Physical Books vs. e-Readers: Does Digital Rule?

Going paperless has its advantages – it is eco-friendly, keeps the amount of stuff you need to lug around to a minimum, and lets you keep all of your reading material in one place. E-readers have lots of supporters – myself included, especially when I am traveling. But I love physical books, too. I love feeling the paper, progressing through the pages and noting how the thickness of the left side as I move through the book, and I love sifting through the options in a bookstore. Despite this, I use my Kindle more often than not. So what’s up with my totally less than faithful relationship with physical books?

I know I’m not alone in my love for real books AND the practicality of using an e-book. The handy infographic below takes a look at the top reasons for choosing a physical, lo-fi, analogue, hard copy book over a digital option. 1,000 people were polled to find out their reasons. Are you a physical book loyalist, or are you in the e-book camp? Leave us a note in the comments and tell us why!

Physical Books vs. e-Readers

Why choose a physical book over a digital version?

  • 65% report they like the feeling of a real book
  • 61% feel physical books help them learn better – such as having the option to have physical post-its, highlighters, etc.
  • 58% like being able to lend and borrow physical books
  • 53% report they like the visual aspect, the covers, pictures, etc are better in physical form
  • 45% report that they like physical books so they can re-sell them when they’re done with them
  • 44% like collecting physical books
  • 44% enjoy gifting physical books, because you can’t put a bow on a download, and gifting something digital feels impersonal
  • 42% prefer shopping in bookstores compared with swiping and clicking online to buy digitally
  • 11% can’t give up the way a physical book smells
  • 9% report they want to ‘show off’ how smart they are/what they are reading



  1. Chip James

    March 5, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    I’m not exclusively in either camp. I like physical books for many reasons listed in the infographic, particularly the richness of high quality images, the formatting and readability of code segments in programming texts, and the shopping experience of a book store (so much so that I feel obliged to occasionally buy physical books to do my part to keep them in business). However, I do NOT agree that they help you learn better.

    My ebook reader of choice is the Kindle and I find the tools on that platform far exceed learning perks with a physical books. With a single touch on the Kindle I can immediately view a word’s definition, the Wikipedia entry, and maybe best of all, an indexed listing of everywhere the word appears in the book, embedded with the rest of the sentence for context, via the X-ray tool (which is also helpful for remembering characters or locations you might have trouble remembering in a book maybe you’ve put down too long). And every word that is looked up gets added to Vocabulary Builder, a flashcard-like tool for testing your memory.

    The infographic mentions being able to keep “3 volumes open at once, but switching from book to book on an ereader, automatically returning to your last location, is fairly trivial. More importantly eBooks allow you to carry ALL your books with you at all times, available for reading and/or studying whenever you find a free moment here or there.

    The learning aspect referred to in the infographic might also be considering studies that indicate physically-written notes are memorized better than electronically-typed notes and that seems consistent with my experience. However, I find that is offset on the Kindle (and probably other eBook platforms) by the ability to view all notes and highlighted passages from a book in a single summary that permits quick review, with fast access to the rest of the text as needed.

    One other advantage that I’ve found with eBooks is the availability of free, immediately-accessible eBooks. I’m speaking about books (often classics) made available for free online as well as commercial books available through libraries such as Amazon Prime’s Lending Library and my local library’s eBook collection.

    As a result, I much more prone to use an eReader for business, health & fitness, biographies and other non-fiction books that typically don’t have rich images but I’m prone to highlight, bookmark and take notes. I also use it for fiction, which I typically read once and don’t mind returning to the library. Most of the physical books I’ve purchased in the last 5 years are either programming books or those with photography or art that catch my attention.

  2. Vincent Day

    March 7, 2014 at 10:10 am

    I feel as though this data can be skewed. Who were the 1000 people that were polled? Do they have experience with new digital resources or are they basing their opinion on less than stellar experiences they may have had 5 years ago?

  3. D Alan Nash

    March 25, 2014 at 11:54 am

    What about a ‘sacred’ text? If ones views questionable content on a device, and frankly it is impossible not to, then it is dubious whether a sacred text such as a Sutra, The Bible, The Bhagavad Gita really OUGHT to be on such a device. Think of how someone, just as an example, from the Qumran community (think John the Baptist) would respond to the Book of Isiah being on the same device as, lets just say, Cosmo magazine. It is unimaginable heresy.
    Why make this point? Because this confluence of information MUST water it all down to pointless drivel- entertainment.
    Think about it

  4. Sherry Parker

    April 30, 2014 at 10:51 am

    If you have a physical book in your hand and the electricity goes off, you can still read in natural light or by candlelight.