e-Readers vs. Paper Books: A geek perspective on weighing the pros and cons
(Last updated October 30th, 2016)
First off, before I get bombarded with troll-mail, this article is not to disrespect my paper book homies and ‘analog’ friends. I love you with all of my heart. I, believe it or not, am very much a traditionalist. I love nature, gardening, antiques, and everything old. Really, I do!
But I have to admit, I also love electronic gadgets. I am a self professed uber-geek, ‘coder’ and ‘maker’ of all things that blink, make sound, move across rooms, fly like rockets, open automatically, and just create general robotic-mayham-brooohaaa! When I was a kid I used to take apart my toys into as many pieces as they would disassemble to. I really just wanted to see how they worked. This drove my mother crazy.
However, my favorite all time toy was, and still is building-blocks made out of wood. Before LEGO, yes there was building blocks made out of WOOD, and painted different colors! When I ate water melon as a kid with my sister, we used to play who can carve the coolest pirate ship out of the slice of water melon, and carving it became just as much fun as eating it.
Fast-forward into the future, when the first computers came about- think – PET. Apple-I, Vic20, Commodore 64 – right away I was mesmerized, and once again became more interested in what was inside the box. I wanted to see the interlining code/programs of video-games rather than just play them. My reading interests were always Sci-Fi, and reading-manuals on how things worked. My other favorite hobby? Cooking! See, I told you- total traditionalist. Food recipes are very like formulas. Learning the right amount of ingredients to mix into dishes and cakes, the cookbooks, to me, are like step by step manuals on learning.
Then technology brought us e-Readers and tablets. It was just a matter of time until I got a tablet/e-Reader, to read more, faster and more efficiently. At the same time, I also love paper-books. I love to see them on my shelve. In my life time I have been carrying around about three to four boxes of books every time I move, and I have to admit my back is worse off for it. But, like many people, I am never letting go of my paper books. It was about a year ago, when I was leaving to Europe , I decided to get an e-Reader. I got it so I could read while I wait for transit, or while waiting in the airport. reading more programming guides will be useful, I thought, but the main reason was much everybody else’s reason- having an e-reader makes buying books super easy, and you can take it with you almost anywhere.
For the paper-book vs e-Readers debate, here are some facts both for and against:
Arguments for and against e-Readers
E-Books Get In The Way Of Sleeping – and your melatonin hormone levels
A recent study out of Harvard University found that e-book reading before bedtime lessened the production of an important sleep hormone melatonin. “The light emitted by most e-readers is shining directly into the eyes of the reader, whereas from a printed book or the original Kindle, the reader is only exposed to reflected light from the pages of the book,” Charles Czeisler, lead author of the study.
In contrast, reading an old-fashioned book can actually help you sleep better. By taking your mind off the things that you may normally stress about before falling asleep, a book can clear your mind and also make you sleepy, easing you into a full night’s rest. In addition, soft light being reflected off the pages of a book doesn’t signal to your brain that it’s time to wake up like the glaring screen of an e-book or phone.
More on eyestrain and changing Font Size plus Searching
Well, Paper-books can strain your eye as font size can’t be increased unless you wear reading glasses!So yes I love my eReader capability for changing FONT size and zooming on page. I also love highlighting text and reading them later. SEARCHING through manuals is a breeze and when you only want to find a certain thing in a thick manual its a life saver! Paper-book font size and search not so good.
Screen time is more Stress time
According to research paper book reading helps you de-stress just like listening to music,walking, or having a cup of tea. Your heart rate and muscle tension eases within just six minutes into reading.
But reading on an e-device might have the opposite effect, and may cause you more stress. Late night use of mobile devices or laptop has been linked to depression, higher levels of stress, and fatigue among young adults. Screen-time not only disrupts our sleeping patterns and throws off our circadian rhythms, but it fosters a shorter attention span and fractured focus — an endless loop of link to link jumping, checking Facebook emails etc. social media distractions are also linked to fostering guilt and regret making our brain into a vegetable state.
Paper book lovers always jump to quickly remind us of landfills full of e-junk and the carbon footprint of producing electronics in Chinese robo-factories. yes, there always seems to be an endless upgrade cycle to the newest and the fastest eReader with ever more functionalities. But how do you hold off on your next purchase? How do you not care to be the coolest and the have the newest gadget front of your friends? This one is easy, I simply don’t care what people think of what I have or how I do things. I also compile a ‘NEED first’ a list of functionality in my head before I buy new gadgets and I hate wasting my money or throwing things away. So NEED over WANT and definitely not just HAVE at any cost so I can show off bling-bling. Before I buy I also try to re-purpose the old and/or give it away first. I still have my second generation blue-monotone screen touch wheel iPod and my friends always think its super cool! Yes, its still works, and I use it all the time.
Paper Books are made from paper which come from trees and yes paper can be recycled. But did you ever figure out the carbon footprint of making a paper book? The down of cutting trees, producing paper, printing and transporting around books to bookstore where you end driving? Food for thought.
Other Paperbook traditionalist arguments:
• Reading in the bathtub with an e-reader is hazardous. Agreed, but so is drying your hair in the bath tub. Electonics do not do well in water environments. Not. Ever.
• There is no second-hand e-bookstores. Sure there is, Amazon you can trade your books in.
• Reading while eating or on a subway. Paper or not you can do it on both, but have u ever try to do a recipe and make a mess on your book let alone the eReader showing you a VIDEO while you try out a new recipe can definitely help newbies!
Paper-book have more tangible qualities
• Turning the pages of a book helps me mark my progress. You can do that on an e-Reader and can search it later. Another cool feature is to comment on a page and share your comments with a community.
• Reading an old-fashioned paper book might seem out of style, wasteful, or impractical. But only if you care on what other people think. I don’t care.
Simplicity of holding a physical book in your hands feels good. I agree, flipping through the pages, and not having anything else to shift your focus to is nice and there are debates on both sides for which is a healthier experience. Ultimately they are both fine, and really, it’s what works for you. So as you can see for me, the overwhelming verdict is e-Readers over paper books. In any case, reading is a deeply personal choice for most people and for me its more like practicality and convenience over sentiment!
What is your take on this?