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eBooks vs Physical Books: Are eBooks Better?
2021-12-20 03:30:27

eBooks vs Physical Books: Are eBooks Better?

As a bibliophile, I have a huge love for collecting and reading physical books. There is no greater pleasure than going to bookstores such as Kinokuniya, MPH and Borders (from the early 2000s) to immerse myself into the world of my favourite literature. I enjoy visiting second-hand bookstores as well to snag myself some good deals. 

As the world started to go digital, so did the world of reading. As technology advanced, there came Amazon and subsequently, eBooks. I hopped on the bandwagon and became an owner of an eReader myself (Amazon kindle) – and it really changed the game for me.

The advent of eReaders have indeed made our lives easier and more convenient; and you technically possess a whole library of books in your pocket, there are many people who still continue to purchase physical books.

Is an eReader worth the investment? Let’s break it down: 

Eco friendliness

It is a fact that eBooks eliminate the need to cut down trees to produce reading material – but is it really the more sustainable of the two?

According to, the carbon footprint for producing a book is 168kg of CO2, while traditional books – depending on size and number of pages – produce just 7.5kg on average. This is apart from the materials needed to produce both; traditional books require about 130 litres of water to produce 500 sheets of paper; but once a physical book is produced, it does not require any energy anymore, unlike eReaders.

While eReaders do not require paper, they are made of plastic, lithium batteries and metals which are not exactly sustainable. On top of that, energy is needed to produce an eBook and we are not sure if it can be recycled entirely. 

With all that said, which do you think is the more eco-friendly of the two?



Prices of eReaders range from $120-280 on average depending on the brand and specifications such as waterproofing, ability to adjust colour & brightness of screen and better resolution. 

There are millions of free eBooks available on the Amazon Kindle, but if you are searching for specific titles which are not free, the price of each eBook can vary wildly. I have bought eBooks for as low as 3USD and highest at about 12USD. While the average price of a book is about 6-7USD, books that take up more storage and of higher quality content will cost more. And now that you think about it, prices of eBooks are usually at a modest discount of a full priced physical book if you do the conversion.

I think an eReader would make a wonderful gift for someone who loves reading. It is more cost-effective this way to buy books rather than paying full price for a physical one. Of course, purchasing it for your own use is fine as well, just that it might not actually be the cheaper option if you weigh in the cost of your hundred dollar splurge. 

Although my old Amazon Kindle Paperwhite was a gift, I try to be as frugal as possible to fully utilise its benefits. 

How does this compare with buying physical books? They can be bought at low prices nowadays from websites like bookdepository and Amazon. After trying my hand at these websites, I simply do not buy from conventional book stores anymore unless I have a discount.


Accessibility and Convenience

This is one of the best things about an eReader! Not to mention the instant availability of titles. 

I bring my eReader out with me all the time, and when I chance upon a title that intrigues me, I can search for it immediately and download a free sample. 

Sample on the kindle is beyond the mere synopsis of the book; it is the first 10% of the full content where you can get the chance to read the first part and get a feel of the author’s writing before committing to a full purchase.

If you like it, you can buy it instantly and start reading it on the spot. Since they are digital files, eBooks NEVER go out of stock. This is a way more convenient than having to wait for your delivery or going to the store to buy it and risk it going out of stock.

Another perk is its inbuilt dictionary and Wikipedia. Moreover, all your highlighted notes are accessible online where you can view and share them again! This way, you can do away with searching up definitions of words on Google.


Physical attributes 

I call myself a bibliophile because I not only enjoy reading the content of books, I love collecting them and appreciating different styles of book covers. Many people also prefer the look, smell and the emotional connection they get when reading a physical book, rather than facing another screen. For these reasons, people might not want to give up reading physical books. 

The black and white print of an eReader is meant to be gentle on the eyes, coupled with functions to brighten or darken the screen to suit your environment – something that is not possible when reading a physical book. But of course, with black and white prints are not suitable for children’s books or cookbooks where aesthetic engagement is crucial.

Another point which puts eReaders higher up on the preference list is the user-friendliness towards the impaired. Reading with an eReader only requires one hand; you can flip a page with just one touch, highlight and search up definitions and bookmark with a few. It has also proven its worth to the visually impared as they provide options to change text size and spacing size, which greatly improves the ease of reading for some people.

Now, it does seem like the benefits of one outweighs the other. Do not get me wrong – I love the lightweightedness and convenience of an eReader but then again, I do purchase some physical books when I miss the touch of one and if I find that its content is worth a physical copy.

What do you think?


What’s best?

If we would seriously consider which is best in terms of practicality and overall environmental impact, sharing and swapping of physical books is the best way to go. Therefore the library, where a copy, once produced, is read by many people is a great concept. You can check out platforms such as Thryft and Seekabook help to facilitate the exchange of physical books and buying second hand ones.

Not to mention, if you are not an avid reader and usually read little, it might not be wise to purchase an eReader. Do consider buying second-hand books instead!

On the other hand, if you consistently read a few books a month, eReaders will be a good investment especially since they usually last for years. 

This article is brought to you by Hazel, an undergraduate from University of Newcastle Australia who is currently interning at SNCF (August to November 2020). She is an earl grey enthusiast, caffeine addict, avid reader and passionate about all things health and lifestyle related.

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