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Reading Online vs in Print

“Books, books, books in all their aspects, in form and spirit, their physical selves and what reading releases from their hieroglyphic pages, in their sight and smell, in their touch and feel to the questing hand, and in the intellectual music which they sing to the thoughtful brain and loving heart, books are to me the best of all symbols, the realest of all reality.

- Lawrence Clark Powell

As readers can observe, Powell’s statement above demonstrates his keen fascination and appreciation for physical books, which to him provide “sight, smell, and touch,” and a “the realest of all reality” perspective on life. 

(Image is courtesy of The Write Life)

Now, many teens are reading online given the convenience and simplicity. If they are preparing for a school essay, they can easily import quotes from the e-book/online document and accumulate them on a separate document, whereas with physical books, they would have to copy it down on a separate sheet of paper. However, there’s another group of avid readers and physicians that argue that physical books are better, given the multitude of benefits. This article will provide an impartial view of the benefits and drawbacks of both e-books and physical books. At the end of the day, it is up to you to weigh the factors, including your personal preferences.  

Factors to take into consideration

Font and word size flexibility

With e-books, a user can adjust the words to various fonts and sizes, whereas with a physical book, the fonts and sizes are unchangeable. 

Environmental friendliness

Billions of books are printed each year in North America. With this, approximately 32 million trees need to be cut down for it to yield the paper we need for billions of books. E-books, or digital reading, on the other hand, is a more eco-friendly way to enjoy literature. 

Weight and convenience

You can store all your bookshelves on one device, or own more physical storage space for physical books. 


Online readers will often create distractions, including add-ons (audio, visuals, links) and the urge to visit other sites or multitask. This can be easily avoided with physical books.

Eye strain

Your eyesight is significantly affected by staring at a screen all day. Blue light, which is emitted from the screen, will negatively affect your sleep pattern. Hence, paper books are a better choice for the eyes and to achieve an undisturbed sleep schedule. 

Difficulty with reading in bright spaces

E-books, or online reading, can be difficult to manipulate if you were to sit outside at a beach and read due to the glare of the screen. On the other hand, it would be comparatively easier with a physical book.

Spatial Awareness

Physical books can give readers a sense of achievement as they flip through the pages. They will have an idea of how much of the book is left, whereas with e-books, this isn’t possible. 

Retention capacity

Three studies compared print and digital comprehension among college students reading newspaper articles and fiction excerpts. Although the studies demonstrated that students read at a faster pace with digital formats, they had a price to pay. Yes, they may have obtained the main idea to an equivalent degree as those who read in print, but they absorbed fewer details. This indicates increased benefits from reading in print for higher retention capacity, better comprehension, and more effective in-depth reading. 

Activating your five senses and appreciating their value

Paper books engage your five senses and give you a greater sense of appreciation for the book. You’ll be more cautious of keeping the book in a safe and secure location, given its value to you. However, with digital reading, all your books are stored in one place, which may mean that you would take the book and the author’s work for granted. 

Effect on academics

According to a study that examined students from 42 countries, students who have a tangible library at home show increased performance in academics compared to those who read digitally.


If you want an affordable way to purchase books, e-books are usually less expensive than paper books. However, the number of individuals participating in free book exchanges and inexpensive book sales has increased over the years. If you don't desire to purchase a book but are keen on reading it, you can simply go to your local library, which is filled with free, educational, and tangible resources. 


Many e-books are typically produced to be compatible for certain software. They can be unsuitable for other types of software, which, as a result, may be difficult to gain access to. 

However, given that you own the specific device and software needed to operate an e-book, it can be accessible for a younger generation and individuals with learning disabilities. Because it is interactive, children can find more interest in indulging in an e-book rather than a book. 


“There’s a lot of interaction when you’re reading a book with your child,” Dr. High said. “You’re turning pages, pointing at pictures, talking about the story. Those things are lost somewhat when you’re using an e-book.” Whether you're reading to a younger sibling, friend, or cousin, the authenticity is lost with an e-book. Your presence is not fully there, and your bonding capacity isn’t maximized. 

Final word

After comparing the benefits and drawbacks of reading online versus in print, it is up to you to decide your reading habits. Have fun reading! 


Edutech, Z. (2020, February 06). PROS AND CONS OF ONLINE READING AND BOOK

READING. Retrieved August 24, 2020, from https://medium.com/@ziyyaraedutech/pros


Mental Floss. (2018, August 23). 7 Scientific Benefits of Reading Printed Books. Retrieved

August 24, 2020, from https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/554845/7-scientific-benefits


Quenqua, D. (2014, October 11). Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time, or Simply Screen

Time? Retrieved August 24, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/12/us/is-e


Reese, L. (2018, November 19). Print Versus Digital: What Does the Latest Research Tell Us?

Retrieved August 24, 2020, from https://foreword.mbsbooks.com/print-versus-digital


Article author: Michelle Xiao

Article editor: Sherilyn Wen