Digital or Print: Are Physical Books or Ebooks Best for You?


For a long time, being a book lover meant toting around a heavy backpack full of novels, spending time at libraries searching through the stacks, and (gently) cracking the spines of a fresh, new hardback book. Nowadays, technological advancements have made it possible to carry thousands of books on your person, all stored within a nifty e-reader or even your laptop or phone. No wonder digital textbooks are becoming increasingly popular among students today since you have unlimited access to every textbook, which is very convenient.

Though ebooks may be considered to be “the future of reading” to some, many people still love the feeling of a physical book between their hands. However, with concerns about depleting natural resources and the overuse of electricity, it can be difficult for book lovers on either end of the spectrum to know which is the best option — digital books or print books?

Print Books — The Classic

Many of those in favor of physical print books have an ideology of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In fact, print books are still more popular than their digital counterparts, as 37% of Americans say that they only read print books. Certainly, modern publishers have perfected the practice of taking a mere manuscript and turning it into a work of art, bound carefully with beautiful, eye-catching dust covers that look great on your bookshelf. Here are some of the best arguments in favor of reading print books:

  • There’s nothing quite like holding a physical book in your hand.

When you think about curling up in front of a cozy fire with a book in your hand as it rains outside, you envision a beautiful, hardback novel — not an e-reader! This is because one of the best things about reading a print book is the experience.

Feeling each, smooth page between your fingers as you devour each chapter, smelling the sweet, earthy scent of the paper… it is both nostalgic and new all at once, and there is nothing in the world quite like it! Because of this, 66% of readers say that physical books offer a more “unique and fulfilling” experience than reading an ebook.

  • Print books do not lead to eye strain, but ebooks can.

In recent years, one of the most guilty culprits behind eye strain and eye damage is excessive screen use. Many of us work with computer screens, then get home and watch television, then end the night by reading — our eyes need a break from the screens, and e-readers don’t offer that break.

Additionally, many people use e-readers in the dark, holding the screens very close to their faces, which is even more damaging to the eyes. On the other hand, print books have no backlight, no screen, and no glare, giving your eyes a much-needed break. Additionally, being “disconnected” from technology while reading a print book can give readers a feeling of peace and quiet, which e-readers often interrupt with frequent notifications (as many e-readers are also connected to the internet, social media, etc.).

  • Print books help you learn and retain more knowledge than digital books.

Many of us are accustomed to getting our daily news online, learning short tidbits from articles that are intended to be easy and fast to read. Unfortunately, this means that our brains are not challenged by the information we are presented with, and being constantly bombarded by new information — whether on social media or otherwise — means that we don’t have enough time to let what we’ve learned soak in and end up forgetting it.

Especially for children, this can be detrimental to their learning and development. Naomi Baron, professor emerita of linguistics at American University, suggests that print books are easier to learn from for both children and adults without being distracted by the “gamified” nature of digital reading.

In fact, studies show that 90% of parents and teachers believe that reading a mere fifteen pages of a physical book every day helps improve memory and language development — though there is some contention as to whether or not this is more effective for children or adults, as children who have grown up in the digital age may be more accustomed to digital reading.

Print books are the classic way to read, and while it may be simpler to read digitally, a physical book will never go out of style. As an added plus, books are a wonderful addition to any room, whether as an aesthetically pleasing centerpiece or on a bookshelf.

Digital Books — A Cutting-Edge Contender

While thumbing through the pages of a physical book may be the standard, digital books, or ebooks, are a popular new way for readers to experience novels. Here are some of the best reasons to ditch your hardbacks and pick up an e-reader:

  • Digital books can go with you anywhere.

Unlike physical books, ebooks don’t take up very much space. You can store hundreds of ebooks on a single e-reader, all available at a moment’s notice, rather than toting around a heavy backpack full of your favorite physical novels. Ebooks are far more convenient on the go, as you can even read them on your phone or tablet.

  • Digital books are cheaper than their physical counterparts.

As any bookworm knows, buying books (or paying library late fees) can get expensive quickly, especially if you’re a fan of hardbacks rather than paperbacks. On the other hand, ebooks don’t require any materials — other than a phone, tablet, or e-reader — and are much cheaper as a result. Additionally, there are many resources online that offer digital books to be downloaded for free.

  • Digital books allow customization for accessibility.

One of the biggest arguments in favor of ebooks is that you can customize the book to make it more readable. You can increase the size of the words, highlight passages, change the font, and search words you aren’t familiar with, all on one device! On the other hand, if you are having trouble reading a physical book with a tiny print, you’ll have to pull out a magnifying glass…

Overview: Which is right for you?

If you’re a stickler for tradition or need a break from screens, you should be reading print books. On the other hand, if you’re looking for convenience and customization, digital books are the way to go. However, you don’t have to choose — 28% of American readers say that they read both print and digital books. There is no harm in experimenting before deciding which you like best, as long as you’re still reading!


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