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Which is better Kindle or Paperback? Part II

Continued from here.

Finding Books

34 - Inventory stock

Kindle:

Books in the Kindle store never go out of stock (unless the publisher pulls them out completely). No need to hurry to buy your own copy out of fear they will run out. 

Paperback:

Scarcity heightens value. If we have to go on a waiting list for new stock to arrive, it can build anticipation and further increase the enjoyment of the book.

Winner:

The Kindle. Less time waiting, more time reading.

35 - Availability of Free books

Amazon website: Cheap Reads for Kindle

Kindle: 

Loads of free ebooks are readily available on the internet. And the Kindle Store itself has plenty of free books, usually the classics. There are also frequent book promotions reducing prices to zero.

Paperback:

Some authors give away free copies in exchange for honest feedback. This could also be a good way to get to know your favorite authors. 

Winner:

The Kindle offers many more options here.

36 - Books are usually cheaper

Kindle:

Kindle books tend to be cheaper because there is no physical product to print and no delivery costs. Books at $2.99 or less are a common and welcome sight. 

Because of this, one can deduce spending less time reviewing which book to buy, and more time reading it. {!}

Paperback:

Bookshops can sometimes sell old books at steep discounts. Watch out for inventory clearing or other promotions.

Winner:

The Kindle for more affordable books.

37 - Availability of books in a series

Kindle:

Say you get so enraptured in a book series, such that after finishing the first book, you absolutely must have the second. The Kindle makes it easy to buy the next book, it even groups those books together for you. 

Or perhaps you want to take a break and read a different book for the time being. You are not compelled to buy the rest of the series out of fear they will run out. You can go back to them whenever you are ready.

Paperback:

The lack of immediate availability creates anticipation. It also forces you to stop, consider other books, or attend to other matters (like sleep if you are reading all night!)

Winner:

The Kindle’s convenience is hard to beat.

38 - Availability of books while traveling

Kindle:

Say you are in Japan and suddenly feel the inkling to read a novel about the samurai. You head over to the nearest Kinokuniya bookstore but find few English samurai novels. 

With the Kindle store, you always have a wide selection of books to choose from, regardless of where you find yourself in.

Paperback:

Because your usual type of selections aren’t readily available, you could find yourself discovering other books. Ones that you would normally overlook.

And when traveling, local books that aren’t on the Kindle store can offer another way to look deeply at the culture.

Winner:

Kindle once again for convenience. And you can still buy local paperback books, regardless.

The 11-storey main Kinokuniya bookstore in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Photo by Satoshi T.

39 - Foreign authors

Kindle:

Usually only well-known or local authors are stocked in bookstores. But the Kindle store has thousands of authors from around the world. Ready for you to discover. 

You can also “follow” these authors so you’d get alerted when they have new books released. 

Paperback:

In a local bookstore, finding a rare author that you like could give a sense of serendipity. Years from now, you might be looking at your dear paperback and recall how you stumbled upon it in the bookshop one afternoon. 

Once again, the scarcity increases the value.

Winner:

The Kindle, there’s just no way to match the opportunities for discovery.

40 - The Long Tail and niche books

Kindle:

The Kindle store is stocked with all kinds of niches you can think of. And you can easily search for them by keyword or browse by category. Most traditional bookstores either won’t stock these uncommon books, or they would be in hard to reach shelves likely to be overlooked.

Paperback:

There are many specialty stores that display niche-specific paperbacks alongside other wares. For example, think of REI outdoor equipment retailers. There are some unique books there about hiking, mountaineering, even tracking Bigfoot. And there is that subtle sense of adventure in going to a specialty store and picking up a book along with other gear.

Winner:

Convenience and availability of options still win it for the Kindle. Specialty stores, though very alluring, have very limited books. And many of those same books can also be found in the Kindle Store anyway.

41 - Recommending similar authors and titles

Kindle:

The Kindle store does a very good job of suggesting other books based on what you are currently reading. Through the Kindle store, I often find new books that I enjoy immensely, ones that I would likely never find by myself. 

Paperback:

With paperbacks, you have less risk of creating an “AI bubble” around you. That is, the Kindle store's artificial intelligence keeps feeding you the same type of books that you like, and not exposing you to more diverse options. 

Winner:

The Kindle for the discoverability and saving a lot of time finding similar books. 

Also, at least for now, the Kindle store has not shied away from recommending books completely unrelated to what we’ve been reading. So there is still great diversity. The recommendations have also not been too obtrusive.

42 - Bookstore experience

Kindle:

With the Kindle store, you don't have to brave traffic to get to a bookstore. You don't have to line up in the cashier, and you don’t have to spend a lot of time asking help to find specific items.

You feel less compelled to stock-up on several new books in one go “while you’re there”. It becomes more optimal to buy books one at a time “on demand”. Your book finding experience can be conveniently spread out across weeks, months, even years. 

Paperback:

For many, spending hours in a bookstore is a treat by itself. Often, my wife would drop me off in Barnes & Noble while she goes shopping and running errands. At the appointed time several hours later, she would be all finished waiting patiently for me. While I am left bewildered, how could time go by so quickly? 

If you enjoy bookshops, you’ll probably agree that time flies when you are inside.

Iconic Barnes and Noble store set in an old power plant in Baltimore. Closed in 2020. Photo Credits: Design Collective.

And when out of town, checking out the local bookstore can also become part of the travel itinerary. 

For other amazing bookstores, check out this article on "The Coziest bookstores around the world".

Winner:

This is quite the personal preference. I still get eye rolls every time I say “I will just be a few minutes in the bookshop”. But for overall appeal, I say the paperback wins this one. Hard to imagine a bookstore without paperbacks on the shelves.

However, for the Kindle, you can recreate some of this bookstore experience by still making the trip to the store. And then buying the ebook version while you are inside. Or, if allowed, take photos of the books and buy them at home later. This also has a nice (or not so nice?) side-effect of warding off book impulse buying.

43 - Library experience

Kindle:

With the Kindle, you can still get the library experience by going there and reading on the Kindle. You can also try to download books you find in the library and continue reading anywhere. No need to worry about returning anything.

Paperback:

Many books in the library are not yet in the Kindle store. And some books that are full of illustrations, tables, and graphs are much better read in paperback form. 

Not unlike a bookstore, there is a tangible appeal to browsing entire shelves of books. Quietly anticipating something that can spark interest.

Winner:

The paperback.

The Boston Public Library. Photo Credits: Sue Halpern for nybooks.com

44 - Used books shop

Kindle:

There are no used books market for Kindle ebooks. However, there are plenty of sources for free (or almost free) eBooks that you can easily upload to the Kindle.

Paperback:

These used books shops can be quite charming and can offer some very good deals. It's thrilling to find those rare books for pennies on the dollar. 

There is also that quaint rustic appeal of visiting used book shops. Having a conversation with the store owner, perhaps even enjoying a nice beverage. The shop becomes an extension of the story behind the books.

Winner:

No competition from the Kindle, paperback wins. 

45 - Discoverability for children

Kindle:

I got started reading with my father’s books lying around the house. Could the Kindle have a similar effect? Would young ones discover their reading passion by being gifted a Kindle or by playing with their parent’s Kindles?

Seems children of today don't have a problem messing with their parent's devices. I know of people who frequently go through periods without a phone, because their little one flung the poor phone to the wall for being "too slow". So perhaps the children of today wouldn’t be deterred from mucking with the Kindle too. 

Paperback:

The vivid cover can be quite enticing. And loads of these books constantly visible around the house increases the chance that some might pique a child’s curiosity.

As for gifting or intentionally leaving the Kindle lying around, I believe young ones are very good at smelling intent. Nevermind that you'd have to keep it fully charged and with a carefully curated content. So I would imagine the effect wouldn’t be as desirable. If they are to love it, much better if it was their choice to pickup the book.

Also, paperbacks are sturdier in case they drop, spill or practice throwing with it!

Winner:

I’m leaning towards paperback, but we do not have enough data yet on children who grew up with Kindles and how that affected their reading habits.

Three younglings reading. Photo credits: Sasin Tipchai

Acquiring books

46 - Book Samples

Kindle:

The Kindle makes it very easy to download samples. You can “try before you buy” without leaving your home. 

Paperback:

With paperbacks, any part of the book can be the sample that you try. Unlike the Kindle store, which normally only provides the first few pages as its sample. However, you would need to go to the bookshop, and hope that the book you have in mind is available.

Winner:

Because of convenience and efficiency, the Kindle store’s samples are more effective at giving you previews. 

47 - Speed of book delivery

Kindle:

With the Kindle, books are instantly downloadable. No need to wait days for delivery. No need to pay extra for shipping costs. 

Sometimes it's all about the timing, reading the right book at the right time. And the Kindle gives you much more control over that.

Paperback:

The longer wait times can build more anticipation. It can also cause you to think more carefully about your purchases, whether or not you really like it.

Winner:

Kindle. The speed of delivery provides immense value right away. And if you still like some of that “delay anticipation”, you can simulate some of it by ordering titles still on pre-order.

48 - Book unboxing experience

Kindle:

The books show up instantly in your Kindle library, so there is nothing to be unboxed. But this also means you don’t generate packaging waste.

Paperback:

Isn’t it exciting every time you see that amazon box at your doorstep? Carefully opening the package, seeing the crisp cover underneath layers of bubble wrap and flyers. Then you hold the book in your hands, admiring the yet pristine appearance, ready to dive in. 

Winner:

Paperback. The Kindle has almost no unboxing experience for books.

Book design

49 - Cover art

Kindle:

You have a grid view showing the covers of your books. The grid makes it very easy to browse through your collection. And when using the browser or tablet, you can also see these covers in full color.

Paperback:

The cover is printed in full vivid colors. And the paper texture varies in glossiness, thickness, even the presence of embossed elements. All this makes for a very attractive and memorable presentation.

Winner:

The paperback can present cover art better than the Kindle could.

50 - Page design

Kindle:

The Kindle normally converts books into its own native format. Such a simple format would enable customizations such as fonts line spacing and margins. So regardless of which book you are reading, you can depend on the same look and feel that you have grown accustomed to.

Paperback:

The paperback controls not just the cover but the entire format of the book. This includes page layouts, custom fonts, white space, page breaks and many others. With the paperback, the pages themselves become part of the artwork. 

Winner:

Similar to covers, the paperback can present the pages in much more artistic ways.

51 - Conversation starter

Kindle:

Being a digital device, conversations initiated through the Kindle tend to be digital as well. An example is the integration with Goodreads. Which could be a good place to start discussions with other readers.

Paperback:

The cover can trigger random conversations with other people. Especially those who happen to like the same book or author. Then there are the generally curious folk who, for good or bad, like to inquire about what other people are reading in public.

Winner:

If the goal is to strike up random conversations in public, the paperback is much more effective. You’d have to work harder to get the same results through the Kindle.

Reading outdoors

52 - Reading in bright sunlight

Kindle:

The e-Ink screen of the kindle allows you to read under bright sunlight without any glare. It makes the reading experience much more pleasant than a tablet or mobile. And with such ample amount of ambient light, you can even turn off the front lights of the kindle and the screen will still be very readable. 

Paperback:

The non-glare of the paperback is what the Kindle hopes to emulate. And with paperbacks, you wouldn't be as concerned in leaving them lying around outdoors. 

Winner:

Either will be pleasurable to read outdoors in the sun.

53 - Reading in high humidity

Kindle:

If you are in a boat, a beach or very close to water, Paperbacks could get soggy with the humid air. And being waterproof, you wouldn't be worried about the occasional splashes of water.

Paperback:

Even though the kindle is waterproof, you still don't want it to get into the water. With paperbacks, it would be less costly if it does accidentally go swimming (unless the paperback is irreplaceable of course). 

Winner:

Being waterproof makes the Kindle much more versatile under these conditions.

54 - Reading on trails

Kindle:

When hiking, every ounce matters. And being lightweight, you can have the Kindle and your entire library with you without too much extra load. This frees up your pack to carry other things instead of lugging along those heavier paperbacks. 

And being waterproof, you are not worried about rain or river crossings. It is also less worrisome to read amidst foliage, dirt, and the occasional critters. Because you can easily wipe it clean later on. 

Hiker reading on a Kindle. Photo Credits: NomadicVision.com

Paperback:

With paperbacks, you don't have to worry about batteries running out. And in the unlikely event that you lose it on the trail, it won’t be as costly as losing the Kindle. Paperbacks can also serve other purposes in the trail, such as good paperweight.

Winner:

For shorter trails, I'd say the Kindle wins. For longer treks, especially thru-hikes, I'd say it’s a toss-up.

Durability & maintenance

55 - Need to charge battery

Kindle:

According to the Amazon Website, a single charge lasts up to six (6) weeks, based on a half hour of reading per day with wireless off and the light setting at 13. That’s a lot more battery power than most tablets and mobile devices.

Paperback:

Paperbacks never need charging and don't have a battery life that will eventually run out. And it won’t matter if you are truly off the grid without even a solar charger. 

Winner:

If the goal is to not have to think about batteries at all, Paperback wins.

56 - Lasting power

Kindle:

With the Kindle, books cannot be destroyed by fire, wind or water. And once synced to the cloud, the books aren’t easy to get lost.

Paperback:

Paper books have been around for thousands of years. Even if power or internet goes down, or gets hacked or censored, paperbacks won’t be affected. You can also hand down physical books across (human) generations. 

Winner:

Hard to beat the resilience of Kindle books backed-up in the cloud. But it’s not as easy to transfer ownership of those eBooks as long-term inheritance. I’d say this is a toss-up. 

57 - Regular Updates

Kindle:

It's easy to get updated when there are new installments in a book series, or new works by a favorite author. Books can also automatically update when there are new versions or corrections. 

Paperback:

With paperbacks, no software needs to be updated. No risk of incompatibilities or firmware issues.

Winner:

The Kindles’s automatic book updates more than makes up for the minor inconvenience of system updates.

58 - Dusting, molds and other allergens

Kindle:

The Kindle has a low risk of becoming a dust collector. No risk of molds, insects, or parasites moving in. There is no wood pulp from paper that breaks down over time, releasing organic compounds into the air. 

Paperback:

Regular dusting of paperbacks can be a ritual that endears you more to your books. And seeing some discoloration on the paper can add a sense of nostalgia.

Winner:

With the Kindle, less sneezing, less scratching, less allergies especially with older books.

59 - Resilience to dropping

Kindle:

Dropping the Kindle will probably result in a sudden gasp of dread. Depending on the impact, it might be the end of that device. Perhaps because of that, one would be more careful in handling the Kindle.

Paperback:

If you drop it, just dust it off, and pick it back up. No harm done.

Winner:

Paperbacks. No shock, no drama.

Displaying books

60 - Room decoration

Kindle:

Minimalism. You can use the shelf space for something that you utilize more frequently. Also, more appropriate for those who prefer not to show off their books.

Paperback:

Can decorate an entire room with books and fill living spaces with thoughtful publications. You can amass a very large collection throughout the years. A room filled with books can be an excellent conversation starter as well. And is a good visual cue of what you plan on reading.

Winner:

Paperbacks. They make excellent show pieces.

Books on shelves. Photo credits: iBSSR.

Environmental impact

61 - Raw materials footprint

Kindle:

No trees need to be cut down. Reference.com says 30 million trees are cut down annually to produce all the books in the United States alone. Also, eBooks don't need packaging materials. You save on boxes, plastics, tapes, ink, etc.

The Kindle requires elements such as lithium and silicon. But these are for the device itself and the material costs do not multiply per book bought.

Paperback:

Lithium, though not a rare metal, is still non renewable. To produce more electronic devices, more lithium needs to be mined from the earth’s crust. Paperbacks don’t contribute to this demand. 

Trees on the other hand are actually renewable. And many books are produced from fast-growing, sustainably managed forests. 

Winner:

With the Kindle, after having manufactured the device, there is almost zero raw material cost of reproducing digital books. Paperbacks though, need to consume more trees per copy. 

With regards to lithium mining, there are now growing efforts towards a “green lithium” alternative. Moreover, battery technology is improving all the time. And we can expect continuous innovation in how electronic devices are powered.

62 - Transportation footprint

Kindle:

eBooks don't have to be shipped, flown, trucked and hauled to local bookstores. Saving tons of CO2 emissions, and reducing load on the transport infrastructure. 

Paperback:

Books need to be physically transported, most likely through shipping and trucking routes. Still, many transportation companies have sustainability goals. For example, Amazon has a commitment to have 50% of all shipments to be net zero carbon by 2030.

Winner:

Regarding transportation, the Kindle comes closer to being carbon neutral.

63 - Electricity footprint

Kindle:

Needs to be charged regularly. And the Amazon cloud servers consume loads of power. But Amazon has a commitment to power their operations from 100% renewable energy by 2025.

Paperback:

No ongoing consumption from the electrical grid. Except for the external lighting source (which the Kindle needs less of).

Winner:

Paperbacks clearly have less electricity consumption. 

Privacy & Security

64 - Privacy on book covers

Kindle:

Some people like to check out what other people are reading in public places. Like in the train, bus or airport. With the Kindle, you don’t have to worry about this as the book cover isn’t exposed.

The Kindle can also set a passcode to restrict access to the device itself. 

Paperback:

If you are concerned about privacy, you can always put a jacket over the book cover. It can double as extra protection as well.

Winner:

The Kindle is more equipped to handle privacy when reading in public.

Photo credits: Antoine Bruneau

65 - Privacy of book purchases

Kindle:

Books bought can be secured with a passcode in the device. So nobody has to worry about others judging their book choices. Whether that be an overly sentimental cozy mystery, or a manifesto for an underground rebellion. 

There are also some settings to turn off the use of personal data for recommendations and promotions.

Paperback:

With the Kindle, Amazon knows every book you've read. With paperbacks, no worries about your reading preferences being constantly monitored. Unless you get all your paperbacks from Amazon anyway.

Winner:

Paperbacks give more digital privacy, The Kindle gives more physical privacy. I’d say it’s a toss-up.

66 - Theft

Kindle:

If you lose it, and if you don't have a security passcode (which is a hassle), whoever gets a hold of your Kindle gets access to all your books, highlights and notes. They can even buy new books. Most probably though, Amazon customer support can help you if the literary thief decides to buy tons of expensive books 🙂

Paperback:

Less likely to attract theft. Especially the heavy tomes. We can deduce this from a simple cost benefit analysis. The benefit to the would be thief is too little for the risk of getting caught. {!}

(Heck, if the crook really wanted the book, all they got to do is ask.)

Winner:

The paperback is naturally thief-repellant.

Ownership rights

67 - Tradeability

Kindle:

You cannot sell your own personal copy of Kindle ebooks.

Paperback:

You can sell, trade, barter, auction, cajole, intimidate, exchange or give-away your personal copies. Some books can even become limited edition collectibles, increasing their value over time. Moreover, if you become world famous someday, your personalized copies would be all the more valuable.

Winner:

Paperbacks provide more trading options.

68 - Sharing to friends and family

Kindle:

The Kindle has a lending program which also comes with an “auto-return” feature. This is brilliant, as many people forget to return books. The time constraint also has the benefit of nudging people to actually read the book you lent.

And if the would-be recipient is a bit of a minimalist, we need to be careful that it doesn’t risk creating more “clutter” for them. 

Paperback:

Sharing books with others forms a sense of connection. As we are reading the same words, looking at the same pages. Sometimes they don’t even have to read the book, it’s the thought that counts.

Sharing a physical book is more memorable than sending an eBook. 

Winner:

The paperback for the emotional connection. Although the auto-return feature in the Kindle is very nifty.

69 - Autographs

Kindle:

There is no way to do this yet with the Kindle.

Paperback:

A personal dedication or a signed autograph by your favorite author can mean the difference between liking a book and loving it. The personalization makes it a lot more meaningful and relevant to us. 

Winner:

Paperbacks.

70 - Digital Rights Management (DRM)

Kindle:

DRM limits what you can do with ebooks. For example, you cannot download Kindle ebooks and open them with another e-Reader device. However, there are some publishers that offer DRM-free ebooks. 

Paperback:

No need to worry about DRM.

Winner:

Paperbacks have zero DRM restrictions.

71 - Amazon longevity

Kindle:

If Amazon closes its doors, you are at risk of losing your books. But what are the chances of Amazon shutting down compared to losing your books thru natural means, theft or simply not wanting them anymore?

And in the unlikely event that Amazon does shut down, you can be assured that people would have already figured out a way to export all of your books.

Paperback:

Your books are yours forever, and you don't have to depend on a large corporation to keep reading them.

Winner:

The paperback has zero dependency on corporations. Decades, even centuries from now, no corporation can change how you own or use them.  

Excluded Factors

I did not include these factors because I felt they are quite inconclusive either way. And more data needs to be gathered in order for them to be useful.

Visual Fatigue

No clear pros and cons. Data from this research also indicates not much difference between reading in the Kindle and paperbacks.

Comprehension, Deep Reading

Some say text in print slows your mind down, cultivating critical thinking. On the other hand, the Kindle makes re-reading passages and highlights easier, which aids in comprehension. Need more data to determine any difference.

Reduces multi-tasking

Both Kindle and paperbacks do a good job of this. They are both designed to do just one thing very well. Need more research on the effects of either device.

Addiction free

The Kindle also doesn’t have social media (except GoodReads, which you can turn off). Both the Kindle and the paperback aren’t engineered to keep you on those devices anymore than you want to. There are no intriguing pop-ups or flashing bits designed to manipulate your mind. But need further study if there is a difference between the two.

Zombie apocalypse

The Kindle can be charged with a solar panel. But if it takes years before a cure is found, then Paperbacks have the advantage. You can also use thick tomes as a shield or smacking tool. Either way, more data is needed.

As always, if you have other Kindle questions you need investigated, please do not hesitate to drop us a line.

P.S. Here’s the answer to the puzzle in Exhibit A. 

Posted By
Ian
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