Tuesday, 6 January 2015

E-Readers versus Paper Books: a Practical Debate by Johanna Grassick

Are e-readers a better alternative than not reading at all?

Is it really ‘sad’ to see children holding tablets rather than traditional paper and glue pages?

There’s been a lot of discussion on this subject, with articles such as this one reporting the opinions of actress Hermione Norris and this one with James Daunt's (boss of Waterstones) comment that “reading digitally can't compete with the delights of the tactile feel and smell of paper”.

But opinions are subjective, so why not keep things practical? I have an e-reader, but I also read paperbacks. Here are some thoughts for and against:

1. I can’t take my e-reader in the bath

Some of you might,  but I’m very clumsy and I sometimes fall asleep reading. So my solution is to always have two books on the go – one digital and one paper (preferably tatty and used, so if it gets a dunking no one will be upset).

2. E-readers are great for reading in public places

There is the obvious thing of not wanting other people to see what I’m reading and judge me for it, but there’s also the fact that my Kindle syncs with my phone and it’s my phone that I read when waiting for the train or at the dentist.

3. It’s easy to skip back and reread sections of a physical book

Not impossible with an e-reader, I know, but I have a visual memory. I’ll half remember that a passage was near the beginning of the book or at the bottom of a page, but a ‘navigate’ function is not enough – I need to flick through until I spot the place.

4. E-books are cheaper (or free)

Especially if, like me, you follow your favourite authors on Twitter and Facebook – then you’ll be one of the first to know about promotions and special deals.

5. On holiday, no one will steal your paperback

Yes, e-readers are great for voracious readers when travelling, but I get twitchy leaving mine by the pool. It might get splashed, it might disappear... So, yet again, I’ll take a paperback. 
Plus, I regard it as advertising for my author friends when I leave their latest book on the sunlounger.

6. Paper books can be given as gifts 

This is the clincher.
This is the reason I hope paper books never go out of fashion.
Because there’s no greater pleasure when I’ve read a really good one, than to share it with others. For Christmas and birthdays I want to be able to buy a bundle of books and give them away as presents, in the hope that the intriguing characters or gripping plot or beautiful descriptions will bring my family and friends as much pleasure as they’ve given me.

Which books have I given away recently? Well, obviously each is tailored to what I think the recipient will enjoy, but my most popular choices recently have been:

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Dear Thing by Julie Cohen

Have you given away any books recently? Or received them?
If so, which? I’d love to know...


  1. I received a set of 3 books for Christmas from my husband - about 3 Regency ladies, locked in unhappy marriages whose husbands were murdered!

    1. Hope you're not reading too much into that, Annie!

  2. The great thing is, we can do both! I have a big stack of paperbacks sitting next to my sofa, and I have a big virtual stack of paperbacks on my iPad. When I started using e-books, I found myself reading more overall, so that's a big plus.

    When we travel, I like to buy books by local authors...so I travel with a light suitcase that always weighs more on the way back!

    1. The stacks of books sound familiar! And reading local authors is such a good idea - really helps you get a feel for a place.

  3. I'm very definitely pro anything that gets a child reading, and there's always some sort of debate about it. Is a book better than a comic, is Charles Dickens better than JK Rowling, blah blah... ? In recent years it's shifted to ebooks. But surely reading a book, in any medium, is still working a child's imagination and far better than no book at all? IMO.

    Gifting a physical book is always lovely, though, and of course far less expensive than giving someone an e-reader loaded with stories (although I did do this for my son this Christmas). The book I've gifted most, to children of friends, has been Howl's Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones). It's my personal favourite, and the mums usually end up reading it after their children!

    1. Will look out for that book. Thanks for the recommendation, Val.x

  4. You're right - pros and cons. Having just had a 6 week reading binge, though, I was amazed to discover that I preferred the Kindle. In the bath, I have it on a chair, propped up, next to me, and sometimes hold it up, very very carefully!

    The main bonus for me is ease and cheapness. I read the first book of a three part series the other day. Finished at 8 in the evening, wanted to immediately start the next one. Within a couple of minutes and for just £2, I was doing so. Works for me!

    I've found that, in the end, it's the words that matter the most :)

    1. I agree, Terry. It still gives me a thrill that one click and the book appears on your Kindle! Happy reading.

  5. My problem with eBooks and the Kindle is the boring clicking back to the start if /when i want to reread the book - go on someone, tell me there's an easier way to do it!! Love my Kindle but do so love the feel of a paper book

    1. There's definitely an easier way, Judith! On mine I press the 'Menu' button, then 'Go to', then 'beginning'. Hope that helps.


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