to be able to show off how many books I owned. I wanted people to see that I read widely. I wanted people to see how many shelves I could fill. But now that I have 73 unread books sitting on my shelves making it impossible to ever decide what to read next, I think “hoarder” seems the accurate term for me.

Honestly, I think the booktube community is what did that to me. I loved (and still love) watching book hauls and monthly wrap-ups and reviews, and every time I would see someone review or haul a book that I thought seemed interesting, I would add it to my to-buy list. It’s comforting to know I’m not the only compulsive book-buyer, but it’s also somewhat scary to see how obsessed many booktubers (and myself) have become with the idea of owning and showcasing books. I could write a whole post on that idea (maybe I will in the future), but for now I’ll just leave it at that. I love booktube, and I appreciate it’s existence, but it’s the reason I always refused to get an e-book. I wanted the physical representation of having finished a book. It’s only recently that I’ve started to realize how crazy that is.

Now that I’ve confessed to the reason I refused to buy an e-reader and have since gotten over that reason, I think a Pros and Cons list is in order.

Pros of an e-reader:

  • You can fit thousands of books on a device that weighs less than a pound and will fit in your purse.
  • An e-book is cheaper than a physical (new) book.
  • Easier to travel with.
  • Makes it easier to eat and read at the same time.
  • Makes it easier to find a comfortable reading position.
  • You can adjust the brightness, font, font size, margin size, and line spacing depending on what works best with your eyes.
  • There is a built-in dictionary for words you don’t know the meaning of.
  • It’s impossible to lose your place.
  • Nobody can see your ugly book cover if you’re reading in public.
  • You can download books instantly – no driving to the bookstore or waiting for shipping.
  • Promotes reading for those intimidated by the size of a book. Also promotes reading in that you can adjust setting to make it seem like you are flying through pages (good for younger kids).

Pros of physical books:

  • Don’t have to spend money on the actual e-reader.
  • Physically appealing (smell, feel, sound of pages turning, etc).
  • Can easily be lent out to people.
  • Make good gifts.
  • You get to use cool bookmarks while reading.
  • You can get them autographed by the authors.
  • Makes it easier to flip from one section of a book to another.
  • Can throw them when you get upset without having to worry that they will get damaged.
  • Don’t need a charger.
  • Allow bookstores to remain open.
  • Create more of a personal reading experience.

Pretty convincing reasons on both sides, if you ask me. As I said before, I will always prefer physical books, but I think a lot of the hate against e-readers comes from not giving them a chance. I promise they aren’t as bad as you think (if you think they’re bad, that is). I know I don’t need to defend physical books. Many people will do that for me. Just do a Google search or talk to a fellow reader. But I will defend e-readers because not enough people do. So here it is:

The means by which I read doesn’t change the important parts of a story. It doesn’t change the plot. It doesn’t change the writing. It doesn’t change the characters. The substance is the same. And isn’t that why we read? To be transported by words, to be changed by a character, to gasp at a plot twist? An e-reader doesn’t take any of that away from me. Fine, it takes away the feel of a physical book, the smell, the sight of seeing it on a shelf, the ability to lend it out to others. But are all of those things more important than the story itself and how it makes you feel? For me, the answer is simple.

I am not pro-e-reader or pro-physical book. I am pro-reading. Period.

Now this is where the “Let’s Talk” part comes in. What are your opinions? How do you feel about e-readers? Do you use one? Will you ever or never buy one? Are you adamantly pro-physical books? Share your defense below!

Until next time, keep reading and writing! – Veronica

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3 thoughts on “Let’s Talk: E-readers vs. Physical Books

  1. You have raised such valid points! I completely agree with you. As long as people are reading, I don’t really mind what medium it is. That being said, I am personally not a fan of e-readers and am very much a paper and ink person. But that does not take away the fact that e-readers and the e-format itself have revolutionised reading culture in a big way. Books have been made more accessible and as you rightly pointed out, easier to take around. With a lot of libraries/archives not being particularly good at maintaining old books, digital archiving has also changed the face of book preservation in a big way. A lot of otherwise crumbling, vanishing manuscripts have attained immortality via digitisation and this is one point that no one can take away from the e-format.
    As a personal opinion, I feel both mediums can, and should, exist side by side and contribute towards the advancement of reading culture and its continued existence. Physical books are important in terms of the brand value, and market placement as well as reach and creativity (in many ways).
    Apart from this, taking a larger audience into account, not everyone has access to an e-reader or can afford the same. There are so many places where internet is not the revolutionary presence that it is in others. For a lot of people, the friendly neighbourhood/college/university library is the place to go for access to books. And it shall remain so for a long time to come.
    Physical books and e-books have their own merits and value and I think they are both equally important in today’s age.I for one am not intending to get an e-reader for myself anytime in the near future. However, never say never, as they say!

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  2. I’ve been using an e-reader almost exclusively for over five years, and love it’s versatility. I carry a library of over two thousand books, and while it truly is difficult to decide what to read next, I can always find something either in a genre I’m in the mood for, or an author I’ve been meaning to read. I still have over a thousand physical books, but I find the convenience of an e-reader overrides just about any reason to read the physical book. My wife is using one of my older e-readers to read 1Q84 by Murakami, and at over a thousand pages, there is no way she would want to lug around even the paperback edition.

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