Books vs. E-Books: Spring Break Edition

Winnie the Pooh on ereader
Image by mikebaird [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecobmmons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
It’s Spring Break here at Illinois, which begs one question of every nerd: how are you going to get your pile of books to Cancun?

Paper copies vs. E-Books is a hot topic for bibliophiles and students everywhere. In recent years, Amazon’s Kindle has swept the globe with the ability to carry thousands of books in one simple tablet. However, like any advance in technology, it is not without the non-believers. The naysaying resilient stand strongly in favor of paper books, and they are not entirely unjustified. Now I believe that there is no correct way that all people need to read, but for any person considering purchasing an E-Reading device, it is important to be informed on both sides of the argument.

The Cons

Some people just plain old prefer the actual tactile feeling of a book in their hands, and on that front, there isn’t much that an E-Reader can do to persuade otherwise. For students, when buying E-Textbooks, it can be difficult to cite in papers as there are not page numbers, but rather “locations” which are tricky to align with paper copies. Along those lines, not every professor will allow E-Readers in class, or even have an E-Textbook available for the course.

The Misconceptions

A large selling point for the E-Reader is that it is eco-friendly. It is undeniable that it will use less paper, but it should also be considered that the production of any technology does not come without its own damage to the environment. Better for the environment does not mean good for it. Another common misconception is that E-Readers will inhibit learning the material because there is no way to booknote or highlight. This is also untrue. The Kindle features the ability to highlight, make notes, and even automatically creates an index of the notes made and highlighted sections. There is also the matter of price. E-Readers can be expensive upfront, Kindles range from $69-379. However, the price of an E-Book is often about 70% of its paper copy counterpart. With a purchase of $430 of books and E-Reader material, the money saved can cover the initial cost of the E-Reader, a number unfortunately un-shocking to any full time student who has ever purchased textbooks. As Nick Mokey pointed out in Digital Trends, from a strictly price standpoint, unless the E-Reader is getting frequent use, it will probably not be worth the purchase.

The Pros

The feature that I use most often on my Kindle is the ability to tap on a word and Oxford’s Dictionary definition of the word will appear, a process that is more distracting and time consuming with a paper book. The size of the text can be adjusted back and forth with just a tap, which is helpful for a tired reader at 3 in the morning, or even just for those of us with imperfect eyesight. Another feature that is entirely genius on the Kindle is the new X-Ray function, where the reader can pull up a small character backstory or a term’s context is shown alongside the word or character’s frequency in the text, displayed by graph. E-Readers can download from a vast library of books in under a minute, not to mention the ability to carry thousands of books in a six ounce, 9.3 x 6.5 inch tablet (comforting to any student with sore muscles from backpack weight).

There is not a correct way to read and in my opinion, any reading, be it paperback, hardcover, E-Reader, papyrus, chiseled stone, cave writings, anything, is a good use of time. I hope this was helpful to any of my fellow students and book-lovers considering purchasing an E-Reader. Sending love from CITES, happy reading!

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