My husband and I have come to a crossroads. We’ve been debating how to proceed in regards to purchasing books: Should we continue purchasing print books or should we begin purchasing books in an electronic format?
In my household, we’re all bibliophiles. Subsequently, we have hundreds of books. After a year and a half in our current home, we finally purchased bookshelves and got our books out of the boxes where we’d been storing them (we kept them in the boxes until we could afford bookshelves strong enough to support their weight). I love seeing the books displayed and it’s wonderful to be able to grab one and sit with it open on my lap!
The experience of moving all of our books three times and waiting until we had shelves to set them out got me thinking about ebooks. Is it time for us to convert to these? We’ve been giving thought to the possibility. Here are the factors we’ve considered.
How ebooks and print books compare
- Portability. Some books are small and light enough to carry with you, but many are bulky and heavy. E-readers, on the other hand, are designed with portability in mind. They are easy to hold in your hands (or even in one hand) and weigh very little. Though you can only carry one or two books with you at a time, e-readers allow you to carry as many books as the devices have memory to store. They weigh the same regardless of how many books you have on them, making them great for travel or using when out and about.
- Cost. Ebooks typically cost less than print books (based on my recent comparisons, ebooks cost about 60% of the price of their print counterparts). Therefore, even if you spend money on a nice e-reader, you can save money over time by purchasing ebooks. It is important to consider, though, that you can buy used print books but not used ebooks. At one used bookstore near my house, used books in good condition cost about the same as Kindle editions of the same books.
- Space consumption. Print books take up physical space. The more books you have, the more space you need to store them. Ebooks, on the other hand, just take up a little storage space on an e-reader or similar electronic device. The device doesn’t grow in size, no matter how many books you acquire! While this is a wonderful benefit of ebooks, the space occupied by print books does have one benefit that can’t be replicated by ebooks: Print books look wonderful when adorning shelves in a home!
- Permanency. Once you purchase a print book, it’s yours. No one is going to come into your home and take it because of a change in publisher policy, a technical malfunction, or obsolescent technology. However, readers of ebooks on occasion have books deleted from their e-readers and removed from their virtual libraries because of the reasons I just mentioned.
- Durability. If you drop a print book in a bathtub, it’s not ruined. It takes some work, but you can dry it out and read it. The same is true if you spill a cup of coffee on it. However, if you do these things to an e-reader, chances are you’ll ruin it.
- Privacy. Print books have covers that announce their titles. If you don’t want people around you to know what you are reading, then this can be an issue. E-readers provide privacy because their back portions look the same regardless of what words are on their screens. Some people praise this privacy, but others deride it because being able to see what other people are reading helps build community. It can spark conversations and give you ideas about what to read next.
- Health impact. E-readers can be very useful tools for individuals with certain vision and motor challenges. The ability to adjust the font style, font size, and background color on e-readers helps readers compensate for various vision issues. Likewise, readers who find it difficult to hold the weight of a book and turn its pages may find it easy to hold a lightweight e-reader and swipe the screen in order to “turn the page” in an ebook. Though e-readers have these benefits, researchers also know that they can be harmful to health. They’ve found that reading light-emitting ebooks before bed interferes with the ability to sleep, diminishes alertness in the morning, and has an overall negative impact on health (source).
- Sharing possibilities. I can grab any book off of our shelves and hand it to a friend so he or she can borrow it. Sharing ebooks isn’t so easy. There are some ways to do so (if you’re willing to navigate Digital Rights Management), but sharing ebooks isn’t convenient.
- Acquisition. In order to acquire a new print book, you have to go to a bookstore or wait for a delivery from amazon. However, if you have an e-reader and a Wi-Fi connection, you can purchase, download, and start reading an ebook immediately.
- Impact on learning. Though a print book and an ebook can contain the exact same words, researchers have found that individuals who read stories in electronic formats comprehended less of what they read compared to individuals who read the same materials on paper (source). This is true even for young people who have grown up around technology.
- The overall experience. Print books and electronic devices don’t feel similar. Electronic devices are hard, while print books have soft paper pages. You can underline sentences and write in the margins of print books. Though many e-readers allow you to do these things in an electronic format, it’s just not the same. It’s not your handwriting in the margin. It’s not you pressing on the pencil to make the mark under the words.
Before I began making these comparisons, I honestly thought we would soon be choosing ebooks over print copies. Looking at all these considerations, though, I’m not sure I’m ready to make that change.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Are there additional factors you’ve considered? Do you prefer print books or ebooks? Why do you prefer these?
Shared at the following: