A photograph in a traditional library - with hard cover books


Has the dilemma of “Ebooks VS. Hard Copy Book” ever crossed your mind? As a student, this has always been (and still is) one of my main issues. As we all know, the enhancement of technology, book-wise, has changed the way we access information quite radically, thus changing students’ lives. It is true that technology has indeed made our lives easier in the sense of accessing books through technological means, however this also has its downside – which I shall tackle in this article.


The Pros & Cons of Using Ebooks:

Kindle (ebook)
Kindle (ebook)

1) The Economic aspect of Ebooks

Ebooks have become exceedingly popular nowadays for a list of reasons. Many students prefer ebooks over physical books due to the numerous given circumstances – one of which is linked to the economic aspect. Ebooks are significantly cheaper compared to a physical book, for instance: the classic Gothic novel of “The Picture of Dorian Grey” costs $3.00 on the online Kindle version, which also comes with a free audio-book, whereas a physical hard copy book costs $21.12 on Amazon. This clearly conveys the drastic price difference between the two, which explains why students prefer accessing books online rather than buying a physical copy. There are many websites where students can even access books for free such as “Open Library” or “Many Books” which offer a variety of different novels to read, or even apps/websites that offer an unlimited number of ebooks with a monthly subscription such as “Scribd” – which is like a portable library. Another economic issue for students, would be purchasing academic books which, as we all know, cost a fortune. Online ebooks once again solve that problem, as they are much cheaper online, and easier to access – which I shall expand on next.

2) Easy Accessibility of Ebooks

Have you ever searched for a book in all your local libraries and bookshops and still couldn’t find it? I have definitely been in this situation countless times! It’s probably one of the most frustrating things… This is where Ebooks come in handy. As a University student, I realised how challenging it is to find academic books, or literature novels in a physical copy in libraries or bookstores – leaving me no choice but to read them online. As a more traditional person, I disliked this very much, but at least it got the job done, which is better than nothing after all. The internet’s boundless websites, does as a matter of fact, grease the wheels in regard to the accessibility of books. We can access/purchase any book at any given time – whereas in a library/shop there will always be an opening/closing schedule which we have to respect, and transportation must also be taken into consideration. With ebooks, on the other hand, it is a piece of cake; all you have to do is browse the internet on your sofa, in your PJ’s – it can’t get any easier! All the books present in libraries are scanned and published on the internet, expanding access to all users all over the world, which makes it possible for us to read any book in any language from any country – how cool is this? Globalism is therefore enhanced. This doesn’t just increase our knowledge of other cultures, but also decreases the need to travel, hence the positive impact this has with preventing the spread of diseases and still sustaining productivity. 

3) The Practicality of Ebooks – Weight & Travel

Practicality is a well-known reason why many people end up taking their kindle/tablet on journeys rather than hard copy books. Books are indeed heavy, and difficult to transport – especially when you have a limited amount of space in your luggage, and a strict weight limit which you have to abide by. We would much rather save the space for other things which are more essential on a voyage such as additional clothes, shoes, etc. A Kindle is a life saviour when it comes to luggage packing, as it is very small and light – making it a good investment, even if it is a little pricey. Instead of limiting your book count, you could have an infinite number of ebooks online on your trip, which serves the initial purpose after all – reading your favourite books, and having all you need on your trip. 

4) Health issues 

A major issue with ebooks is of course regarding our health. Have you ever felt like your eyes are burning due to the excessive time spent in front of a screen? I experience this quite often – especially since even our classes are online during this time. This leaves us with this question: after spending so many hours in front of our computers for our lessons, do we really want to increase our screen time with ebooks? We have become so dependent on technology, that most young people have started wearing glasses due to the negative effects technology has had on the eyes of people, causing myopia. An article in the “Whales Online” journal quotes that “Half The World Could Need Glasses by 2050 due to screen time” showing the negative impact technology has on the health of people – more can be read on:https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/uk-news/half-world-could-need-glasses-21819421

Uncontrolled screen time, moreover, could lead to other health problems such as: severe headaches/migraines, insomnia, dizziness, fatigue (due to the intense tiring screen-light), and eventually leading to unproductivity. A recent study tells us that an average American teenager spends about 9 hours in front of the screen, more information can be found on: https://www.wvea.org/content/teens-spend-astounding-nine-hours-day-front-screens-researchers

This includes all the online-school courses, entertainment, social media, interaction with friends etc. I personally think this is an understatement. As a university student, we have days when online courses take up to 8 hours (or even more), plus extra curricular activities that are also online, plus the homework (which is also online), plus the research and studying we have to do for certain classes (also online), and so on. These are just the academic things that we are expected to do in front of a screen, without considering the hours we spend on entertainment purposes such as social media, watching movies, etc. The list of the things we have to do that depend on technology is endless. Our lives are already invaded by gadgets. The number of hours we spend in front of a screen, therefore, is way more than 9 hours per day – which is why ebooks are not a healthy option.


The Pros & Cons of Reading Hard Copy Books

Hard cover books
Hard cover books

1) The Satisfaction of Holding a Real Book in your Hands

I know it’s a little bizzare and contradicting to say that I prefer traditional hard copy books over ebooks just because they offer satisfaction, when I have just made a huge list of the advantages of ebooks. The thing here is, it’s about quality over quantity, and this is a non-bias article which is why I must give the advantages and disadvantages of both. Personally, I will always prefer a physical hard copy book over an ebook – but of course my opinion should not, by any means, influence yours. A real physical book will offer you things an ebook will never achieve (the same could be said about ebooks too though), which is this personal sense of satisfaction. The unique priceless feeling of holding a book in your hands; physically flipping the pages; feeling the friction of the pages against your fingers while there is an oddly satisfying paper sound – is something an ebook shall never achieve regardless of the new sound effects kindle has added to its latest devices. I must also mention the vintage musty smell you get when you open a book which is so congenial, or even the plain delight you get when you see the remaining pages, and the last point, which I consider at utmost importance, is the exuberance of closing a book after you have finished reading it. I know my description has been slightly dramatic… Yet, you must admit that you feel the same way, afterall, we should prioritise our soul’s happiness – reading REAL books!


2) Academic Annotation

Academic annotation in hard cover book
Academic annotation in hard cover book

Literature students, and in fact anyone who is truly passionate about a certain text, make annotations when needed. How can we do this on an ebook? Exactly, we don’t. There have been some improvements made to certain book apps/ Kindle, where you can indeed highlight important words, yet it will never be the same as when you physically annotate words and mark them yourself. Physically highlighting, adding sticky notes/bookmarks, drawing arrows and adding side notes has been (and still is) of major help to me when it comes to remembering certain quotations/ explanations regarding exam literary analysis. As we read or even skim through a text,  certain ideas pop-up in our head, consequently making annotations crucial, as writing down your ideas next to the quotation in the book, meanwhile reading, will help you remember them far more easier in comparison with reading an ebook, and writing notes on a separate piece of paper/document. An alternative attraction would be the use of bookmarks. As a child I have always made my own bookmarks, as I found joy in colouring them, sticking things on them, or even writing some of my favourite quotes on them – and it made me more eager to read and use them. Ebooks, on the other hand, don’t use bookmarks – where’s the fun in that?

Hand-made bookmarks for hard cover books
Hand-made bookmarks for hard cover books

3) Borrowing/Lending Books

A photograph in a traditional library - with hard cover books
A photograph in a traditional library – with hard cover books

Libraries are the main place where books are lent and borrowed by all citizens of the place, although they can also be passed on from friend-to-friend. This, needless to say, does end up in the deterioration of the book in time – ebooks do indeed win the debate here. Paper books can easily be destroyed when passed on from hand-to-hand, or even burnt, or stolen – whereas ebooks do indeed remain intact in a certain server forever. In contrast, libraries are beautiful places where the present peacefulness really revitalises your soul, and offers you positive energy and zen. The problem is, if ebooks do end up completely winning this debate, and libraries shan’t have visitors, this will eventually force them to close down – leaving the people who work there jobless.

4) The State of Hard Copy Books Over-Time

Besides the fact that physical books take up space in your library, they tend to be dust accumulators. If exposed to dust long-term, respiratory issues could occur. To prevent dust from settling down on your books, they should be dusted at least once a week – which is a pain in the neck. The dust is not only toxic for humans, but harmful to the books themselves too! The bacteria and acid (present in the dust) destroys the papers in the book – contributing to their deterioration. Termites are also a major issue which many people have to face, as they eat up the pages in the books rapidly. There were many situations where termites exterminated hundreds of books in a library – leading to the loss of important books. 

5) The Environmental Aspect

Hard cover book recycled artwork (at Gulf University for Science and Technology)
Hard cover book recycled artwork (at Gulf University for Science and Technology)

As an environmentalist, I must also touch upon the sustainable aspect of books. The production of paper has a major negative impact on the environment due to the logging of trees. Even if we use recycled materials, to make new sheets of paper, about 93% of the materials to make it should be raw, assigning it an important role in global deforestation. Ebooks are indeed a better option when it comes to saving our planet and saving the trees. There are solutions to this, albeit, everytime a tree is logged, reforestation must take place in order to restore the destruction made – only in this way can we truly be sustainable. 

So… Are You an Ebook User, Or a Traditional Hard Copy Book Addict?

The decision is yours. The truth is, in times like these, it is extremely challenging to limit yourself to only using hard copy books, it is mostly because of the economic aspect and the fact that displacement is sometimes impossible – forcing us to use ebooks. The point is, traditional books are indeed healthier, but ebooks are more accessible. A balance is what is needed here!



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