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Ebooks vs Physical, Paper, Printed Books?

Picture of old books that are falling apart on a shelf

People who don't read or have no interest in book collecting often have a hard time understanding why anyone would still own a physical book in the digital age. They will take a look at my book collection and say things like, "Why don't you just get a Kindle? It would save so much space. Plus, you wouldn't have to hold a book anymore. You could just sit it in your lap, and everything would be on one screen."

And I suppose on the surface, it makes sense. Book collecting might not always be the most practical thing in the world. But it's not meant to be. Because it's a passion, a love. The best and most beautiful things in life rarely are practical because they come from the heart. Beauty isn't interested in logic; only in the splendor of her attire. Physical, printed books, still though, have many advantages of their own, aside from their beauty. 

The debate rages on: physical, paper books vs ebooks. Which is better? As an avid book collector and seller, physical books are an obvious choice for me.

As convenient and practical as ebooks can be, there are still many logical reasons to own physical books. 

  1. You never have to worry about remembering to charge your device's battery. A paper book is "on" whenever you're ready to read.
  2. You physically own books and can give, loan, or sell them as you wish. You never technically own ebooks; you simply license the ability to access them. And even that is not guaranteed. You can have your ebooks taken away at any time. Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" may have seemed like far out science fiction at one time, but in today's social and political climate of political correctness, I wouldn't doubt that there'll come a time when "offensive" books will simply vanish from devices.
  3. Physical books are much easier to navigate. Flipping through an ebook is not the most pleasurable experience unless you know exactly what you're looking for. And don't we all love the experience of flipping through a real book anyways?  
  4. Personally, I find one of the biggest advantages to printed books is that it's NOT on a screen. Part of the enjoyment of reading comes from disconnecting and taking a break from technology; the peace of silence without a bright screen or distractions. Granted, this can partially be negated by purchasing a dedicated ereader, but it still leaves you with a yearning for something physical in an increasingly digital world.
  5. Cost. As mentioned in the previous reason, if you want any kind of a pleasurable reading experience, you're going to have to buy an ereader. 
  6. Ebooks are hard on your eyes. For anyone who is trying to read ebooks on their phone or tablet, you can expect your eyes to be strained and hurting after just a few chapters. There's nothing worse than trying to read with a back-light shinning in your eyes.
  7. Value. The right books can actually increase in value. You'll likely never get rich (just ask any bookseller) but at least you can get back some of the money you paid for the book. In terms of monetary value, ebooks are worthless. You can never sell them. You're paying often times close to the same or even more than the print price to "rent" a digital copy.
  8. Less distractions. You may buy a Kindle and spend time loading it with all the books you want to read, yet come to the realization that it's like most things that are meant to make your life more convenient...it's filled with distractions and an abundance of choices. I do this all the time with my phone. I pick it up to find an app that will make the task at hand easier, but 30 minutes later I realize I still haven't even opened the app because I have been distracted by emails, notifications, news feeds, etc. The same thing is likely when you pick up your device to read.
  9. More reading, fewer choices. It's not just distractions that are a problem, it's choices. I think all readers buy more books than they can possibly ever read. Think of how much more of our reading time is going to be spent on the connected ebooks store buying and searching for books we'll never read. We all love choices, but if we're honest, too many choices just causes us to spend our time looking and evaluating rather than actually doing. It may be convenient to have your entire library in one place and with you wherever you go, but it's not very practical. You will never need all those books at once, and it will likely actually keep you from doing the one thing you bought the device to do - read. I don't think I ever want to sit down to decide which book to read next and scroll through hundreds or thousands of options. I would spend most of my time trying to decide rather than actually reading. 

 

Hopefully, this has given you some new insights into the ebooks vs printed, physical, paper books debate. At first glance, ebooks appear like they would be the winner in terms of convenience and practicality, but when you dive deeper, you see just how much the physical book fights back in the debate. And I haven't even started to discuss the aesthetic advantages of physical books. I will be posting a follow up discussing that topic soon.  

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