Comparison: Physical books vs eBooks

So an ongoing debate amongst book lovers is which format is better? eBooks or physical books? The answer is inevitably going to be whichever you prefer. HOWEVER, they both have their advantages and disadvantages and I feel like understand both of their advantages and disadvantages can help someone not only read faster but also enjoy reading a lot more.

Physical books vs ebooks
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Personally, I enjoy both. I have a system in place where I save any book I want to read into an Amazon Wish List and then when it comes on a huge sale, I’ll pick it up, even if I’m not looking for a book to read at the time. I then pick up the Kindle version (as I own a Kindle too) and if after a while I realise I’m going to love the book, I pick up the physical version.

However, it doesn’t always work that way for me. Sometimes I’m gifted physical books, and I also love going into book shops and picking out books from there. So below I’ve decided to pick out categories, similar to how I did in my Goodreads Vs StoryGraph Comparison, and define who wins in each of these categories. Hopefully, by doing this, I can help you decide which format you should be trying more of or which format you knew was right for you all along.

Ease of access

Now, this is one of the biggest arguments to pick up an eBook version of a book. (I’ll try not to refer to them as Kindle copies as some people make use of different eBook readers but I think we’re all mainly in the Kindle camp if at all.) eBooks give you the huge advantage of often being possible to be picked up whenever you want to read them. You can start the book on your eBook reading device and then pick it up on your phone later. This makes it far easier than a physical book for ease of access. If you rely solely on your physical book, you may find yourself at times where you could quickly pick up a chapter but you’ve forgotten to bring it. Whereas with an eBook you can pick it up on your phone wherever you are.

Ease of access – eBook


There’s no doubting that a physical book wins this one. Despite the portability and ability to use an eBook wherever you are, the feeling of pulling out a book, holding the hard or soft cover, being able to smell the pages is simply unparalleled. There’s an argument that the reason that physical books haven’t died out is simply that people like being able to hold them and have them. With an eBook there simply is no aesthetic – yes they show you the front cover when you’re browsing through them but there’s no touch or feel to them that compares. For some, this may be a huge deal-breaker.

Aesthetics – Physical

“Collection factor”

As I said above, whenever I start an eBook and know I’m going to enjoy it or even sometimes I’ll finish one and decide I NEED that book in my life. Herein lies the “Collection factor”. No matter how many books I have on my Kindle, it doesn’t feel the same as having a bookshelf full of books. There are a few elements to this, most of which are vanity! One element is the fact that when you have others around, you can show them all the books you’ve read. You can do this on the Kindle but there’s not the same moment of the sideways head-tilt and the pulling out of a book as your friend goes “ooh what’s this one about?” There’s also a self-satisfaction element. Whenever you check your bookshelf, there’s a sense of pride that any collector gets when their library of items begins to fill.

“Collection factor” – Physical


So this category I could have expanded into multiple categories but decided against it. When talking of functionality, you know I’m not talking about Physical books, unfortunately. But it’s something we have to discuss as it’s something that could well aid in your decision. When you download an eBook, and specifically a Kindle, the amount of functionality you get is phenomenal. Three of the huge features I use are the Whisper-sync technology which is an overly pompous name for Kindle and Audible’s ability to synchronise their audio and the eBook version so you can pick up on either from whenever you left on the other. E.g, if I’m on page 109 of my eBook, I can pick up the audiobook and it’ll jump to page 109 automatically – cool eh? Another feature I use often is the ability to hold your thumb down on a word and it will instantly bring up a dictionary, thesaurus, translation, and even a Wikipedia page if appropriate. And finally, the other functionality I like is the integration with my Goodreads account. If on iOS, whenever you start a book it’ll put as “Reading” on your Goodreads (not a feature on Android for some reason) and then on both OS’ whenever you finish the book you are asked to give a review that will go on Amazon and Goodreads and mark the book as “Read”. If you’re a big Goodreads user, this functionality may well be a game-changer for you.

Functionality – eBook


This is an interesting category as one of the main reasons I use eBooks is simply because of the incredible prices they can be bought at. I have an Amazon wish list full of books (both eBooks and physical copies) that I check every single day for the latest deals. I would say that the majority of my eBooks on my Kindle were bought for 99p or around that amount. It’s a huge part of my buying decision. Amazon’s eBook sales can often help define what my next read is.

However, I can’t go around saying that eBooks are the cheapest way to go. In my article of Five Ways to Save Money as a Book Lover, I noted that charity shops and car boot sales are two fantastic ways to pick up physical books for an absolute bargain of a price. I’ve picked up five absolute best-sellers from a car boot before for £1! And often in charity shops, you can get two books for £3 or something – making them an absolute steal. However, these are often second-hand and when you compare the two side-by-side on Amazon, the Kindle, more often than not, comes out as the cheaper option. So I’m going to have to give it to the eBook here.

Price – eBook

Winner – eBook

So if you count through, the eBook has won the majority of the rounds here. However, this article was less written to decide who the winner was and was written to help people decide if the fence they’re sitting on is actually the best for them. I say the perfect way of choosing which one you prefer is by deciding which makes reading most enjoyable for you. As I’ve said above, I start nearly all books on Kindle unless I’m gifted a physical copy. However, if I really enjoy a book, I’ll pick up the physical book so it feels like I own it. Additionally, nearly 100% of the time I have to buy or borrow (using Libby) the audiobook too as I’m quite busy and so need to fit reading (or listening) until my day so audiobooks work out best.

Inevitably you may realise that buying eBooks could save you some money or you miss the factor of holding a physical book and want to start up your book collection. Let me know what your preferred format is and why either below in the comments or via my social media platforms below.

2 thoughts on “Comparison: Physical books vs eBooks

  • Intersecting post! I’m definitely an equal opportunities reader when it comes to what format I use, though the amount of Netgalley ARCs I’ve read in the last 18 months or so means it’s definitely been a lot more common for me to have my kindle in hand than a physical book.
    What about throwing audiobooks into the mix too?!?

    • In hindsight, I did consider throwing in Audiobooks but I thought they differed too much. Though, I am definitely planning an article on the huge benefits of using audiobooks over actually reading a book!

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