Print Books Versus E-Books

In an online poll by The Guardian, 79% of people said they preferred to read books in a traditional print form instead of reading an e-book. Though e-books have become a convenient way of reading in recent years, printed book still remains to be the number one choice for most. But why is this? After researching what people value in a book and reading in general, we’ve come up with three key reasons as to why print is still on top within the book industry.


When typing in the word ‘books’ on photograph based social media platforms, such as Instagram, you’ll quickly get millions of results. A range of aesthetically pleasing images of books or bookshelves or people reading will jump onto your screen, however very little of these images will be of e-books. Whether we like it or not, books have become a status symbol and many people now enjoy collecting and owning a full bookshelf. You won’t be able to see the impressive number of books someone has read if they are all stored away on an e-reader.

The pleasant look of print books and their display ability can also act as a wonderful visual accomplishment to yourself. To know that you have finished the book in your hand or even the entire bookshelf can be extremely motivating and inspiring.

In a survey dedicated to understanding preferences for physical products versus digital content in young adults, it was noted that the two biggest reasons for preferring print was the emotional connection to physical books and the value for money. Only 8% of the group thought that the pricing of e-books was correct, while 28% thought that e-books should slash their prices in half.[1]


In a survey of 2,000 British adults, carried out by Vision Direct, it revealed that we spend 4,866 hours a year staring at screens, whether that be phones, computers, televisions, gaming devices or e-readers. This calculates to an average of 34 years staring at screens. Unfortunately, this amount of screen time can have a very negative effect on both our eyesight and sleeping pattern.

Many of us enjoy reading just before we go to sleep, but the bright screens on devices such as e-readers can stimulate brain activity, making it difficult to fall asleep afterwards. The use of these devices can also lead to dry eyes and eyestrain. The bright, clear screens automatically keep your eyes engaged which can cause a lack of blinking, making your eyes dry out and become blurry or uncomfortable. The glare of the screens while reading an e-book also keep your eyes extremely focused which can cause eye strain if you don’t have the proper eyeglass prescription or use the device for an extended period. Some researchers have even suggested that eyestrain may result from staring at digital text, since they’re made of pixels that create blurry edges.[2]

Putting down the screen and picking up a printed book could help you to live longer.

Retaining Information

We all want to be able to remember that book we read years ago just as clearly as our latest one, but what if the form of book we choose has an effect on what we can recall. In a Europe-wide research study that investigated the impact of digitisation on our ordinary reading experience, interesting results revealed a significant difference between print book and e-book reading. The readers of the study were all given the same short story by Elizabeth George to read. They read half the story on a Kindle and the other half in a paperback. They were then testing on details within the story.

Anne Mangen, a lead researcher on the study, reported that, “the Kindle readers performed significantly worse on the plot reconstruction measure test.” She also went on to add, “when you read on paper you can sense with fingers a pile of pages on the left growing and shrinking on the right. You have the tactile sense of progress, in addition to the visual. [The differences for Kindle readers] might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story, is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading. Perhaps this somehow aids the reader, providing more fixity and solidity to the reader’s sense of unfolding and progress of the text, and hence the story.”[3]

From this study, it is clear to see the emotional and sensory impact that print books have on the reader. This is something that e-books unfortunately cannot compete with.

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