Paperbacks V's E-Books, The Debate Continues

5 March 2015

How many of you out there have been on the receiving end of an eye roll when you pull your child's tablet out of your handbag to keep them quiet in a restaurant...

How many of you have been the eye roller?

We are now living in an age when technology development is thriving and new-fangled devices seem to appear on the market every single day. E-readers are the latest set of devices to take the world by storm. Should we embrace this with open arms, or should we run screaming to our local libraries and cling lovingly to our dusty and dog-eared paper volumes.

In schools, electronic whiteboards have replaced chalk blackboards, children sit at desks with laptops and tablets rather than a pen and paper.

Is this the end of cursive writing?

Is this the end of paper books?

Is there a stack of books by your child's bedside table, or an e-reader?

We all know reading is important. Obvious benefits include vocabulary expansion, increased knowledge, memory and mental stimulation, leading to greater creativity. It has also been suggested that just six minutes of reading is enough to reduce stress by 68%, improve focus and concentration and even lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease later in life(1).

There are pros and cons for both paperbacks and e-books... which side of the fence do you sit on?

For the paperbacks:

Reading a book before bed can be relaxing, whereas the glare from tablets and e-readers can disturb sleep patterns.

Regular reading in printed format has been shown to increase empathy(2).

There's no replacing the smell of a book and the feel of it in hand. E-readers can't give you the tactile sense of progress and the satisfaction of the pile of pages growing on the left and decreasing on the right.

Browsing wall-to-wall shelves of books cannot be replaced by scrolling down lists of book titles on an app (not to mention the feel-good communal and social aspects of visiting your local library).

Books tend to be passed down and not thrown away thus staying in circulation, but can be recycled easily and safely.

According to researcher Anne Mangen of Stavanger University in Norway, your memory recall of a story is stronger when reading a book in paper format(2).

We've all done it...we drop our book in the bath and frantically dry it out on the radiator, leaving us with something swollen and warped... but hey we can always replace it for a fiver. The same can't be said for an e-reader...

For the e-readers:

Portability and capacity. With an e-reader you can have all your favourite books on the one device... which means that packing for holiday just got a whole lot easier.

Studies suggest you read more slowly from a screen, allowing you to absorb more information(3).

The production costs of paperback versions are higher than their digital counterparts.

E-readers have a short shelf life relative to books. They become obsolete quickly and are more difficult to dispose of safely.

As e-readers have an embedded lexicon, readers no longer need to reach for the dictionary when they don't understand a word or phrase.

E-readers are the soul of discretion... you can now read your novel-of-shame around the pool or in the coffee shop with no book covers to give you away.

Free book downloads are always on offer.
Perhaps one voice we need to consider in this debate is that of the environment.

What are the environmental impacts of e-readers vs paperbacks?

Advancements in technology result in handheld devices becoming rapidly obsolete. Sending redundant computers and tablets straight to landfill can cause serious damage to the environment, as many contain toxic and carcinogenic substances such as mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and lead. Disposal and recycling of any type of computer equipment needs to be carried out responsibly. Any data held on the device should be securely wiped before disposal and every effort should be made to avoid equipment ending up in landfill.

Historically, the paper production industry has always featured amongst the most highly polluting of manufacturing industries and deforestation is one of the main environmental problems we face today. Over 40% of all global wood harvest is used to make paper. The impact on the environment continues long after the paper or books have been discarded. Paper accounts for 25% of landfill, and when left to decompose it produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more toxic than carbon dioxide. Responsible recycling is essential to ensure that paper waste is kept to a minimum.

Paperback lovers build relationships with their books. The more battered and bruised a book becomes, the more it is loved, whereas to the e-book reader, books can mean clutter. Perhaps comfort favours paperbacks but convenience favours the e-reader?

Old books gather appreciation whilst old e-readers can only depreciate... or will collectable devices ever rival collectable books in the future?






Computer Disposals Ltd (CDL) offer secure IT recycling and diposal, data destruction and onsite hard drive destruction. We cover the whole of the mainland UK using our own vehicles and drivers. We collect all manner of IT related equipment with no minimum quantities.

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