Books vs eBooks – The Best Choice for Readers?

I’ve been in a reading mood over the past month or so. I’m not always like this however, sometimes I don’t pick up a book or eBook for months at a time, and sometimes I’m a book a week reader. Either way, the books I have been reading (Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series) have been read via a variety of means and devices. It’s an interesting topic, so I thought I would add my feelings to the Books vs eBooks debate. I’ll save my “Written Books vs Audio Books” for a future blog post as that’s a different topic entirely.

I had considered myself mainly a physical book fan in the past. When the option was presented to me, I preferred the feel of paper pages, but other than that I couldn’t decide why the physical book was so appealing to me. Perhaps it just feels more old school, and you can’t be tempted to check on Reddit using your book. Having thought about it more though, and considering where I would be reading which included the conditions as well as location, I have come to the conclusion that eBooks are actually much more suitable in most situations.


The most obvious place to start when making the comparison between physical books and electronic books is comfort.

This can be very subjective, as no 2 books are identical in the same way that no 2 devices are an exact match.

It breaks down into a few main areas. How the book or device feels in your hands, the readability of the page or screen and how much you personally enjoy different aspects of interacting with the page or screen.

If everything is equal, I’m much happier with a book in my hands, reading from left page to right, and turning pages. I enjoy being able to tell how far through a book I am at a glance, being able to appreciate the cover art, and (especially as a fantasy reader) I find being able to easily jump to the front page of a book to take a look at the map a big help in re-orienting myself within the world. These are the things that are much more fiddly to replicate when you’re using an electronic device.

Eye comfort is an interesting one when comparing physical books to eBook. Reading words on a page is often preferable to a screen, especially as pages usually have a slight yellow tint which is much easier on the eye and reduces strain. However, this quickly flips on it’s head as soon as the sun goes down. I don’t know about you, but a huge amount of my reading time comes just before bed, usually between the hours of 23:30 and 01:00, and to me a bedside lamp can make reading uncomfortable or just plain difficult depending on how it’s positioned. My partner also usually goes to sleep before I do, and so I don’t particularly want to wake her by turning a reading lamp on. This is where reading through the Kindle app on my iPad is absolutely fantastic. Not only do I not need a light source pointing at the book, I can change the size of the text, the font, the colour of the page and the brightness, among a whole host of other things.

Personally, I find that for a variety of reasons eBooks are the most comfortable. Though I absolutely love the feel of a paperback or hardback in my hands, there’s so much versatility in how eBooks can be presented, the different types of device you can use to read them, it’s hard to make a case for a physical book unless you have the ability to buy both versions and select the best choice for any given situation.


The availability of books is probably not something that is strongly considered when making a purchase choice between physical books and eBooks, but there are a few issues that could catch you out if you’re not thinking ahead.

The most obvious one for me is something I think about every time I go to work and take my iPad to read on my break… Have I charged my devices? If not, is there somewhere I can plug them in either in my car or at work. The same considerations don’t have to be made with a book. Battery levels don’t just affect whether you can or can’t read either, if you’ve got a low battery or know you’re not going to be able to charge for a while, you may have to sacrifice brightness or other eye comfort features in order to use as little battery as possible. In this regard, books are a clear winner.

While we’re talking about availability though there are those of us who choose to, in a similar way to how you might watch both Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad at the same time, read 2 or 3 books at a time. I personally don’t have it in me to switch between multiple stories and keep worlds aligned properly in my head, but the ability to store hundreds and hundreds of books on a single device and not have to rely on having your own book suitcase to take on holiday is a fantastic quality of life that eBooks provide.

Not just a single device either, I mentioned storing hundreds of books on 1 device, but why limit yourself to just an iPad? Just the other week I sat waiting for a dental appointment and in the 10 – 15 minutes I could have been sat waiting or scrolling through Reddit, I read a chapter or 2 of my current book. I was quite impressed with my inspired idea, and quickly began to consider all of the other times in my life where I may have 15 minutes to spare with nothing on my person aside from my phone. Once you add these things up, you realise just how much quality reading time you can catch up on with a device that you carry with you at all times. And unlike other activities on your phone such as watching video or playing games, the battery drain is actually pretty minimal.

No contest for me here, the eBook beats out the physical book when it comes to availability.

Book Shops and Libraries vs Kindle Store

A lesser looked at side of this debate is the electronic revolution when it comes to online media. This point can be applied to movies, books, video games and music, and it’s all about the ability to get everything you need directly to your device without ever leaving your house. Music is no longer a CD or vinyl, now it’s streamed through Spotify. Video games are downloaded straight to Steam or your Xbox or Playstation. Movies are streamed to Netflix or Prime Video. Books can be downloaded onto your Kindle, tablet, phone or even computer!

Books are probably the last bastion of going out to purchase or otherwise acquire media, as borrowing books from the library is still a huge part of the culture, as well as the fact that you can still find book shops on the high street. With that being said though, there has been a massive cultural shift over the past decade, moving away from actively seeking out the sci-fi and fantasy shelf, or whatever your favourite genre may be in your local book shop or library. Those who still do venture out however love the experience of rifling through shelves is said establishments looking for a cheap gem or something different. Every time I pass a book shop on the high street I have to stop in and have a little look.

Clearly, there is convenience in sitting in bed and scrolling through the Kindle store, especially if you know exactly what you’re looking for using the search bar, but the discovery of walking into your library and coming across a book that you just can’t wait to read is lost to those of us who just prefer reading from an e-reader or eBook.


In a similar vein to the previous section, and especially during a time in life where a lot of us are strapped for cash, the option of physical book vs eBook has a few different facets when it comes to how each is priced, and how you might be able to get them for free, or even to borrow for free.

Physical books are priced at a premium, especially in a book shop where the stock is rotating constantly. There is no getting around the fact that unless you’ve found somewhere selling a book or series on special offer, they are usually going for a sticker price. When you buy these books, they are often published by a big name publisher too. This makes the pool of books much smaller (and stricter) and gives you a price tag to match the exclusiveness. The books in these shops are priced this way as they are considered the cream of the crop, and have been through all the processes required to make a good book, and make sure it sells at least reasonably well.

Libraries have a similar philosophy here in terms of not keeping hold of complete rubbish. Usually libraries are making sure they stock what people want to read. Ultimately this means that the majority of the titles are going to be of a decent standard, though they will usually be a fair bit older than the latest and greatest to be released, as they don’t have the funding to keep these books in rotation (at least not to the point that they can buy 10s of the books for everyone who wants to borrow a brand new book). Libraries are generally public services, and free ones at that, so don’t expect to walk in and pick up the latest blockbuster for free.

The topic of libraries for physical books brings me on rather nicely to services like Kindle Unlimited for eBooks. A decent way to look at Amazon’s eBook subscription service is that it’s a digital library, where you’re paying a certain amount per month to read as many books as you want that they have available. The key point here is availability again. I was initially quite disappointed with the offering of Kindle Unlimited, as I had expected to find some of the bigger fantasy titles on the service. Unfortunately, the business model of KU is more about supporting those who are self published. This is a conversation for another day, but the main point stands that KU is about finding some newer and lesser know gems for a relatively reasonable price per month subscription. Of course with the price of these self published books often being a little lower, it can mean that the membership might not make sense, especially to slower readers who only read a book or 2 a month.

Finally, looking at eBook purchasing options more generally, books are discounted, added to subscription services and given away for free all the time. Amazon themselves often reduce the price of a featured book to £0.99, which is a deal that can’t be beaten. Purchasing through sites like Amazon is obviously always a pretty safe option too, as you’ll be able to transfer those eBooks directly to the Kindle app and keep them forever. That’s not to mention the plethora of sites that give away eBooks completely for free (though be careful using these as sometimes they are actually pirated, and others may be dodgy). The internet archive even has it’s own library that you’ll be able to find a decent amount of books on for free, with the ability to borrow for varying amounts of time.

Environmental Choices

My final point, and not usually one I’d really harp on too much is simply that eBooks are more sustainable than the printed page. I don’t consider myself to be a hippy or tree-hugger by any means, but given the option to do good and try to be at least a little bit sustainable in my day to day life, I’ll happily take it. And yes, this does actually extend to this argument too.

There is an ongoing discussion about the amount of electrical waste in the world at the minute and what can be done to reduce it, of course. People will point to the fact that books are infinitely recyclable, but the fact remains that selling 100,000 copies of an eBook has a much smaller carbon footprint that selling 100,000 copies of a paperback book.

I think those of us who use Kindles and other e-readers for their eBooks are actually in the minority, where a lot of us actually use something like a phone or a tablet we had anyway. This eliminates the argument that people are buying additional electronics just to read books that could otherwise just be recycled (and who the hell is recycling books after they are finished with them).

This one is for those of you who are environmentally conscious and like to do your bit!

Books vs eBooks: The Winner!

Even writing this post comparing books and eBooks, I’ve realised that there are a lot more things to consider when buying, renting or borrowing a book than how it feels in your hand, or whether others look at you and think you’re playing games on your iPad, or are a distinguished book reader.

And although clearly my preferred method for reading is eBooks, it doesn’t mean to say that I wouldn’t buy a book from a book shop if it looked interesting to me.

Do you still buy physical books, or have you moved on to eBooks? I’d love to hear your opinions on the pros and cons of both, as well as anything you think I may have missed!

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