E-readers are a novelty no more. Hardly anyone remains unaware of their existence, and of their prominence among today's readers. Some argue that the e-readers have introduced a welcome novelty into the world of literature and another avenue for the publishing industry to explore. It has revolutionized reading and brought it into the 21st century. It has made it more accessible for generation Y, so familiar with technology and so eager to explore technological advancements, even if it involves reading.
Others, meanwhile, argue the opposite. The fact remains that the e-reader is not, nor will it ever be a real book. It takes something out of the magic of reading. It's putting the bookshops out of business and making the libraries lonesome, desolate places.
As readers, eventually we all face this dilemma. To go digital or not to go digital? To stay true to physical books or to give technology a chance?
In an effort to be as objective as possible, and to offer the best possible advice for those faced with the choice of purchasing an e-reader or sticking with "paper", we sat down, put our own experiences on paper, both with the physical books and with their electronic counterparts, and summed it all up for you.
Firstly, e-books are largely and almost exclusively cheaper than physical books. So while an e-reader does require an initial investment in order to purchase it, the fact is that it pays off in the long run. Oftentimes an e-book is half the price of a physical book (even a paperback), and the deals that many major book-sellers provide (such as the Amazon daily deal) may reduce the price of e-books to less than a dollar. And where the copyright has expired, which is the case for most classics, you might even find them free to download on your e-reader free of charge!
We will admit, however, to preferring to purchase a physical book to an e-book if the difference in cost is minuscule. The reason for this is that many readers are also book collectors. We enjoy showcasing our book collection in all its glory on our shelves. We enjoy the look and feel of physical books (even their smell!). We like sorting them and organizing them, we like matching the size and format on our shelves. We may even like petting their spines at times. We are book-lovers, after all. No electronic shelf can look as good as a physical bookshelf overflowing with the books of our own choice, stacked and organized neatly for all the world to see.
Physical books have another advantage: they're much easier to borrow and loan out to friends and other readers. While this option does exist for e-readers, it's still largely inferior to borrowing and lending such as we know it. It has a fixed, non-negotiable time limit, and many of the titles can't be found in these virtual libraries at all. Electronic book borrowing is still in its infancy, whereas the physical borrowing is a long-standing tradition.
There is a downside, however. Many bookstores are about half as stocked as we wish they were most of the time. Pre-ordering new releases doesn't necessarily mean actually receiving them on the day they come out. A bookstore will simply not have them on time. And ordering online is a whole different beast. We can't even begin to enumerate the times the books (especially the paperbacks!) have arrived damaged and battered. Some companies are better than the others at ensuring this doesn't happen or compensating their customers if it does. But with e-books, the risk of not receiving a book on the day of its purchase (or the day of its release), or of receiving it damaged it zero. Nor can it be returned in a worse condition than it was loaned out in, if we choose to loan it out virtually to anyone at all.
And another thing about physical books: try lugging those babies around while traveling! An e-reader being a "library on the go" is perhaps its biggest selling point, for anyone who enjoys reading in public places, while traveling or in any situation where we don't have access to a (home) library. Depending on the e-reader, they can store anywhere between 1000 and many thousands of books - and that's excepting the cloud drive, which can store many more. In short, it can store more books than most people read in their lifetime! Finishing a book while "on the go", therefore, is not much of an issue. Nor is purchasing a new one. The delivery cost is none, and the delivery itself is instantaneous. And if you're staying/living abroad, finding books in your preferred language has never been easier. With one of us living in a non-English-speaking country, we can personally testify to this. An e-reader is a godsend.
The flip side, of course, is the battery life. On long trips where there is no access to electricity, eventually an e-reader will run out of battery. Of course, some can last several weeks before this happens. With others, it will happen sooner. There is no such fear with a physical book, which is why some readers pack one physical book alongside their e-reader before embarking on road trips or long train rides.
While on that note, they also happen to be easier to carry and handle than an average book. An average-sized e-reader is much smaller than an average-sized book. Depending on their size, some even allow for one-handed handling and page-flipping, which makes multitasking infinitely easier. (We love our multitasking! Reading is no exception.) Not to mention, some e-reader models also allow reading in the dark. And if you put it in a plastic bag, you can even read in the rain. Page-flipping is far less cumbersome when it's a matter of a light touch or the press of a button.
Adjustable font size (and the font itself) is no laughing matter, either. Ask anyone whose particular pet peeve is an excessively small/large font in physical books. Ask anyone whose eyesight is less than perfect. Ask anyone who gets carsick from reading and driving (a large font does wonders for this problem).
While font surely is a plus, the graphic/visual aspect of illustrations is still largely in favor of physical books. Fancy fonts, elaborate illustrations, and specific graphs and charts read much better on actual paper pages than they do in e-ink. Not to mention most e-readers are black-and-white. So forget those full-color graphic novels! You'll still have to purchase them in physical form.
In the end, we believe we can all agree on one thing. A story is still a story. Medium regardless, you're still meeting the same characters, discovering the same world and reading the same dialogue. Whether you choose to do it digitally or traditionally is a matter of your own personal preferences. There are good arguments for both sides. And don't let anyone guilt you for choosing the medium you choose.
As for us? We mix and match, as always. We find beauty in diversity, and satisfaction in compromise. We pledge our eternal devotion to our Kindles. At the same time, we stock our physical shelves with our physical books, admire and sigh over them and pet them endlessly.
Because sometimes, one just has to pet a book.
Do you prefer e-readers or physical books? Or are you prone to combining the two? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or visit our Twitter or Facebook pages and discuss your preferences with us there!
INK VS. E-INK: PROS AND CONS OF E-READERS
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