A blog about books and reading. How very original!

Are Some Books Better In Printed Form?

The Joy Of E-Readers

kindle voyage e-readerI’ve been using an e-reader for over five years now. I took to it like a duck to water and before very long at all I was pretty much using e-books exclusively.

As an illustration of my rapid conversion, I heard a dull thud from the front hall about a fortnight after I started using my original Kindle. It was a chunky paperback that I had pre-ordered from Amazon and then forgotten about. It was by one of my favourite authors, so I was happy to receive it – but part of me, a fairly large part, wished that I had cancelled the pre-order and downloaded it as an e-book instead.

After only a couple of weeks using my e-reader, I was a total e-book convert. Manhandling chunky paperbacks, using two hands to read, one to hold the book and another to turn the pages, just seemed old fashioned, medieval almost, to me.

The advantages of e-readers are, in my opinion at least, numerous. However, the real big deal is that reading is (even) more enjoyable with an e-reader.

Making The Switch To E-Books

I started using e-readers and e-books almost exclusively very quickly after being introduced to them. There were a few types of books that were better in print than as an e-book, but these were few and far between.

Reference books were something that I still used in the printed format – but that was mostly for work. Books with lots of colour images are an obvious candidate, but I don’t read a lot of those anyway. That being said, my most recent purchase, which was over a year ago now, of a print book was a recipe book for my halogen oven. I did think about getting the e-book and using my tablet, but the thought of smearing the screen with flour, olive oil and who knows what else, made me opt for the printed version instead.

My e-reader is mainly for fun and entertainment. I tend to buy novels, with the odd history book thrown in. I think that the recipe book was my first purchase of that type in about five years.

Digital Wizards

the color of magic by terry pratchettNovels and most history books work fine on an e-reader, but there was one exception. I’m a big fan of Terry Pratchett; I love his Discworld series and find it very entertaining. For a period of time, Terry Pratchett’s novels were one of my rare printed book purchases.

The trouble was/is, that Mr. Pratchett makes extensive use of footnotes in his novels. he uses these to explain various aspects of the Discworld and the characters in it. They are an integral part of the story and the humour.

Trouble was, my original Kindle 2.0 didn’t handle footnotes very well. It was certainly possible to read them, but there was a lot of button pressing and navigating around. I’m happy to admit that it may have been user error rather than any inherent hardware design flaw, but I quite often didn’t make it back to the original point in the story from where I had left to read the footnote. Even when I did find my way back to the correct point in the narrative, it sometimes took me so long (and put me in such a foul temper) that I had lost track of the plot.

So, for a while, Terry Pratchett was the primary cause of my tree killing reading habit. However, since then, e-readers have evolved quite a bit and they handle footnotes a whole lot better. Thanks to touch screen screen technology, footnotes just open in a popup window and it’s easy to get back to where you left off reading the main text. As a result, I have now digitized even Sir Terry and my list of printed book purchases has now dwindled to almost zero.

I think that recipe books, auto-repair manuals and DIY books might be the only prospective purchases in future.

Anyway, however you prefer to read, and whether you’re a fan of Terry Pratchett or not, here’s a short video introduction to the Discworld:


Differences Between E-Readers And Tablet Computers


Amazon Kindle Voyage E-ReaderAs a keen reader, I’m a big fan of e-readers – although I do know that they may not be everybody’s cup of tea. Some people – bibliophiles in the strictest sense of the word – still prefer to use paper books. Each to his/her own.

For myself, the convenience of carrying huge numbers of books with me wherever I go on a device that is small, lightweight and has a battery life measured in weeks, far outweighs any nostalgic notions I may have for “real” books.

The fact that the e-ink display is great to read on is the most important thing of course. I find it very natural and when I’m enjoying a good book, I’m not even aware that I’m using an electronic gadget rather than reading a traditional book. To be honest, I find traditional books heavy and cumbersome these days, I definitely prefer an e-reader.

E-Readers And Tablet Computers

Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablet computerI like tablet computers as well as e-readers, but I really only use them for playing games, surfing the net, sending e-mails etc. I would never sit down to read an e-book on a tablet.

The back-lit colour screen of a tablet computer is great for videos, gaming and general internet stuff, but I find that reading a book is much less pleasant on an LCD screen. I saw someone describe this as “like trying to read when someone is shining a light in your eyes”, and I would concur.

It’s certainly possible to read on a tablet, but, for me at least, it’s something that I would only do for a few minutes at a time. If I want to settle down and lose myself in a good book for an hour or so, then I’m going to get my e-reader rather than my tablet.

With that being said, my son has both an e-reader and a tablet and he reads on his tablet all the time. It doesn’t seem to bother him at all – so maybe it’s just my old eyes.

Whether the reaction to the display is age dependant or not, there are some further distinctions between e-readers and tablets.

E-Readers Tablet Computers
  • E-ink technology display.
  • Monochrome display.
  • Read in bright sunlight or in a darkened room (readers with lights only).
  • Battery life measured in weeks.
  • Great for reading for lengthy periods. No eye strain.
  • “Experimental” web browsing at best.
  • No video playback.
  • Light and portable (8 ounces or less is typical).
  • Relatively cheap (plenty available for less than $ 100)
  • Back-lit LCD display.
  • Color display.
  • Read in a dark room, but may have glare in bright sunlight.
  • Battery life measured in hours.
  • Not well suited for lengthy reading sessions – back-lit screen might cause eye strain.
  • Brilliant for browsing.
  • Great video playback.
  • Still portable but heavier (e.g. iPad Air 1 lb).
  • Currently a little pricey.

E-readers are specialised devices. They excel at one thing and one thing only – letting you read books. They are a much better choice if you want to read.

Tablet computers are great, super versatile all round devices. They are much more powerful (and more expensive) than e-readers, but while they can do a lot of things that e-readers can’t, reading on them for more than a few minutes at a time isn’t anywhere near as enjoyable as it is when using an e-reader.

Thankfully, it’s not an either/or choice. Prices of both e-readers and tablets have fallen to the point where you can very easily get one of each. Both devices are also small enough and light enough that you could carry one of each without putting too much strain on either your back or your hand luggage allowance.

The short video below summarises the benefits of e-readers very well: