ebook or Hardcopy? Which is better?

This question is one that people can get pretty passionate about. There are definitely pros and cons to both so today on the blog I’d love to hear what your preference is! What do you prefer, hardcopy or ebook?

I use the Libby app when I do choose to read ebooks. I just finished From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L Konigsburg.

ebooks – some background

It wouldn’t be fair to tackle this subject without a nod to the amazing technological advancements that have made ebooks possible. Here’s a quick history of ebooks if you’re as interested as I was!

The humble ebook has come a long way since the days of 1971 Project Gutenburg. Michael S. Hart is famed with digitalising the U.S declaration of Independence, earning it the spot in history for first ebook. But the idea for the ebook started much earlier, in the 1930s. The advent of the ‘talkies’, films with inbuilt dialogue caused some people such as Robert Brown (an early 20th century writer) to wonder what the equivalent advancement in technology would be for the written word. In his manifesto, ‘The Readies‘ he said this:

“The written word hasn’t kept up with the modern age…To continue reading at today’s speed, I must have a machine. A simple reading machine which I can carry or move around, attach to any old electric light plug and read hundred-thousand-word novels in 10 minutes if I want to, and I want to.”

Robert Carlton Brown, The Readies, 1930

Brown was onto something. It would take several more decades before his vision of the ‘reading machine’ would be realised in any modern capacity. But here we are now in 2019 – with a plethora of digital reading options. From digital copies of books and audiobooks we are spoilt for choice with platforms such as kindle, Nook, Kobo and ibooks (and many more) being household names. The list goes on. If ebooks are your thing, you have so many options for platforms to go to source books easily and affordably.

ebook pros and cons

This section will be my own personal opinion on ebooks, so you don’t have to agree with me! I’d actually love to hear your thoughts, so comment below!

Pros:

  1. Light & Transportable: Being relatively new to using ebooks it was the ease of transport that drew me in. Commuting via public transport for university I already had a bag full of text books, notebooks and a laptop. Adding a novel made my bag even heavier! Add in the standing that happens during peak hour and there are some situations are not easily compatible for traditional book reading (Nobody enjoys you accidentally dropping your book on the toe of your fellow train passenger!). Using an ebook means I can read just about anywhere, with ease, on my phone! I know people that travel regularly for work (or pleasure) love that an e-reader takes us much less space in their baggage.
  2. Choice of platform: As I mentioned earlier, there are many, many ebook platforms available to suit your device and needs. I personally use Libby which is an app that links to your local library and allows you to borrow ebooks and audiobooks all for free! (Link at the bottom of the article for you to check it out). One draw back is that occasionally you will have to place a hold on more popular books and wait for them to become available (usually only a few days, depending on the book).
  3. Affordability: Buying ebooks and audiobooks can be a much cheaper, or even free way alternative to hardcopy books to feed your reading habit!

Cons

  1. Glitches & battery-powered: All technology has its limits and with most apps there will be some limitations. Battery power is one factor that I find makes me prefer hardcopy books, but so long as you’re not straying too far from a powerpoint you should be fine.
  2. Reading on Screen: The blue light that our phones and other devices emit can damage our eyes. Although this can be overcome to a degree these days with technology such as funky ‘blue-light cancelling glasses’, taking a break from screens (including reading ebooks on them) is probably still the best bet for maintaining our eye health overtime.

Hardcopy Books

I recently revamped one of the bookcases in our home – I always find a few books I’d forgotten about!

Pros:

  1. The smell: Old books and new books have their own special smell – I love both) and the feel of them is just something that an ebook can’t compete with for me. I know they’re bulkier, and sometimes just inconvenient to take with you places – but I love a hard copy books.
  2. The feel: I’m a tactile learner, I like the physical sensation of holding a book in my hands and feeling the pages.
  3. Building a personal library: Visually speaking, a shelf full of colourful and beautiful spines is much more appealing to me than a shiny e-reader. Even though I know logically the e-reader has the capacity to hold a vast collection of books, it just isn’t as aesthetically appealing to me.

Cons:

  1. Bulkiness: I mentioned this earlier. There’s just some places and times it’s just not practical to carry a hardcopy book with you.
  2. Expense: Depending on where you shop, and what editions are you prefer (Any one else a leather-bound fan here?) supporting a reading habit can get pricey. It always pays to shop around or look for affordable options if you’re determined to have a hardcopy book.

In conclusion

I used to hate reading on screens for long-periods of time, but the ease of using my phone to read wherever I am has won me around. It’s easy to find new books, download them (or read online) and be ready to read when I find myself with a bit of extra time up my sleeve. That being said…

Hardcopy books will always be my preference. I can’t help it. Sorry, not sorry. Although ebooks and audiobooks are convenient, cheap (or free!) there is something special to me about the hard copy book. I love everything about them. There’s nothing quite like going to a physical bookstore and browsing the shelves to pick me up.

Which do you prefer and why? Hardcopy books or ebooks? Comment below and let me know! I’d love to hear from you. For more pretty book related pictures find me on Instagram @stephhuddlestonwriting

Thanks for reading!

*Special thanks this week to the folks over at Government Book talk blog for their informative history on the ebook: https://govbooktalk.gpo.gov/2014/03/10/the-history-of-ebooks-from-1930s-readies-to-todays-gpo-ebook-services/

**if you want to learn more about ebooks and Robert Brown check out Jennifer Schuessler’s article, it’s a great read! https://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/books/review/Schuessler-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Hi! I'm Steph, a freelance writer for hire based in Melbourne Australia. I'm an avid reader and love all things bookish! My blog is all about the written word.

4 thoughts on “ebook or Hardcopy? Which is better?

  1. As an avid reader I’m ‘both/and’ – using my Kindle (so light & easy to transport) + acquiring hard copy books. One nice thing about the latter – books are easy to pass on to share, whereas I can’t give my kindle books away. 📚😎📚

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    • Thanks for reading Virginia! So true, it’s great to share around hardcopy books! It’s lovely when a book has made the rounds of the people you know. How have you found the kindle? I’ve been looking at my options for getting an e-reader recently.
      I’ve been using my phone until now which is fine, but not ideal as I am reading more ebooks of late. Definitely love the convenience of the ebook! ❤️📖

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  2. Dear Steph,
    as an author I see the pros and cons of ebook or hardcopy from another perspective. My publishers – mostly Random House – are selling around ten of my books as hardcopies and ebooks. The hardcopies are selling much better. The sales are about 5 times higher and my percentage is higher as well. As an author, an important means of income are the secondary rights and the sales of foreign rights. Nowadays the international bookmarked accepts for those rights hardcopies only. And a third and last argument for hardcopies: For all my books I sold hardcover ed. first and a little bit later the rights for the paperback ed. An author couldn’t survive nowadays otherwise.
    As a reader I don’t like reading on a screen. I find physical books inspiring but not so much reading on a screen.
    Thanks for visiting our blog and wishing you a great week
    Klausbernd
    The Fab Four of Cley
    💃🚶‍♂️👭

    Like

    • Hi Klausbernd, thank you for reading this post and sharing your perspective on the topic as an author. You raise some great points!
      I have heard that generally sales of hard copies of books do much better. Perhaps we humans will always prefer the feeling of a book in our hands. Thanks again for reading and commenting! Hope you have a great week too!

      Liked by 1 person

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