eBooks and paper – it’s not either/or and won’t be for a long time


Why ebooks are great.

  • You can adjust the font size. This is a big deal for people like me whose eyes are going downhill fast. My optician says Kindle has given some of his patients with really poor sight a new lease of (reading) life. Yes there are large print books and audio books, but they are more expensive and the range is limited. Ebooks give visually impaired people back the same range of books at the same price as everyone else.
  • You can get a lot of books for free. (Legally, I mean!) Many out of copyright classics, famous and obscure, are available totally free. Lots of source material for research that would otherwise be very hard to get hold of. And new books are sometimes offered for free (like two I wrote for one!) either short term or permanently. You could buy an ereader and then never buy a book, and still have more than you could read in a lifetime.
  • You can take a huge library of books with you everywhere. And grab a new one any time as long as you’ve got a data signal.
  • You can make notes and highlights without defacing a physical book. You can make a bookmark without turning over a page corner.


  • Why paper books are great.

  • Pictures! Even on a colour ereader or tablet you can’t rival the glory of a beautiful colour plate in an art book. Even more prosaic books like recipe books wouldn’t be the same without their pictures. And anyway you don’t want to splash gravy on your Kindle.
  • Easily lendable, donateable, and collectible.
  • You can read them in the bath. Okay, some people use their ereader in the bath. You can get waterproof cases for them – but I’ve never had the nerve!
  • You don’t have to recharge them.
  • Cheaper. Yes, I know, you say individual ebooks are often cheaper than their paper editions, and of course, nothing is cheaper than free. But ebooks need some kind of kit to read them on, whether it’s a dedicated reader, a tablet, a smartphone, or PC. That kit is getting cheaper all the time, but it’s not free and it’s still out of the price range of many people all over the world. New paper books can be expensive too, but they can also be bought cheap second hand, borrowed from libraries, etc. By claiming “print is dead” you might as well be saying it doesn’t matter if poor people aren’t able to get books to read.

  • Paper books have been around for a long time, because they are simple and portable and they just work beautifully as a container for stories and history and philosophy, etc. I don’t see them disappearing entirely any time soon. I tend to buy fiction mostly as ebook now, but there are other books I prefer to have paper books of. I think the two are going to be allies, not rivals for a long time to come.

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    9 thoughts on “eBooks and paper – it’s not either/or and won’t be for a long time

    1. My biggest problem with ebooks is the technology needed to read them. I’ve been through too many techno meltdowns to trust my library to them, plus the cost – although I do have a couple 😉

    2. I’ve split my book buying very neatly – nonfiction on paper and fiction as ebooks, unless written by a friend. I love coercing my mates into signing copies of their books. Kindlegraph just isn’t the same.

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