Over the past decade, ebooks have risen significantly in popularity, particularly with the emergence of Barnes and Nobles’ Nook and Amazon’s Kindle. With their constantly increasing presence in the literary community, ereaders have sparked an ongoing (and, at times, extremely heated) debate: ebooks versus physical books.
Ebooks are practical in the sense that they are compact and extremely lightweight (ie. the size of your ereader), allowing for easy transportation and reading on the go. Similarly, traveling to the bookstore or library will quickly become a thing of the past as readers purchase or borrow books from bed while in pajamas (please don’t tell me I’m the only one). Ebooks are also available at significantly reduced prices because the printing and binding stages of physical book manufacturing have been eliminated. In some cases, particularly with classics that are now considered public domain, you can even download ebooks for free. Also, if you want to take the eco-friendly approach, no trees were harmed in that purchase.
Physical books, on the other hand, are significantly heavier than your average ereader and tend to be more more expensive than their ebook equivalents. Some readers, however, prefer the feeling of actually holding a book and turning the pages, as opposed to tapping and staring at an electronic screen for hours on end (which, if we’re being completely honest, can be a bit harsh on the eyes). On the other hand, if you worry incessantly about the condition of your books, like myself, then you may be a little reluctant to transport your book from place to place, preferring to leave it at home and thus eliminating the potential for reading on the go.
Over the years, I’ve personally developed a preference for physical copies of books for a variety of reasons. Most notably, a book will never die because it hasn’t been charged within the last 24 hours or malfunction in some frustrating manner and cause unnecessary aggravation, shortening my life by several years. If the majority of my library is sitting on my bookshelves, I won’t have to worry about losing 300+ books should anything happen to my ereader. For me, it’s simply not worth the stress. Additionally, I have no worries about accidentally throwing my ereader across the room when my favorite character dies, the author is a jerk, or someone in real life is getting on my last nerve. Plus, I get to OCD-ishly arrange the books on my shelves, arranging them in a variety of visually appealing patterns (if you’d like to read more about my bookish OCD, click here). I also have a strange fascination with the smell of both new and old books. Then again, I also like the smell of nail polish and whiteout, so perhaps that isn’t the best evidence to back up my argument.
Similarly, when it comes to reading for school, I am 100% devoted to physical books. In my British Literature class last year, we were all required to read Heart of Darkness electronically on our iPads. While I had no qualms about the price of the book as it was free, I detested highlighting and taking notes electronically. I like to scribble all over the pages of my assigned books (as evidenced here), and making such notations in an ebook didn’t provide me with the same sense of satisfaction. Therefore, I’ve decided to stick with the old-fashioned books, at least for the time being. Don’t even get me started on electronic textbooks – I have no clue how people stand those things.
I know what you must be thinking – if you’re so against ebooks, then why do you have an ereader? Just because I prefer physical books does not mean that I allow my Nook to rot and decompose at the bottom of my closet. As a matter of fact, I use it on nearly a daily basis to read free or cheap ebooks ($0.99 – $2.99). On the occasions when I spend more than $5 on an ebook, I typically don’t plan to reread the book in the future and/or was simply too impatient to wait until my next trip to Barnes and Noble.
What about you – do you prefer ebooks or physical books? Why?