Technology · Thoughts

Physical Books vs. E-Books

A long time ago, I wrote about the advantages and disadvantages of an e-book. Now that I have more experience with reading e-books and online stories, such as fan fiction, I wanted to present my personal feelings about e-books.

A lot of you followers who have been with me from the beginning may be wondering what happened to me. Among my things of busy school and work life, I devoted time to fan fiction and e-books. I fell in love with fan fiction when one of my friends recommended I check out FanFiction.Net, on which I mostly read Harry Potter fan fics since I’m such a Potterhead. I started devouring just about every fan fic I could get my hands on (that had decent writing and grammar), and I discovered my OTP (Drarry). For the last six months, I’ve grown more and more bored with fan fiction, kind of like the hump I’ve been in with Young Adult books for a lot of repetitiveness and predictability. Then six months ago, I received an e-reader for Christmas. Since then, I’ve tried many e-books. The first thing I’ve been generally enjoying is the availability of free, cheap original content.

As my review of City of Heavenly Fire said, I have fallen in love with physical and original books again. The original comes in because of my growing boredom with fan fiction. Besides the difficulty in finding fan fics that utilize good grammar and that are complete (or at least updated regularly), I have difficulty finding fan fiction that works on character development and world building (mainly in the case of fantasy) since the author’s work(s) that spawned the fandom(s) already did the character and world building. Don’t get me wrong, there are fan fiction writers who do a good job with this, but I don’t find them that often. I also don’t like over-used premises like most of the Veela stories in the Harry Potter fandom since they become so cliché. I digress.


I have always loved a physical book. I fell away from that when I can read tons of books without taking up limited shelf space. It’s also nicer on any bags I’m carrying which get very heavy with the books I have. For example, no one wants to haul one of the Stephen King books around constantly (points for long and detailed books, points taken away for the books’ weight). But I still love the beauty of books on shelves like the Beast’s library in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

While you can take notes in the books, it takes up storage space on your e-reader. If you fill your e-reader with books plus the notes, you will sooner or later have to delete all those wonderful notes.

Price and Sharing

The prices of e-books are generally cheaper. I for one enjoy the books that are free or only cost $0.99. However, when a book is popular at the moment, it costs about the same (maybe a couple dollars cheaper) as the physical book.

I wish I could share my e-books with my friends. Unfortunately, I find that impossible. If a friend wants to borrow my book to read, they can’t. This is great for publishing companies, but this is bad for those of us who don’t want to spend a fortune on a book, especially if there’s the great chance you won’t love it.

I don’t know about libraries in large cities, but I have a complaint about the e-library my small town library offers. You can “borrow” e-books for thirty days and then it deletes itself from your e-reader. My library doesn’t really add new e-books to it, and most of the e-books available are for small children. Nothing against that, but since I’m the only one who uses my e-reader, I would like more novels available.

Eye Strain

I wasn’t totally sure about the eye strain complaint while I was absorbed in reading digital books. City of Heavenly Fire was a relief on my eyes. I actually felt when I did this marathon read (finished in two days!).

I am aware that the brightness settings can be changed, but I think some of it goes back to the flashing lights. How many people remember the warnings on Nintendo DS boxes or Game Boy boxes about the flashing lights? I think this is factored into the eye strain problems. The page stays in one spot, and there aren’t lights that are constantly shifting to match whatever coding is entered based on a button pressed. On another side note about the sixth book of The Mortal Instruments series, I cannot read it in an e-book format. There’s something about reading it on the e-reader that my brain just cannot take in. Maybe it’s the font, maybe it’s the writing style, maybe it’s just my weird brain. I just cannot read it in any format except as a physical book.

With some of the eye strain, I want to tack on the bit about cognitive recall. If you ever wanted to go back to read something in an e-book or a fan fic, you have to keep searching and scrolling to find what you were looking for. In a real book, you can remember where on the page it was.

Reading Progress

Goodreads reminded me about monitoring your progress in a book. Part of what motivates me to get through a book is to see how much progress I have made.

Unfortunately, the e-reader shows percent complete. While one would think that this would be enough to show progress, it isn’t enough for me.

What I love about physical books is watching the pages accumulate on the left side of the open book and decrease on the right (vice versa on manga). There is something about seeing that you have 100 pages to go or that you’re about two thirds of the way through the book. Maybe future e-readers can include at the bottom of the screen an animation that shows the side view of a book with pages turning like an actual book to help show progress.

Extra Things I Noticed:

  • There are some books you just cannot purchase in the U.S. I found that I could not order some books from the U.K. through Amazon. The only way I could read the book was to purchase it as an e-book. While it upsets me to not be able to put that book on my shelves, I can still read it.
  • Publishing companies need to work on the formatting of the e-books. One e-book I’m currently reading does not indent the paragraphs. If the book isn’t going to have indented paragraphs, then use some common sense and space out the paragraphs so you can tell where a paragraph ends and where one begins.
  • Please watch the grammar and spelling, publishers!
  • I love the built-in dictionary. I also like the encyclopedia (Wiki) reference when Wi-Fi is in range. It’s helpful when the dictionary isn’t.
  • These are a must when you’re traveling at night and need something to read. No more book lights!

I recently watched a video from polandbananasBOOKS on the topic of e-readers vs. physical books. I have to agree with her statements.

What do you think about this post? What have you experienced with e-readers? Do you prefer physical books or e-books?

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