Print Books Vs. E-Books: What’s the Future of Reading?

Book Reading

The revolution of digital content away from print is a common form of debate. This seems to be especially true when the conversation shifts to journalism. However, there are other industries being affected that aren’t thought about quite as often.

One large area of consumer life that is in a tug-of-war between print books and E-books. So, this begs that questions, where is the future of reading going? Here, we aim to take a deep look at just this.

The Beginning of E-Books

Print books run all the way back to the invention of the printing press in the 1400s. Of course, E-books have a slightly different history. However, they may not be quite as new as you think.

The beginning of online documentation – much like printing books –  wasn’t for novels. The idea came up around the same time, inspired by “the talkies” or movies. The idea came from Bob Brown with the name “readies.” It wasn’t until the 1970s that any print was digitised, though.

The first thing to be digitized was a copy of the Declaration of Independence. The first dedicated readers – the Softbook and Rocket Ebook – were available in 1998. This is also when U.S. libraries started providing E-book services.

Fast forward to now and it’s hard to imagine a time that most information wasn’t readily available online. Whether you’re downloading your favourite novel or a student is looking for help with a definition essay, everything is online. As an example of the progression of technology, let’s take another look at that student looking for essay help. With a quick search online, students can be matched with a writer that will help them with any writing assignment.

Plus, there are even more ebook reading devices from Kindles to Nooks and even to tablets or smartphones. So, what does this mean for the printed word?

Print Books Are Easier to Format

Print Books

It’s easy to think that it’s easier for an E-book to be made but this isn’t always the case. This is because it’s much easier to see formatting in a document about to be printed. After all, the words are plain to see.

Many think that E-books are much the same way but this often isn’t true. An E-book isn’t the same as a PDF. It isn’t a document locked into place and then uploaded to sell. Instead, they are made through the code, much like other digital information. This can make it difficult to notice formatting errors.

Some E-books may not be able to include special formatting design from the author in this version. This can include font differences such as drop cap or initial letters. Many argue that this takes away from styles that are important to the book.

E-Books Are More Interactive

While in creation E-books can be harder to format, they can be more interactive. For instance, if someone has trouble seeing the text, an E-book allows them to enlarge it. This isn’t a feature that print allows.

In addition, E-books also usually allow readers to highlight words to find their definitions. Another common feature is that readers can look up information in an E-book rather than searching page after page. This makes E-books a popular choice when it comes to students in particular.

Print Books Don’t Have the Same Degree of Separation

This is often more opinion but there are experts that make the point as well. Psychologist Jim Taylor points this out as a potential disadvantage to kids especially. It offers a degree of separation that isn’t always a good thing. Many children benefit from tactile experience – something that electronic devices don’t always lend themselves to.

E-Books Are Often Cheaper

When it comes to price, E-books usually offer more affordable rates. This makes a lot of sense when you consider it carefully.

For any book, there are charges to a company for aspects such as royalties to the author. Print companies also have to consider the cost of printing off books. Any avid reader can also tell you that a hardcover book comes with an even higher price.

While there are fees that E-book publishers do have to pay such as labor, they don’t have the manufacturing cost of making books.

From another perspective, though, E-books do have a high initial cost. To read an E-book, you first need a device to read on. While this has been helped with the expansion of E-books beyond just dedicated readers, it’s still an obstacle for some. This is especially true for those who aren’t necessarily avid readers whose device might pay for itself over its lifespan. 

Print Books Don’t Require You to Stare at a Screen

In daily life, many of us get a lot of screen time. Between watching TV, working on a computer, or looking at a phone, it can seem like everything involves a screen. This is particularly problematic when considering that most adults spend more than 11 hours a day looking at a screen. The exact amount of screen time someone should get depends on a variety of factors. Yet, what is definite is that we get as much as 9 and a half hours more screen time a day than we did four years ago.

Unfortunately, E-books add to this screen time, giving the print a leg up in the comparison.

E-Books Are Instantaneous

E Books

E-books may encourage reading in some because they are easy to access. If you want a print books, you have to order it, go to the library, or run to a bookstore. If you want an E-book, on the other hand, you can get it in minutes with the few clicks.

This helps lend to the convenience that we are all used to in this day and age. This can lead to an incredible boost in popularity. This isn’t surprising either. It’s the same concept that has led to the struggle of brick-and-mortar stores versus titans such as Amazon.

Where and When It’s Possible to Read

This is a dual point with an advantage and a disadvantage on each side. Both have a limit as to where reading is possible.

First, let’s look at print books. While these are great choices in a well-lit place, they aren’t useful in the dark. This can make it difficult if someone wants to read in bed at night as an example. 

On the other hand, many E-book readers don’t work well in brightly lit areas. This is due to the fact that they often have a glare in brightly lit areas. For those who like to read on their front porch or by the beach, this can be a significant drawback.

To be fair, some E-readers are attempting to fix this problem by offering anti-glare models.


When it comes down to it, print books and E-books both have their strengths and weaknesses. In the end, one doesn’t necessarily trump the other overall. On top of that, everyone has their own preferences when it comes to the form of book they read. This shows that these forms are likely to run concurrently with one another for the time being.

As technology improves and more individuals become comfortable with it, we may see a more dramatic rise in the popularity of E-books. 

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