Reading: Do You Prefer E-Books or Print?

Photo credit: I take pictures sometimes.
I've started thinking lately about the difference between reading print books and e-books.

In the past I've said that the media doesn't matter—that the important part is the writing and that people are reading, and I still stand by that. What I'm talking about instead are the differences in the actual experience of reading—in the subtle shift from turning pages to swiping screens, in the difference between holding a few hundred pages of paper and holding a thin electronic device. And taking those differences into consideration, I ask you this: which do you prefer to read?

In a way I suppose I'm cheating because while I'm going to ask you for an answer, I don't really have a definitive this or that answer in return. However, there are aspects of each that I've found that I particularly enjoy, and that I'd be happy to share.

My favorite parts of reading print books:

  • Texture of the pages. This sounds silly to some people, but every once in a while I come across a book printed on paper with the most gorgeous texture. I'm talking about the sleek, strong pages of the hardcover Harry Potter novels. I'm talking about the ragged-edge, but smooth paper of the hardcover Artemis Fowl series. It's moments like those, when I open up a book and run my fingers across the page of truly remarkable paper that I really love reading print.

  • Book smell. I mean, who doesn't love the book smell? Some people love the smell of old books—for me it's the smell of newly printed paper that I can't get enough of. Regardless, the book smell brings back wonderful memories and I will always treasure it.

  • Adding books to the shelf. I've probably mentioned this before, but I love collecting books, and one of my all-time favorite moments of reading comes at the very end, after I've finished reading: adding the book to the shelf. There's just something uniquely satisfying about adding a book I've read to my lovely collection and stepping back to admire all of its beauty.

  • Looking at the pretty covers. The thing about e-readers is that unless you switch out the covers every time you start a new book, they always have the same nondescript cover. Not so with print books. I always keep a book I'm reading out in plain sight to remind me to get back to it, and there's a simple pleasure to being able to look at the actual book without having to turn on a screen and find it in your virtual library. 
That being said, there are still moments that I love about reading e-books as well.

My favorite parts of reading e-books:

  • Instant gratification. E-readers are magical (and dangerous) devices because all we have to do to get the next new book is press a button. Not thirty seconds later it is available for reading. Doesn't get much better than that. 

  • Easy reading (literally). I like to read in bed. Or on a sofa cuddled up with blankets. And sometimes I like to scrunch or curl up and when I try to read with a print book, the pages start to fight me a little—they get caught in the blankets, or they flap closed in the middle of a sentence, or the wind makes them flap manically while I'm trying to read, or they scrape against the cushion and rip while I'm trying to turn them (*queue horror music*). E-books aren't so finicky. I can read however and wherever I want to and the pages won't get caught or turn before I'm ready and they are impervious to ninja wind attacks. 

  • Travel friendly. I don't really need to go into the difference between carrying twenty print books and twenty e-books, do I? I didn't think so. 

  • Durable. Now I know what some of you are thinking—that print books can survive water and falls a lot better than e-readers can. And I'm not going to argue with that—it's very true. However, I'm one of those people that flips out when I accidentally bend the corner of my paperback book, or when a little water touches (and permanently wrinkles) the pages of my shiny new hardcover, or a scratch appears on the dust jacket of that book I just bought. The nice thing about e-readers is that you can throw them in your bag without having to worry about the cover bending by accident or the pages getting wrinkled. Just don't soak the thing in water or drop it from the Empire State Building. 

I truly believe that reading e-books and print both have their advantages, and I absolutely enjoy reading both, but now I'm curious: do you have a preference between e-books or print? What do you like about each? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 


Sarah Anne Foster said...

I'm a print book purist. But then again, I swore I'd never get a smartphone and now I feel I couldn't live without it, so anything's possible.

mooderino said...

When you have preference (e.g. I like the smell) vs advantage (e.g. I have 500 books in my back pocket), I think although some people will stick with what they like, most people over time will choose advantage.

Preferences are adaptable and easily changed. Advantages are silly to ignore, especially when the essential parts (reading a story) is the same.

Moody Writing

Tina Barbour said...

I will always love print books the best. That said, I thought I'd never get an e-reader, and soon enough I had a Nook. And I love e-reading, too. I like having numerous books at my fingertips, since I read several books at once. I love the speed with which I can get a book and start reading--I can hear of a new book, and presto, I have it! But if I had to choose between the two, and read only one way, I'd have to choose the print books. There's something magical for me in holding a book and reading.

Ava Jae said...

You know, I understand being a purist. When e-readers originally came out, I was one of the many that thought "I'll NEVER buy that" and now I love my e-reader so...

In the end, having an e-reader made me realize that the media matters less than I thought it did. But I still love both and there are pros and cons to each. :)

Ava Jae said...

If I had to choose and I had the option of an unlimited supply of print books or an unlimited supply of e-books, I'd also choose print (although the collector part of me may be part of the reason why). But as you said, having an e-reader certainly has it's advantages. :)

Travis Hicks said...

I buy about 50/50 print and eBooks now. Besides the points that you mentioned, I thought that I would add these:

1) Used Books. I can get a lot of print books for *really* cheap, cheaper than eBooks, because they are used. A lot of times, they're still in good shape, too. What's the downside?

2) Loaning books. I can't tell you how many of my print books I've loaned to interested friends and never gotten back. Now, this might be worse with me than most other people, but it's still a good reason for me. I can't loan out eBooks and not get them back.

Ava Jae said...

Good points! I didn't mention used books personally because I'm weird and like to own all the books I read, and I have a special fondness for crisp, new books. But for those without that preference, used books are a fantastic option. :)

As for loaning books, I find that tracking down the person and annoying them until they give my book back works when necessary. ^_^

Melissa Maygrove said...

I used to think I could never give up print books, but my Kindle changed my mind. There are obviously pros and cons to each, but I love the convenience of the e-reader an the way it solves the storage space issue. If I'm away from home and finish a book, I can move on to the next one right there - and have a choice of several! not just one other I may have stuffed in my purse.

I love that I can make my own notes and highlights (great for helping me write book reviews later) and that I can put them into folders when I'm done (Kindle Keyboard). The only think I didn't like was not seeing the covers, but my new Kindle Fire HD fixed that. ;) I did give up the folder thing with the Fire, though.

Now if retailers would just include the back cover blurbs right after the covers (I have so many waiting TBR, I forget the story blurb by the time I get there.), e-books would be perfect. :)

Melissa Maygrove said...

I've bought my share of used books (mostly for our homeschool library - had to stay within budget. LOL) with, but the downside is the author doesn't profit from used book sales. If you want to support the author, you have to by new, be it ebook or paper.

Ava Jae said...

That's a good point! I actually hadn't even thought of that. All the more reason to buy new or e-book. :)

Ava Jae said...

I've found that the easiest way to remind myself of a backcover blurb for a TBR e-book is to look it up on Goodreads. If your e-reader has internet connection, it's even easier. :)

Girlnone said...

The first time I ever wanted an eReader was the last time I moved. Sixteen boxes of books...or one lightweight, shiny device? I still haven't caved, but I think it makes sense for me to keep buying nice hardcover editions of things I want to keep and reread, and switch from disposable paperbacks to eBooks for all my trashy book needs.

John H said...

I have a hand that has a mind of its own (stroke a few years ago), and an e-reader is much easier for me to handle. My wife loves the Kindle: I bought one for me, she got her hands on it, and I ended up having to buy another for myself.

Robin Red said...

I prefer printed books, not just because eBooks shine light in my eyes and my ADD makes me touch the screen and lose my place, but because of publishing houses. I just went to the most amazing place, a boutique of sorts, owned by a publishing company, and I found out that it was funded by book manufacturers. It's going out of business because the number of people buying printed books has drastically dropped in the past decade. I like bookshelves filled with books, with their colored spines illuminating the walls. But that's just me.

John Chapman said...

I'll choose e-readers - no contest.
• Whilst I too love the smell and feel of a book, we buy them for their content not their smell and feel.
• I'd much rather carry an e-reader than the complete Encyclopaedia Britannica. I think my library of 3,000+ paper books probably weighs about a ton. Most of them could fit on my Kindle Keyboard
• Putting another book on the bookshelf may satisfy you but I have trouble finding a space for an extra book on my shelves. I've used up all the normal space (two books deep) and have run out of space between the book tops and the next shelf!
• I like to read relaxing in a bath. I may fall asleep and a soggy book is not easy to salvage. Your e-reader may not like water either but you can read it inside a ziplock plastic bag far easier than a paper copy!
• My e-readers play music and can read my book to me. The only paper book I have that does that was bought years ago for my children
• Can you get Internet on a paper book? Maybe this will be possible in the future when flexible screens become available. My Nexus 7 has full Internet, plays movies, makes video calls and with a small home made periscope takes pictures also. (OK - not very good ones)

Ava Jae said...

As I like to collect books, I've developed a system of collecting entire series as either print or e-book. If the first book of a series that I buy is paperback, I'll get the rest in paperback and the same with e-books. I've found that having the option to buy either really suits the practical side of me. :)

Ava Jae said...

I can definitely see how an e-reader would be easier to handle. And I imagine that sharing the same e-reader might not work very well. Two e-readers sounds like a good investment to me. ^_^

Ava Jae said...

I absolutely love bookstores, and as a NOOK user, I feel slightly better about the dwindling book sales thing because all of my e-book purchases go to Barnes and Noble. So...that's something?

Ava Jae said...

You made a lot of great points, John. I completely agree about buying books for their content--the smell and texture thing is just a nice bonus. And your point about space is also totally valid--my bookshelf won't have enough room to add anything for very long. Plus being able to fit hundreds of books in one lightweight device is not a perk to be overlooked.

As for the internet, I'm actually glad that print books don't have internet access. I know from reading on my tablet that I am far too easily distracted by easy internet access, so being cut off from the web for a little while whilst reading print books isn't such a bad thing to me.

On the other hand, having the internet on an e-reader makes downloading dozens of samples in minutes possible and allows you to carry around a virtual bookstore in your hand, which is pretty fantastic (if not somewhat dangerous) if you ask me.

Senora said...

I love both printed and electronic books for all the reasons mentioned but why limit ourselves? How about audio books? I would be sooo behind in my reading or my exercise if I couldn't listen to my latest favorite tale while putting time in on the treadmill.

Ava Jae said...

You know, that is a fantastic point! I hadn't even thought of audiobooks because quite frankly, I don't listen to them. It's been a while since I've tried, but I found that I have a tendency of daydreaming when I listen to books rather than focusing on reading it myself. But who knows? Maybe that'll change. :)

That being said, audio books are a totally legitimate option. As you said, why limit ourselves?

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