Which are better: e-books or real books?


Fact Box

  • The first e-book was created in 1971 by Project Gutenberg founder Michael S. Hart and was a digital version of the US Declaration of Independence. 
  • In 2018, Statista reported that 20% of American book readers said they “read more e-books than hard copy books,” with the most popular genres being literature and fiction. 
  • According to Google algorithms, as of 2010, nearly 130 million books had been published in “all of modern history.”
  • China and the US are the two biggest e-book markets in the world. 

Luna (E-books)

While the experience of reading a physical book is memorable, the additional functionality offered by e-books may be tempting enough to switch to digital reading. E-books let the reader zoom in/out to look at illustrations, focus on a particular phrase, or just enjoy the finer print in a book. E-books also enable the user to highlight sentences and paragraphs for future reference. Some e-readers even come with built-in dictionaries so users can look up words that they are unfamiliar with. Additionally, users can bookmark pages that they would like to re-read or share with their friends.

These features make e-books quite accessible for disabled and chronically ill people who may struggle to read physical books. And the read-aloud function may be particularly helpful for blind users. Not to mention the ease of having an e-book instantly delivered, instead of having to go to the store and purchase the desired book--or wait a few days for the book to ship. 

E-books are also pretty affordable. They are cheaper than paper books because there is less production cost, and multiple digital copies can be sold without any human labor. E-books cost as little as $3, while printed copies cost anywhere between $15-$50.

E-books also save a lot of space, as users can store thousands of e-books in a single digital reader--all without taking up precious shelf space in their homes.

Aside from the practical, functional, and financial advantages that e-books provide, they are also better for the environment, as printed books emit almost four times the amount of greenhouse gases.  

For all these reasons, e-books are the media of choice for discerning readers. 

Anna (Real Books)

The act of cracking open a good book has not suffered from the rise of new technologies, and it appears that it won't be disappearing any time soon. There are several reasons that a person may prefer digital books over their physical counterparts or vice versa. However, a study by the Guardian found that when comparing readers of physical books and e-books, those who used a physical copy recalled more information than those who did not. This makes physical books more ideal for learning information more thoroughly than online or other methods of reading. 

Real books also allow people to take a break from screen time--something that is on the rise for those working and studying from home and using e-devices in their free time. Despite the intended use of e-books, they still require the user to stare into blue light, which can cause an array of health problems if not combated by breaks and rest. Additionally, e-books necessitate using a device and access to electricity and can be difficult to use outdoors and in sunlight--not to mention the potential of losing important files. 

Further, people enjoy the act of buying books, as it satisfies the desire to own something rather than simply using it. Books in one's personal library can also act as decoration, 'breathing an air of intelligence into the room.' 

Finally, while printed books and e-books do not drastically vary in pricing, buying real books supports the author better, as more money is earned from physical books sales. In contrast, e-books are at risk of piracy and other electronic influences.

When it comes to books, digital isn't always best. 

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