Ebooks vs. Printed Books: Which Are Better?

Given that ebooks have exploded over the last decade, making up 18% of all books sold (as of the first half of 2021), it’s natural to wonder whether they should be the preferred method of reading. Are print books slowly on their way out?

The answer to this question is no. Both ebooks and print books have their pros and cons, which is why both are still around and probably will be for the indefinite future.

Ebooks vs. Printed Books Which Are Better?

In this article, we’ll go over the benefits and drawbacks of each book format so you can make a more informed decision about which to buy. Let’s get started!

Pros of Ebooks

Ebooks provide the following advantages:

Portability. You can carry thousands of ebooks on one slim electronic device, allowing you to have a vast library on you at all times.

Protection. Ebooks can be stored electronically and even in the cloud to protect them from getting lost, stolen, or damaged.

Low cost. Because ebooks have zero printing costs, they tend to be significantly cheaper than print versions. Plus, many public domain books can be downloaded as ebooks for free on sites like Project Gutenberg.

Versatility. Ebooks can be read on computers, smartphones, tablets, and ebook readers. This makes them highly versatile, allowing you to read them in the way you see fit.

Ease of acquisition. Ebooks can be bought and downloaded in an instant from platforms like Amazon. Because they are digital, they also never go out of stock, so you’ll never have to wait for an ebook to arrive.

Accessibility. Ebook displays and font sizes can be adjusted to accommodate those with impaired sight. This enhances readability and accessibility for those with disabilities.

Cons of Ebooks

That said, ebooks also come with some drawbacks:

Glare and eye strain. Some ebook readers may glare in the sunlight, making it hard to read in some settings. Similarly, artificial screen light can strain the eyes after long periods (though this issue is eliminated by some e-ink displays). Plus, you may not want to read on a screen if you already look at one all day for work.

Intangibility. Unlike physical books, ebooks can’t be shared, lent, or sold. They are usually restricted to a single user account or device.

Battery limit. If reading on a device, you may need to keep the device properly charged to access your ebook(s). 

Advertising. Some ebook readers show ads for other books. Though these can serve as helpful book recommendations, they may be annoying and worsen the reading experience.

Device cost. Though ebooks themselves tend to be cheaper than print books, the upfront cost of an ebook reader (e.g. a Kindle) can be expensive.

Pros of Print Books

Now that we’ve covered the pros and cons of ebooks, let’s go over print books, starting with the benefits:

Physicality. One of the primary benefits of print books is their physical nature. They’re tangible. You can touch and feel them in a way that you can’t with ebooks. This also makes them easier to share and give away.

Note-taking. Print books make it easier to earmark pages, take notes, and make highlights.

Cross-referencing. Switching back and forth between two pages is much easier with a physical book. You can bookmark multiple pages at once for quick cross-referencing.

Recycling. Since they are made of paper, print books can easily be recycled instead of thrown away.

Cons of Print Books

Lastly, let’s take a look at the cons of print books:

Space. Physical books take up more space than ebooks. In some cases, they may clutter your house and take up valuable real estate.

Limited portability. Carrying around a book or two isn’t an issue for most people. But if you have many books to transport, this can quickly become tiresome and impractical.

Limited availability. Though not the norm, print books do go out of stock on occasion. This may require you to wait weeks or even months to get a book you want. In some cases, they may go out of print entirely and you’ll need to hunt down a used copy.

Environmental impact.Printing new books takes a toll on the environment due to carbon emissions (though so can the production of ebook readers and other electronic devices).

Higher cost. Print books tend to be more expensive due to the cost of book printing and other costs associated with traditional publishing.

The Final Verdict

At the end of the day, ebooks and print books can be the right choice, depending on your situation. Carefully weigh the pros and cons to determine the best book format for you.