Skip to Content

Showdown: E-readers vs physical books


E-readers vs physical books — the competition for dominant success among traditionally printed books and various electronic reader tablets is an ongoing debate. Some argue that printed books will never go out of style; others believe the future of books belongs to the e-reader.

There’s reason to believe printing physical books encourages readers to reminisce in old-fashioned reading. Conversely, there are those who firmly believe e-readers and their tablet counterparts are the preferred method of reading in our new, increasingly digital era.

Related: Why I Always Make Time for Pleasure Reading

Before you make a snap judgment, consider the positive and negative attributes of each reading method, as physical books and e-readers can be equally useful in today’s digital age.

E-Readers vs Physical Books

Physical Books



Romanticism: there’s something extraordinarily romantic about turning the crispy pages of a physical book.

Mass: physical books have a heavy weight that must be considered when carrying around or traveling with printed texts.

Aroma: printed books have an anticipated odor; a uniquely musty scent that offers many readers
comfort, reminding them of old libraries and bookstores.

Capriciousness: physical books can be somewhat unreliable, given that bookstores cannot guarantee that a book is in stock at a particular time.

Physicality: printed books are real and tangible, allowing readers to crack the spine of a fresh book.

Expenditure: physical books tend to be priced at a high rate, given the cost to publish and print books on countless sheets of paper.




Space: one of the biggest perks about e-readers is how much space each model contains. E-readers can typically hold 1,500+ books on just one device!

Display: e-readers come with LED backlight display screens, which allow readers to read even in complete darkness. However, e-readers are not practical methods for reading in direct sunlight, as it can be difficult to see the text.

Efficiency: readers can download books online in just 30 seconds, without the hassle of combing through bookstores in search of a book that
may be out of stock.

Expenditure: the initial cost of investing in an e-reader starts around $140+. Unfortunately, this opening price does deter readers from purchasing e-readers, even though e-books can range from $0-$25.

Eco-friendly: though there’s proof that e-readers and printed texts both have environmental benefits and drawbacks, for the most part e-readers are more eco-friendly as they do not require excess paper and ink distribution.

Non-transferable: some e-readers, such as Amazon’s Kindle, allow a reader to send their book to a fellow Kindle owner for a two week span. More often than not, though, electronic books cannot be lent as printed books can.

Both e-readers and physical books each have noticeable pros and cons, however, neither reading method is dominant over the other.

What matters is reader’s preference. For instance, I prefer printed textbooks because I can physically highlight key terms and write notes for studying purposes. However, I use my e-reader for pleasurable reading, as I can carry hundreds of e-books on my iPad wherever I go.

For additional information, refer to the engaging article “Are e-readers making books obsolete” by Colleen Cancio. Cancio includes more in-depth research on this topic, which is conducted by BBC News, IMS, The Wall Street Journal, and Amazon.

Do you prefer e-books or physical books?

About the Author

Rachael Warren (Tulipano)

Rachael is a University of Southern Maine graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a minor in Sociology. She remotely works full-time as a Senior Content Marketing Specialist for Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. In her leisure time, Rachael enjoys traveling with her husband, finding the next Netflix series to binge, and taking too many photos of her dogs Jax and Kai. Rachael is obsessed with chapstick, favors the Oxford comma, and is a proud Mainer. You'll likely find her exploring New England + beyond.