Settling the debate: paper books or eBooks?

By Tanvi Rao (’22) | March 1, 2021

Photo by Alexander Hadig (’22)

Nothing is better than a good book in your hands. The feel of the soft, velvet pages against your fingertips, the delicate paper smell that tickles your nose, the world it transports you to from the ordinariness of reality—all this wonder is encased in a bundle of pages. However, there is one exception to this literary phenomenon: eBooks. eBooks are the modern take on one of the world’s oldest treasures, the storage of written knowledge. eBooks, with their bright, eye-straining letters plastered across a glossy screen. No paper to touch, no scent to indulge in, just the lifeless rhythm of swipes and scrolls. A paper book is a keepsake—a special memento to occasionally glance at, tucked inside your bookshelf. But an eBook is easily lost within pixelated files and hidden away in an application. The variety of book covers is a luxury only available to paper book users. The opportunity to study the art and physicality of a book is a wonderful experience, with an additional beauty in collecting various covers. In contrast, reading an eBook with a mere image of the cover, sometimes squished to properly fit screen dimensions, does not even begin to approach the experience of handling a physical version. Yes, eBooks may be easily accessible, adjustable, and abundant, but they strip away the authenticity of a physical book. 

The discussion of print books’ and eBooks’ pros and cons is surprisingly prevalent in modern discourse, which is surprising as there seems to be a clear winner to this debate. Linda McMaken, a blogger and author of The Three Baers series, states in a recent Investopedia article that print books provide an engaging reading experience, while eBooks only provide eyestrain and headaches. Many of the positives of the print book are based on highly subjective preferences, such as the feel of the book in your hand or the ability to collect them on a physical shelf. On the other hand, the positives of the eBook include font size flexibility, better pricing, and accessibility. These competing arguments prompted me to seek out the opinions of fellow Lancer bookworms.

When asked about her preference, and why, Melissa Paz-Flores (’22) answered, “I would say I definitely prefer paper books! After a long day of being on the computer, it’s always nice to turn to something that isn’t digital and that you can physically feel.” Melissa brought up an extremely insightful point because the effects of quarantine have greatly influenced our regular hobbies. Our entire lives are centered around a screen, whether it is for classes, extracurricular activities, or video calls with friends. Books are meant to provide relaxation, and transferring from one screen to another defeats that purpose. By picking up a paper book, not only are we engaging in the transformative experience of reading, but we are also letting our bodies refresh and reset after a long day bombarded with screen time. Melissa added, “I just love the feeling of holding a book in my hands and flipping the page!”

To me, paper books’ delightful authenticity beats out eBooks’ convenient flexibility. The next time you decide to settle down and read, I recommend opting for the observation of a physical book in your hands. 

Categories: Opinions

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