In defence of paper books vis-à-vis digital books


One exciting thing about travelling is that you can carry your favourite book, live the characters till you reach your destination. I am always curious to see what books are my fellow travellers reading. Unfortunately, of late, there has been a major drop in the number of people carrying paper books. They are still reading books, but on the e-readers. These work almost like smartphones, and have loads of space to store books of all kinds, not to forget the insane number of books available for download, for very little or no money at all. Avid readers ought to have one each, they say.


My little girl is only 28 months old, yet her nimble fingers run like an expert’s on all our gadgets already. And, she loves books too, touchwood! So, in order to sustain her love for reading, would I get her one an e-reader when she grows up? Should I? I wouldn’t want to be a stubborn old woman who wishes to keep her daughter away from the big, bad yet wonderful world of technology when all her peers will be glued to it.

So, just for my (and for several other parents like me) understanding, what are the pros and cons of reading books on e-reader?

Online research says those who read on the screen spend more mental energy, not to mention dry eye syndrome, headaches with neck and shoulder pain as likely outcomes. The Scientific American stated in 2014 that holding pages physically is a better experience than to read on the screen. This helps readers remember the content better.

So, then why do such an increasing number of people around the globe still invest in an e-reader? For practical reasons, you help save environment as less number of trees are cut. You end up saving a lot of space in your home, using your book shelf for some other purpose as well. One can read two or three books at the same time. Some of these e-reading gadgets also have the provision for underlining text. One can get books in all known languages in the world. And, these are easy to hold as well. You can save trips to the library, and carry them anywhere. And oh yes, you can adjust the font to suit your reading preference. People with low eyesight find it particularly helpful.


A 2014 research on habits and preferences of teenage readers by Anne Mangen and Ase Kristine Tveit titled A Joker in the class: Teenage reader’s attitudes and preferences to reading on different devices, found that more girls prefer to read paper book compared to e-book reader, while boys seemed to be more inclined towards a digital device to read. The study also pointed at avid readers opting for print books, while reluctant readers preferred a digital device to read books.Call me old school of thought, but I still cherish the smell of an old book, the feel of the pages I love to feel the book itself, devour the content on every dog-eared page. Give me a heavy book, and I won’t mind shifting from side to side on the couch. A Harvard Medical School study in published in January 2015, read that light-emitting electronic devices keep readers awake longer than old-fashioned print.


I love paying a visit to the library or browse a real world book store, where I get a comfortable little stool to sit and read books. I get a good feeling sharing or receiving some tips from fellow readers at the book store about specific books. The National Book Review stated that when people read paper books, those around them can see which book they are reading by looking at the cover. This works as an ice breaker and helps in community bonding.

Going forward, I hope to pass on this love for paper books to my little girl, reading the brightly coloured books with graphic descriptions to her every night. Yet if she too wants to go the e-reader way when she is big enough, well then I can take solace in the fact that at least she will be reading books.

The Author

First time mom Anu Bhambhani is a professional writer working in the content and communications space. Digital parenting is her obsession right now as her toddler is growing up to become really tech-savvy. She is working from home, looking after her family and following Buddhism. When she is not writing, she is struggling to find time to go back to her first love, reading, and dancing. As of now, she has decided that for dance, Zumba is the way to go.    

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