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When Is an eBook Better than a Print Book and Vice Versa?

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By , dealnews Features Director

The Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that as of February 2012, 21% of all Americans have read a digital book in the past year, a number that jumped higher after the holiday season. Pew attributes this increase to an influx of eBook devices given as gifts, but what we found the most interesting is the follow up poll that asked these readers which format was better for a series of different scenarios.

Not surprisingly, reading while traveling / commuting, being able to get a book quickly, and having a wide selection of available titles were all deemed better-served by eBooks. However, the print-book camp strongly favored physical books when reading with a child or for sharing reading material with friends. And users were about split down the middle in determining which format is better for reading in bed. (Click the graph below to view a larger version on the Pew website.)

For those of you who are not yet digital book readers, we're curious to know if any of these reasons have contributed to your reluctance to make the switch. We doubt that a hesitation to use an eBook reader with children is really stopping anyone from buying a Kindle, NOOK, or other such device for him or herself, but the statistics about sharing books and reading in bed are perhaps more telling.

If sharing books with friends was easier and more cost-effective via your electronic reader, would you be more inclined to make the switch? And for those of you who don't like reading an eBook in bed, why not? Are there any other scenarios in which you'd prefer to have one format over the other? Sound off in the comments below.

Photo credits top to bottom:
Harris Country Public Library and Pew Internet


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12 comments
johnb
In general, I actually prefer my Kindle for ease of reading. Easier to handle than most printed books in most scenarios. Reduces eye strain without a backlit screen, or even some printed books with too small type. I find I read more and frequently faster on the Kindle. Although I do like the look and feel of traditional books, the Kindle eliminates the possibility of allergy problems, either from paper (yes, fairly common), or the dust and mites paper attracts. As it has large storage capacity, eliminates need for walls of books attracting those mites, dust, etc. For me, eye strain & allergies are big issues. And at least so far, I much prefer the Kindle Keyboard's simple physical buttons to a touch screen, which actually can make it harder to breeze through a book, or at least requires more hand movement overall—and screen cleaning.

Software needs to be upgraded substantially, however. Besides simple type resizing and too-minimal font options, needs both better H&J (hypenation & justification), option to switch between justified or ragged columns. On screen commenting/marking needs improvement, although I like many of the current features there. Certainly would be great to achieve similar e-ink screen in color, without backlighting of common monitors/tablets.  Definitely requires significantly greater, dare I say unlimited, font choices, to better approach look of traditional books and therefore the ability to display closer to well-designed printed books.

Instant book purchasing is nice, but in so many cases I'd rather be
able to physically browse a complete book to decide a purchase. (The
"Read Inside" snippets Amazon offers are usually far too limited.) Then again, as brick & mortar book stores disappear, browsing a wide range of physical books becomes harder and harder. And I certainly miss not having "used" book prices with a tablet, and dirt cheap prices have very limited availability.
Narie
 That is most likely the case Lindsay. Between all the freebies I come across here on Dealnews and so many new authors to try often for only 99 cents, I find I'm able to find more of the type of books I like. Add in Amazon Prime with a free rental once a month and my local library's extensive e-book catalog and I'm reading now more than I have ever been.
nasagoes
The few e-books (kindle) I have read all contain typos and formatting errors. I will go with the paper version if it is a book I want to collect.  
dealnews-Lindsay
What type of eBooks have you encountered that say "see print edition for illustration"? Are they titles that depend on the images for comprehension?  
psternak
I have used both a Kindle and a Nook. I like them for some books and periodicals. The biggest draw back to both is books with illustrations. I've run into books on both platforms that state see print edition for illustration. The zoom function on the Kindle leaves alot to be desired when trying to read map illustrations.

It seems the Epub industry has a long way to go in producing a product as good as a print copy.

I still use and enjoy both platforms but they are not yet a total solution for some types of books. 
jaoakland1
I bought a nook about 2 years ago and have found that I love reading on it especially on travel.  I like reading it in bed in the morning, but at night I have found my iPad can't be beat because it is back lit and I don't disturb my husband.  I find I buy most of my books in an ebook format and try to get library books this way also.  When I first got my reader, it was easy to get the ebooks from the library, now that the readers are more popular, this is not the case.  Now the wait is longer of the ebook than the printed version.  If I can't get the ebook, I will read the printed version and I still enjoy the feel of paper in my hands, but I don't miss the weight of a hardback book in my purse.  I also love being able to adjust the size of the font.  Sometimes in low light it is helpful to make it bigger.  I have found a way to share my books within my family, but it is not possible with friends other than to make suggestions and hope they can get the book from the library or book store.
tw057
I've owned a Kindle for 3 years and I love it. I don't have to lug around books, and no one knows what I'm reading. However, print books are better when reading cookbooks, knitting pattern books, or instructional books where the activity could get messy and ruin the kindle.
tonyjambo
I've had a kindle for 3 years and love it - i havent read any less traditional books since i got it , i just read more in general.  As for what i prefer - any kind of book with artwork that is relavent i still read paper books as with any kind of manual or text book - i just like being able to flip between pages easily.  the other times i prefer reading reeal books is if im reading something a bit complicated (think game of thrones rather than a haynes manual)  where i sometimes want to flip back a chapter and re-read a section - i find that immensly irritating to do on my kindle.
kyokiphoto
I prefer the real thing opposed to an e-book.  I have read e-books on my cell phone before when I'm traveling but there's something to be said about the atmosphere that a regular book creates.  I also have a bunch of book shelves at my house and I love to fill them and my friends and family come over and see what I've read and what they would like to borrow.  I think it's more fun that way.  
dealnews-Lindsay
Very good point about reading in the dark with a Kindle.

Do you think you read more with the eBook reader because you have greater access to whatever book strikes your fancy?
Narie
I have no idea why, but I prefer reading on my Kindle Fire over a traditional book. It fits in my purse easily and is not too heavy. I wake up often in the middle of the night and like to read until I can fall back asleep. With the Kindle I am able to read without turning on the lights and waking my husband up or having to go to another room. I like that I can adjust the brightness depending on the situation.

I also have found that I read more now that I have the Kindle. I have read more books since I've had it than I have in the past three years put together. No idea why, but I just prefer it. I do understand those who prefer a book with real paper and pages though. I don't let my children read anything but books they can hold. I think, when starting out, being able to hold the book can somehow make you feel more connected to the story and I want them to learn to love that feeling the way I did as a kid.
MWFplus3
For me, nothing beats the real thing....real pages to turn, a real book to hold.  I mainly use my Kindle, though for traveling.  How else can you carry hundreds of books to choose from in such a small container? 

And then there's the cost....once I purchased the Kindle, I was able to load many classics (I chose around 20) for free.  And, Amazon often offers up other free readings that I find out about right here on dealnews. 

Lastly, my kids travel to Europe every summer to visit relatives.  They have Touchpads with the Kindle app, and they can efficiently carry a multitude of books and continue their reading while away via ebooks.  Several times I've even bought and uploaded ebooks for them to read for their upcoming school semester from here for them to upload to their Touchpads while they're away.
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