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E-readers vs real books: which is best?

Are physical books better than the likes of a Kindle? Let's see...

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Are eReaders better than real books? If you’re a regular reader, you've probably thought about that question before.

Recent stats seem to be on the side of physical books. In 2023, book sales increased to 212 million units. That’s 3 or 4 books for every person in the UK.

And it’s not just book sales. In libraries, physical book borrowing is outpacing e-book borrowing by a factor of 3 to 1. But does that really make physical books better than eReaders?

Both reading methods have lots of fans, so let’s take a look at the main benefits of each and see if we can find an outright winner - starting with the one that’s been around the longest…

The pull of real books

Let's give real, proper, physical books their due respect. Because there are at least a couple of great reasons why so many readers will always reach for one...

You can’t beat the feeling

There’s something special about holding a book in your hands. The weight of it, the feel of the pages between your fingers, the smell of the pages - it's an experience that eReaders just can’t replicate. Many book readers find the sensory aspects of physical books deeply satisfying. In fact, a survey conducted by the UK Reading Agency in 2021 found that 64% of UK readers prefer physical books for this very reason.

No batteries, no charging

Another perk of real books is that they don't need charging. You never have to worry about your book dying right when you get to a crucial plot twist. Real books are always ready to go, whether you’re on a long flight or out camping in the middle of nowhere. According to a YouGov survey, 58% of Brits find the lack of need for power as a key advantage of physical books.

These are great points in the favour of books. So let’s take a look at how the benefits of eReaders stack up against them.

Why eReaders are the real leaders

They don’t weigh you down

Who remembers trying to pack their suitcase for a two-week holiday in the days before eReaders? With physical books, you'd be lucky to fit in more than three or four without worrying about your weight limit. With an eReader, you can fit an entire library in your pocket. That’s quite a difference.

Adjustable font sizes

Anyone who struggles with small print knows how frustrating it can be. eReaders come to the rescue with adjustable font. Whether you need large print of just fancy a certain font, you can customise your reading experience to suit yourself. It’s a really useful feature that makes reading more accessible for people with visual impairments.

Built-in dictionary and translation

How many times have you been reading and stumbled across a word you didn’t know? With a real book, you’d have to put it down and pick up a dictionary. eReaders have built-in dictionaries and even translation tools - so you can instantly look up words or translate passages, rather than getting stuck searching for info.

A more environmentally friendly option

It might seem counterintuitive, but you can definitely argue that eReaders are more environmentally friendly than physical books. The carbon footprint of producing and shipping physical books is substantial. According to the UK’s National Centre for Biotechnology Information, the environmental cost of producing one eReader is roughly equivalent to the production of 40-50 books. So, if a reader goes through that many books in a year (or maybe two), eReaders could be the greener choice in the long run.

Cost effectiveness

Sure, the initial cost of an eReader will be more than buying a book or two. But digital titles are often cheaper than physical books – so you could save lots in the long run. Plus, the availability of free public domain books and library eBook lending services can make eReading much more affordable hobby. A lot of UK libraries now offer impressive eBook collections that you can borrow at no cost.

Reading in the dark

eReaders with built-in lights (like the Kindle Paperwhite) let you read in low-light conditions - so no more straining your eyes. You can enjoy your favourite stories in the dark, whether you're on a night flight or just reading in bed. And becasue you don’t have to use the bedside lamp, you won’t keep your partner awake.

Our verdict

Physical books have charm and nostalgia, and there's always going to be a place for them. But when it comes to convenience and modern reading habits, eReaders are hard to beat. So, if you’re considering making the switch, give an eReader a try. You might find that the extra features are worth it.

There’s also a third option that some retailers are starting to pick up on – dual format versions of books. This is where you buy the physical copy and get a link to download the digital version, giving you the best of both worlds. Plus, it supports local bookshops by encouraging more book sales.

Our top summer reads for 2024

Now that we’ve got you in the mood for picking up - or downloading – something to read, let us give you some hot picks for summer reading.

For thriller seekers – ‘Hard road’ by J.B. Turner
If you're looking for a thrilling summer read, this is a great choice. It's the first book in the Jon Reznick Thrillers series and follows the former black-ops specialist on a gripping adventure filled with suspense and action. Perfect for anyone who loves fast-paced plots and edge-of-your-seat excitement.

For romance lovers – ‘Sunset serenade’ by Lucy Parker
Lucy Parker’s heartwarming romance novel follows the lives of two musicians who find love and inspiration in a quaint coastal town. With Parker's charm and hummour, you’ll quickly be hooked on this tale of passion, dreams, and the magic of music. It’s the perfect summer escape.

For biography buffs – ‘Becoming: the memoir" by Michelle Obama
This brilliant autobiography invites readers into the life of the former First Lady with candid reflections on her journey from Chicago to the White House. Inspiring and deeply personal, it's a compelling story of resilience and empowerment.

Any more questions?

If you want to find out more about choosing the best eReader, pop in-store and chat to one of our colleagues. They’ll happily all answer all your questions. Have we convinced you that eReaders are best? If so, you’ll want to check out our range of e-readers.

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Happy reading!