Ebooks versus Paper Books…Which is Better?


It has become one of the most hotly debated topics of the decade in the book lover’s community. Shall we remain loyal to timeless the ink and paper book? After all, who doesn’t love the smell of old books in a quaint bookstore, or on the flip side, the smell of fresh ink when you crack open a brand new book? However, the benefits of an ebook can’t be ignored. After all, it’s really nice not to have to precariously balance a flashlight while reading under the covers so you don’t keep your roommate awake…again. And who can deny the amazing advantage of carrying 100+ books with you in your backpack, especially on a small device that weighs less than one pound? It makes air travel easier, that’s for sure. There are thousands of articles debating this very topic, however I felt compelled to throw in my two cents, because, well, why not?

The argument for the ebook

I used to be firmly against the ebook. I was staunchly anti-ebook, and I made it known. I sneered at those who used them. How could they turn their backs on the tried and trusted paperback? How could they fall into the clutches of the technological age? Then, last fall, my life was changed forever by my Freshman English professor. Being the technologically advanced university that Virginia Tech is, they’re constantly looking for ways to improve the learning experience for their students. Luckily for me, my class was selected for an iPad learning pilot program. We were given our very own iPad for the semester, and told we could do anything we wanted with it. Anything…well anything legal of course. So, in typical college student fashion, did we use it for productive learning? I wish I could say yes, but for the first week, I used it to binge watch Criminal Minds and scroll through Tumblr late at night. Yeah, I was a model student (actually, I got an A in that class, so don’t judge me too harshly). As fate would have it, I was introduced to NetGalley at the exact same time I received this iPad. NetGalley is a key platform for ARCs, and I was a new-blogger. I had been approved for several ARCs, and was itching to begin them. The catch? NetGalley only provides eARCs…so the only way to read them is digitally. Luckily, I held the solution to that in my hand: my new iPad. It was at this critical turning point that I realized the beautiful pros of an e-reader. In fact, before the semester was even up, I had ordered a used iPad mini, which is still to this day one of my most prized possessions. I don’t leave my house without 4 things: my keys, wallet, phone, and iPad mini.

E-books are a beautiful thing. You can access an entire library at any time and any place. Stuck in the morning line at Starbucks? Time to whip out that trusty e-reader. Long commute to work on the subway or metro? Grab your e-reader and catch up on the latest releases. The even more glorious thing? You can carry as many books as your book lover’s heart desires in your purse, backpack, or satchel, and it weighs less than a pound. Trust me, I was that kid in high school that always had at least 3 books in my backpack and trust me, when combined with my school books, my back hurt more often than not. My mother was convinced I was going to end up with scoliosis. She was right about my eyesight getting weaker with my habits of reading in the dark, so the jury is still out on the scoliosis issue. With my iPad though, my backpack didn’t threaten me with the possibility of scoliosis.

It’s also a lot easier to get comfortable while reading on an e-reader. Gone are the days of awkwardly positioning yourself so that the pages don’t flutter closed, or balancing that heavy paperback so that it does’t fall on your face. Trust me, when it does, it is painful. Then there’s the whole availability thing. The Kindle store will never run out of that book you’ve been hunting for. You can purchase that new release you’ve been breathlessly waiting for at the chime of midnight, instead of waiting hours for the bookstore to open, or a few days if the bookstore doesn’t immediately stock up on that particular book. Anywhere, anytime. Literally.

Ebooks are God’s gift to book bloggers

Seriously, my iPad mini has made my life as a book blogger so much easier. I can highlight my heart away and not worry about ruining my favorite book. Instead of needing to keep a notebook handy at all times, I can take digital notes in my ebook. I can bookmark a page without permanently scarring my precious books with dog-eared pages.  It also opens up a whole world of eARCs, which is a crucial aspect of success for a book blogger. Print copies of ARCs are very limited,  making them hard to come by. If you’re a beginning blogger, you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be frequently turned down by publishers when you request print copies (it’s sad and painful, I know). However, eARCs are virtually free for publishers to distribute. Yes, there are still limited copies, however it is a lot easier to access eARCs for new bloggers. I’ll never forget the first time I was approved for a book (Tabula Rasa) on NetGalley. It felt like such a huge personal success, and it wouldn’t have been possible without ARCs.

Even eARCs aren’t handed out like candy. As a book blogger, you need a constant supply of books to review so you can keep your blog fresh with new content. It’s no secret that books, especially new releases, are wicked expensive. Your average hardback is $18, and paperbacks are anywhere from $8-$15. That adds up pretty quickly. Ebooks though? They’re usually $10 max, and that includes brand new releases. Older books, or not as well known books can cost as little as $3. Talk about saving money! Yes, there is always the library, but if you’re in anything similar to my situation, it’s not that easy. The nearest good library is about 45 minutes away. As someone who works full time, runs a blog, and is enrolled full time in college, that’s a lot of driving time. It’s located downtown, so parking is terrible. Then you have to keep in mind that in order for the long drive to be worth it, you need to grab at least 10 books to make it worth the trip, which is a lot to carry around. And don’t forget about late fees, which can add up quickly and painfully.

But what about good old print books?

There’s something very special about old-fashioned books. Sitting in a cafe, sipping your favorite coffee while flipping through the pages of a good book is an extremely therapeutic experience. Reading an ebook on the beach or in a park will never be as satisfying as holding a paper and ink book in your hands. There’s something whimsical about holding a book while listening to the ocean waves or chirping birds. And no book lover can deny that the smell of both old and new books is invigorating, each in its own special way. No room would be complete without an overflowing bookshelf. Or, if you’re like me, satisfyingly beautiful color-coded bookshelves. Real books are prettier to look at. I mean, when you’ve got a book with a cover as gorgeous as Red Queen‘s, for example, do you want to stare at it on a pixelated screen? No, you want to hold that beauty in your hands, and display it proudly on your bookshelf.

Then there are the more practical aspects of using print books. It’s never going to die on you right as the plot reaches the climax (I’ve definitely screamed out of frustration while madly sprinting for a charger a few times). And when a book doesn’t end quite how you want it, it’s perfectly fine to toss it out the window Silver Linings Playbook style. Forget about throwing your e-reader against a wall in frustration though, unless you don’t mind being a hundred dollars or so poorer.

So…who wins?

I really can’t endorse one or the other as a real winner. In a practical sense, the ebook is the winner. However, I don’t think the paper and ink book will ever die out. For me personally, it comes down to how I feel about that particular book. I do still buy ink and paper books, but I have to either know I already really love them, or I will love them due to who its author is. As a result, I read pretty much all of my books on my e-reader before I ever purchase them in print. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a substantial print book  library though. I refuse to read the Harry Potter series or any of my favorite classics on a digital screen; it seems almost sacrilegious. There are also several books that I have both the e-book and print book version of, I loved them that much. Really, it’s all about your personal preferences. For me however, as a book blogger, my loyalty will lie with e-readers for a long time to come.


1 Comment

  1. Working in a library for the past seventeen years has made me partial to paper books. A few years ago, after my library subscribed to a couple of the eBook services, I started reading books on my Kindle Fire. At first, I hated it. It just seemed so unnatural. But after a few books, the advantages became obvious. I still read “real” books, but now I read more eBooks than paper (Shhh… don’t tell my Library Director).


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