Throwdown Thursday: eBooks vs Physical Books

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Since the beginning of time, similar things have always been compared to each other: Pepsi or Coke? Lemon or Lime? Boxers or Briefs? And books are no exception!

Throwdown Thursdays: On the first Thursday of every month I play the ultimate game of “Would You Rather” with books that are inevitably compared to each other. After 3 rounds, I pick my winner. Feel free to join in by commenting, making your own response (just link back) or vote in my poll! Here is this month’s match:

eBooks vs Physical Books

So normally, I pit two series against each other but this month, I thought it would be fun to compare how you read those series. I’m an equal opportunist when it comes to reading: I’ll read a book in any format that I can get it in my hands faster. While I mostly have eBooks nowadays, I still read a number of physical books.

It was really hard creating this post because I really wasn’t sure how to execute it. It’s hard to pick three things to compare when eReaders and physical books don’t share very many similarities besides providing a reader with the story. I didn’t want to have rounds that seemed like I had a bias for one form or the other. I also didn’t want a super long post describing my eReading experience because I already have that on my eReading Guide! So chart form it is!

So when I was doing research, I came across this debate on Debate.org that debated (obviously) the idea that “Physical Books are superior to E-books.” You can read the full debate here. I liked a lot of the main arguments and some of them influenced this post. Plus, I felt like these were common arguments people use when discussion this challenge in real life.

My rounds will be based on what it feels like, what you get with each form and how they work at the library. Of course, there are many different arguments and I encourage you to post them below in the comments! I’m also NOT going to be keeping score because I feel like this is a very personal topic and my reasons are based solely on my own reading experience while yours maybe completely different

**Just for clarification purposes, I am writing about my eReading experience using a Kobo Aura eReader unless specified. I will refer to it as “Kobo”.

Round 1: Sensory Experience

eBooks

Physical Books

  • eInk is just like paper
  • built in light with my Kobo
  • light weight and easy to hold
  • can read in practically any position
  • no book smell
  • easy transport
  • printed paper is easy on eyes to read
  • hard to read in the dark
  • 300 page hardcovers are HEAVY
  • limited reading positions
  • paper can smell (good OR bad)
  • can damage books in transport

I like to read laying down on my back in bed and my small hands just struggle to keep a hardcover 300 page book from smacking me in the face.

I know lots of people like to smell their books so that is one reason they enjoy physical books. I personally don’t like to smell my books–they don’t smell like anything really. Sometimes the ones I get from the library smell and not in a good way…

Round 2: What you get

EBOOKS

PHYSICAL BOOKS

  • covers are black and white (on device)
  • no pretty book shelf
  • no need for book shelves (100s of books)
  • easier to read Indie authors
  • FREEBIES
  • exclusive novellas, bonus scenes
  • can’t share your eBooks with friends
  • easier to obtain ARC
  • lots of colourful, printed covers
  • pretty bookshelf
  • easily run out of shelf space
  • harder to find Indie authors’ works
  • have to buy printed copies
  • limited novellas available
  • can share your books
  • challenging to obtain ARC

 I like pretty things and book covers are often very pretty. It’s just not the same when I browse my Kobo desktop and see all the covers–there is just something about holding them in your hands.

At the same time, I have over 800 books on my Kobo (this is excluding the books I have for my Kindle which is probably over 1000) and I wouldn’t have that many books if I had to have the physical copies. Now before you panic, a good percentage of these books are freebies like classic novels or bonus novellas. Will I ever read all of these books? Nope! But free is free and they take up no space besides memory on my device.

The problem with eBook exclusivity is that you can’t lend a copy to your friend without lending your eReader. I get it because you need people to purchase books and not just get them for free (the economy and all). It just really sucks because you can’t share your love of a book and it doubly sucks if you have to lend out your eReader with all your books…

Round 3: Library

EBOOKS

PHYSICAL BOOKS

  • immediate access
  • access anywhere in world
  • books expire on due date
  • not all catalogues offer renewals
  • shorter wait list times
  • no funky smells
  • have to physical pick up book
  • have to go to local branch
  • can keep books past due date, just pay fee
  • can renew easily
  • can have lengthy wait list times
  • can have funky smells & stains

What I like about eBooks is that I can be away at school and still get books from my hometown immediately. Same goes if I’m away on vacation (pending on internet access of course). I find that the wait-lists are shorter for eBooks and they are available on release day (whereas physical books have to be processed once they actually get the book). Also, no late fees when returning eBooks--though they do expire so even if you wanted to pay the late few to finish a book up, you can’t.

Ultimate Winner:

 It’s up to YOU to decide!

What book media do you prefer and why?

What are your thoughts: If you had a choice between an eBook and a physical book for the same story, which one would you choose?

Next Time: The Mortal Instruments vs the Infernal Devices

FYI my original post for this was SUPER long but I decided to condense it into point form for discussion purposes 😛

Comments 13

  • I really liked this post! I am an avid user of both mediums- it just depends on the books for me. Most of my physical books I have bought used or discounted (sometimes I go to the bookstore and can’t help myself). I also generally buy physical copies of my favorite books for my shelves. I also buy physical copies of books that I know I will write it in (religious/spiritual books, books I will use during school). I really like reading on my Kindle Paperwhite, though. It’s much easier, especially with longer books, and it does not take up much space and I can travel with it much easier. For me, it really depends on the book!

    • For school, especially my English texts, I had to have a paper copy! I love writing in the margins and putting post-it notes everywhere. I tried using my Kobo for some of the classics and while it worked, it was tedious to make my notes and highlight stuff. I mostly used the search features later on to find specific quotes but that was really the only plus for me using an eBook.

      I definitely have bought physical copies of books I really enjoy and want to be able to share in the future. The Hunger Games is one example–I had borrowed them all from the library but wanted my own copies.

  • I have a Nook Simple Touch (black and white, can read and purchase books and that’s it) and I love it. While I do like having physical copies, especially if it has a pretty cover, I find I am less likely to re-read a hard copy than I am an ebook – and I am a big re-reader. So while I definitely will take any book I can get, I find I usually prefer my Nook format.

    • Very interesting! I’m not a big rereader, I mostly reread books for series that I read a long time ago and want to have a refresher. And by that point, I’ll take any format that is easier but I’d probably lean more towards an eBook for the sake of being able to search the book for a particular passage/character/event.

      I also get the appeal of saving it for later and always having it with you when the mood strikes with eReaders. I love being able to have multiple books available at one time with my Kobo!

  • For your poll I chose physical books all the way, but that doesn’t mean I’m not open to reading ebooks. I have a Kindle Fire and also have the Kindle app on my phone. I love using those if I’m on the go and forgot to bring a book or didn’t have space for a physical book. There are so many choices available in my Kindle library to choose from. But I am one of those people who loves the smell of books and seeing all of the books on my shelves. I love the feel of the paper on my fingertips as I turn the pages. When I do get books from the library that have stains that weirds me out though… who knows what made the stain. So for me, while I enjoy reading ebooks on my Kindle or phone, physical books will always be my #1 choice.

    • Yeah, those gross stains from library books are always…interesting to say the least 😛

      I definitely enjoy the freedom of having so many books at my fingers with my Kobo. Today at work, I decided to DNF a book and I was so thankful I could pick something else up for the rest of my lunch break.

      But I agree, there is something so tangible about holding a book in your hands. I think it makes it easier to form bonds with the actual book–whereas now I mostly have an attachment to my Kobo as I read because it remains consistent.

  • Nice post Lauren! 🙂 If I had to choose between these two, physical books will always be my number one choice but it’s not possible to buy physical books everytime. Ebooks really save a lot of space and they are easy to carry everywhere as you pointed out but I’m very bias when it comes to a gorgeous cover, even if that’s available as an ebook and is cheap I tend to go for the physical copy. I enjoy ebooks but I really wish I had the physical copies for every book.

    • Agreed, there are definitely a few eBooks I own that have gorgeous covers that I wish I had on my shelf. Maybe one day I’ll be able to have a huge book case to fill up 😉

      At the same time though, I’ve saved SO much money buying eBooks so I can’t really complain 😛

  • I always love these discussion/thought posts, Lauren! I have to admit, ebooks are just so much more convenient and it’s one-click and “poof” you have the book in your library (which can be a good and bad thing, I suppose) but I’m still a big on ebooks. 🙂 I can’t wait to read your post about TMI vs. TID, that’ll be an exciting debate!

    • Thanks Summer 🙂

      It’s awful when I check to see what new eBooks have been added and before I know it, I’ve checked out 3 books from my library!

      I can’t wait to write TMI vs TID! It’s going to be a super close (and super hard to decide) battle I think!

  • I used to read only physical books until I got my first Kindle few months ago. I’m now reading eBooks more compared to physical books.

    Before I purchased the Kindle, I read eBooks on iPad 2 which is very heavy and it hurt my eyes while reading it for long period even though the brightness had been turned to minimum. Even though my Kindle has no back-lit, I love reading on it and I tend to read faster.

    Although I still purchase physical books, especially those with pretty covers, I would opt for eBooks compared to a printed copy now.

    • I was the same way when I got my Kobo! I was reading on my iPhone which was 3 inches wide so it was not a great reading experience. I also have a tablet but it is super heavy so my Kobo is my preferred method.

      I feel like I read faster on my Kobo as well. I’m not sure if it’s because I can adjust the font size, line spacing and margins or if it is simply because I have an easier time holding it and can read much more comfortably.

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