Student Life

Books vs. E-Books

By Margaret Smith, North Carolina State University

The beeping and flashing lights of many different gadgets has saturated our world. A good part of our day is spent looking at screens: computer monitors, televisions (ubiquitous in so many restaurants and waiting rooms), cell phones, e-reading devices, and much more. It’s understandable that we might feel the urge to lose patience and give it all up. Sometimes it’s a relief to turn off the technology and curl up with a good book that doesn’t require electricity or battery power, but other times, technology is simply more convenient.

If you’re still divided on whether to use e-readers or print books, here’s a list of the pros of each to help you decide:

Pros of E-Books:

  • In the physical space taken by just a single paperback book, you can store hundreds of e-books. You’d never have to worry about having space on your bookshelf to squeeze in just one more book. You’d never have to buy another bookshelf, period.
  • E-readers are lightweight. We’ve all felt the pain in our backs from toting pounds of textbooks across campus. An e-reader is a great relief to our backs and arms.
  • E-readers are durable. Over the years, paperback and hardcover books succumb to moisture in the air, food stains, the sticky fingers of children, and numerous other casualties. You can’t tear the pages out of an e-reader. It doesn’t have a spine that is as easily broken as that of a hardcover book.
  • There’s the portability factor. A single e-reader with 100-plus volumes on its hard drive can be carried in a pocket or a purse. You definitely can’t take your entire library of physical books with you without having a U-Haul attached to the back of your car.
  • E-books are cheaper and more cost-effective to produce. Sometimes they’re even less expensive than a used paperback. Who doesn’t want to save some extra money?
  • Trees love environmentally friendly e-readers. Produced without the costs (monetary and environmental) of ink and paper, e-books will save the lives of many trees in coming years.

Pros of Paper Books:

  • You can’t fully appreciate all those aesthetically pleasing book covers with an e-reader. The full effect and enjoyment of cover designs, interior page designs, and illustrations is lost when they’re viewed onscreen.
  • Some e-readers may have the ability to highlight text, add bookmarks, and make notes, but each device comes with its own restrictions. What happens if your data is somehow lost? Will your additions be there forever? With traditional books, you can make whatever kind of marks you want, wherever you want to—and they’ll stay.
  • Books can be treasured heirlooms, gifts, and keepsakes. Maybe you have some beloved books you enjoyed as a kid that you want to pass on to your own children. E-books don’t have that keepsake value.
  • Say goodbye to eyestrain! With all the time we spend staring at screens nowadays, books provide a welcome break from all those pixels.
  • There’s nothing like the feel of a book in your hand. Each book’s page texture and weight is different, from paper so thin it’s practically transparent to those thick, glossy photographs inserted in biographies. A book is an art form in and of itself. Although e-readers might give you the animation of pages turning, physically turning a page somehow feels more satisfying.
  • Books require no charging, no batteries, and no electricity. If the power goes out, you can always light a candle—provided that you still have those!—and curl up with a great book.

If you still can’t make up your mind, choosing both ways to read may be a good way to go. After all, it really doesn’t matter how you read, just that you read at all. So which is your reading method of choice? Do you think print books will eventually die out completely? If so, when do you think this will happen? Will there always be die-hard fans of the print book, no matter how advantageous it becomes to use an e-reader? Comment below or share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter.



The New Student Union is an online magazine run by and for college students covering the issues we care about. Self-starters with great communication skills and a passion for writing should email to get involved. Official site will launch in late 2011.


One thought on “Books vs. E-Books

  1. Your comment about price is incorrect, sadly:

    Posted by Brian | August 11, 2011, 1:05 pm

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