The Pros & Cons of E-Books versus Traditional Books

My First Impressions of E-Books

Over the years, especially throughout college, I have developed some opinions on e-books versus traditional books. For a long time, I was resistant to the idea of e-books. I’m not entirely sure why. Reading on an iPad or Kindle seemed very impersonal and cold, especially when iPads and the like first came out. 

In high school, I had a Kindle, but didn’t use it too much. It was nice because I could read it in the sun, because it had that anti-glare screen. In college, though, I began to make the shift from paper books to e-books. With my English classes, I was carrying around multiple novels at a time — or at least reading multiple at a time — and began to understand the appeal of an e-reader. 

Around the middle of freshman year, I got an iPad. From then until recently, I read mostly e-books, whether they were from the Apple iBook store or Kindle app. I was able to get many of my assigned readings on one of the e-reader platforms, and although I preferred to be able to highlight and note a paper volume, the ease of the iPad became more important to me. 

I used the iPad for school readings for some time before running into the issue of page number cites. How do you cite a page when you can manipulate font size? At least while I was in college, there wasn’t a true fix for this. My professors were generally fine with students noting the chapter for references, as opposed to pages, but that’s far from ideal. 

This was a small issue, but an issue nonetheless. 

Good & Mad by Rebecca Traister

Current Sentiments

Since then, I’ve read a few dozen iBooks, some of which I highlighted and noted, others which I just skimmed or read without annotating. 

Recently, however, I’ve switched back towards traditional paper books, largely for the same reason I was resistant to e-books in the first place: the sensation of reading a paper book, turning the pages, and marking one’s place makes the reading process more enjoyable.

Thinking about this change in preference has made me catalogue the pros and cons of both types of reading for myself. 

The Pros

The Pros of Traditional Books

  • Paper books have a special, tactile feel to them
  • Paper books can easily be shared with friends or family
  • With a traditional book, one is able to easily flip back to a page to review an excerpt 
  • A reader may annotate traditional paper books directly in the margins

The Pros of E-books 

  • Apple iBooks has many of the literary Classics available for free
  • With e-books, readers are able to search for a quote, passage, or phrase like any other internet search
  • With an e-book, a reader may carry multiple books at once
  • E-books can be opened on multiple devices to the same spot
  • Getting a new e-book is an instantaneous process; readers can pick up a new book instantly

The Cons

The Cons of Traditional Books

  • Traditional paperbacks can be expensive
  • Traditional books, especially hardcovers, can be heavy or cumbersome to carry around
  • If not disposed of properly — IE: donated or gifted — traditional books can wind up in landfills as waste
  • Paper books can clutter homes and office

The Cons of E-books

  • It’s easy to spend a lot of money on e-books that are purchased, forgotten about, and never read
  • Reading on a screen can cause eye strain
  • Sometimes the page markers glitch and lose the last saved place in the book
  • E-books can feel really impersonal and cold, especially when reading the Classics (in my opinion)
  • E-books cannot be shared easily
Stack of books featuring Michelle Obama's "Becoming" book, among others.

Overall, I’ll Stick With…

…A mix of both. I’m in the mindset to read traditional books that I haven’t read or, in some cases, re-read old paper favorites, but I don’t doubt that I’ll turn back to eBooks from time to time. I have purchased a number of great books from Kindle or the Apple store, so those are definitely worth revisiting. As noted in the pros of eBooks, it is always nice to be able to download a new volume instantly, especially if you’re traveling or stuck waiting somewhere. The convenience cannot be overlooked. Plus, if I am carrying a smaller bag, my current read doesn’t always fit in my purse, where my iPad may. 

Like all things, there are good things and bad things to both mediums of writing. What’s important, though, is that we all keep reading, whichever format we choose.

Which format do you prefer for your reading — traditional paper books or e-books? What makes you like one option more than the other?