E-books versus paperbacks: Which is better?

I wasn’t going to write a post on this because if people are reading, does it matter if it is a paperback, hardcover or e-reader? I come down on the side of no, because I read all formats. I rarely read e-books, only if I am reviewing for someone and I have a couple to read and review, or when travelling. However, an e-book takes me longer to read than a paperback and here’s why:

I spend up to four hours a day between Monday and Friday each week reading and writing for university online, so at least three articles, typing notes, typing journal entries and writing exercises and any additional assignment work and discussion board work. This is the way my study is structured and it is fine, but then I need a break from the screen. It’s as though after some time reading on a screen, my brain and eyes just don’t want to do it anymore and the words start to move and swim.

So I turn to my physical books. These give me a nice break from the screen. And I don’t have to charge them. I found that e-book reading can limit me in reading time – I have to wait for my e-reader to charge to use it once the battery is flat – I have tried reading whilst it charges and it tells me to wait. If all my books were on a device, I’d feel very lost if I couldn’t read. Charging is temporary and easily done but what happens when the device no longer works? How do we read when we have no other options if we are waiting for it to be fixed or replaced? Surely those avid readers would never be able to cope without their books.

This is why I have a collection of e-books, paperbacks and hardcovers. I have no audiobooks – at first they never appealed to me, and I have also found none that I want. There is also the chance that I would get distracted by other things if listening to them – I’m not sure why as I can watch TV and read. But e-books and paperbacks – if I have a choice, always the paperback, and always from a bookstore – even online ones if I need something specific or want a specific store I have no access to. In-store is preferable though, and I am cultivating a good relationship with the manager at least of my local bookstore, always happy to chat and get in an extra copy of that new release I want if they aren’t getting many copies.

The answer? I’m not sure there is a winner, just personal preferences. Paperbacks have the benefit of being able to lend them to people and you still have something to read. If a household only has one e-reader and several people want to read the same book or series, you have to wait in line and not read whilst other people are using the device. This is definitely something that could work against the e-reader.

My personal preference is physical books. I’ve only recently, in the last few years, read e-books so for over twenty years, only had physical books, apart from a few text books on the old CD ROMs for school that were terrible to use and probably why I’m not a huge fan and convert to e-books, and maybe why I would get defensive when told I should just have all my 1000 plus books on e-book. My other issue is that there might be some books not in e-book just yet – for whatever reason and having physical books when writing an essay is much easier than jumping between multiple windows.

In the end though, if a format works for you as a reader, then it works for you. We can’t say what will work for everyone finitely because we all read differently. I hope to be able to keep my paperback collection for years because it’s part of who I am, it’s how I learnt to read, and if I am truly honest, I feel I pay better attention to the paperbacks than the e-books because I feel like I skim more when reading the e-books.

Verdict: Don’t let anyone tell you the right or wrong way to read because you know what works for you.