E-books vs. real books…a fight to the death?


E-Book vs. Real Book, by Graeme Douglas, Creative commonsAs more technology is released by popular companies such as Apple and E-Ink, there is a growing debate between E-Book fanatics and old-school print book enthusiasts. There are pretty obvious advantages and disadvantages to each of these types of reading, but here are a few angles you might not have thought about:

Children’s Books-

It’s difficult to imagine a world where children are expected to use such sophisticated pieces of technology to learn their ABC’s. How can an iPad or a Kindle imitate the unique effect of turning the pages of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar? Even with the increasing amount of 3-D technology for the home, it is difficult to imagine how an electronic book can compete with dozens of childhood favorite pop-up books!

On the other hand, new products like LeapFrog TAG Activity Books have had huge amounts of success in teaching young children. These books allow children to interface with the story they’re reading and hear words spoken out loud. Such kid-friendly technology is a sign of hope that the digital word can be adapted for multiple uses.


E-readers like the iPad and Kindle have started to compete on the aesthetic front. It’s become a race to see who can build a thinner e-reader, one with better black-white definition, or other important visual qualities. The aesthetics of e-readers are inherently different from those of actual books because there is essentially only one page to interface with. This is often highlighted by new e-reader owners who find themselves missing the familiarity of page turning.

“Real” books, on the other hand, have a physical aesthetic that is difficult to emulate digitally. Just because your Kindle has a beautiful leather case, does not mean that it has the same qualities as a leather-bound first edition! A physical book allows the reader to interact with the book in a way that an e-reader cannot. Dog-eared pages, coffee stains, lovingly underlined passages, and even the smell of the pages are all things that e-readers can only try and mimic. These are the qualities of books that result in die-hard printed word warriors.


While technology certainly has made our lives easier, we should continue to think about the opportunity cost associated with promoting these technological improvements. Are we willing to give up the printed word for the digital word? The advent of the e-book has aroused much discussion about the effects on the printing industry. Newspapers, books, magazines, all are being threatened by the rapidly increasing popularity of e-readers. Should we feign ignorance and just allow the printed word to fade away, embracing this techie revolution, or should we remember our past and try to save this species from possible extinction? The verdict remains to be seen.

-Michelle F.

One Response to “E-books vs. real books…a fight to the death?”

  1. Alex Says:

    I am reading this blog!

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