E-book reader Vs. Processed Wood-Pulp reader

Ever since I got my neat little B&N Nook Simple Touch, I’ve been thinking about how it compares with the classic pile-of-processed-wood-pulp normal book…

It surprises me how close the e-ink based readers get to the feel of a real “made-from-bits-of-dead-tree” book, it’s actually pretty startling, especially for an established bibliophile like me…

So, here’s the head-to-head

Size and Weight;
Real Book; varies depending on the book in question, can range from a few ounces to a few pounds
Reader; depends on the reader in question, for the sake of argument, in this post, I’ll use the weight of my B&N NST, weight of the NST? 7.48 Oz. (212 Grams)

Winner; Reader
It doesn’t matter if I’m reading “something light” (how about this leaflet, “Famous Jewish Sports Legends?” ) or the copy of The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (all five books in the Trilogy plus “Young Zaphod Plays it Safe”), the NST is still a svelte 7.48 Oz (Real UHHGTTG weight; 1.8 Lbs)

NST has 2 GB of memory, is capable of holding 1,000+ books, has a MicroSD card slot capable of supporting a 32GB card, which can be loaded with even more books, but just going by the stock 2 GB memory/1,000 book limit, it takes up far less space than 1,000 Real Books, Real Book capacity is limited only by the size/number/capacity of your physical bookshelves, but also bear in mind that, let’s say 1,000 copies of a 1.8 Lb hardcover book would weigh 1,800 Lbs!.. the NST packs that amount of capacity in one 7.48 Oz device

Real Book; limited by the space on your bookshelves, and the size of the books themselves, physically, the Real Books have the capacity advantage as you can always build more bookshelves, once you fill up all storage on the NST, you’d have to either delete/archive old books or buy another memory card

Physical winner; Real Books
Practical/usability winner; Reader, with an E-Reader, you can take those 1,000 books with you wherever you go, to take 1,000 Real Books with you, you’d need to cart along an inconveniently large building with you
…however, carting around 1,000 Real Books would give you a better workout… :wink:

Reader; gives you the ability to select multiple different fonts, font sizes, and formatting, customizing displayed text to your personal liking, don’t like the small type of your latest e-book? bump up the font size, hate the font chosen? change it, make the book look the way you want it to
if the book has footnotes/endnotes, tapping the note link takes you right to the note, tap again to return to the page you were on
reading multiple books?, the reader remembers where you are in each book, if you have the same reader app on your computer/smartphone/tablet and sync is turned on, you can start on your tablet/smartphone, stop, and pick up on your reader right where you left off on the tablet/smartphone

Real Book; Non-adjustable fonts/spacing/formatting, just what the publisher wanted it to be, type too small? get a pair of magnifying reading glasses, or a “Large Print Edition” if available
Footnotes/endnotes? flip to the pertinent note section, just make sure you don’t forget where you left off
Multiple books? you’ll need some form of physical bookmark, be it an actual bookmark, slip of paper, business card, or dog-earing the page

Winner; Reader - the control of formatting, logical note-linking, and remembering your place in multiple books make reading more natural and organic

Interaction with book
Reader; E-ink readers are good, dammned good, actually, the e-ink looks for all intents and purposes like real ink on real paper, the display has a non-glare matte finish and a very slight textured feel to it that feels very paper-like, it can be read in direct sunlight, or under normal room lighting with no eyestrain, glare, or washing out, “swiping” to turn pages on the display feels very natural, most modern E-Ink readers feel far closer to that elusive “real book” feel than a backlit LCD based tablet/reader like the Kindle Fire or Nook Color

Basically, if you’re looking to re-create that “real book” feel with an E-Reader, the E-Ink models (Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, etc…) are FAR superior to the backlit LCD based tablets (Kindle Fire, Nook Color, iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, etc…), just don’t expect to watch Netflix, surf the web, watch YouTube or do anything even partially multimedia-intense with them, they’re Electronic Book Readers ONLY

Real Book; Still the King, real pages, real page turning action, the smell of processed paper, the feel of paper and ink, the tactile experience of a real book is something a Reader CANNOT completely recreate, and it’s something any true bibliophile will never give up, there’s something intangible, something real, something good about curling up with a real, actual, factual Book, the readers get darned close, but will never actually get there due to the lack of physical pages

Winner; Real Book

Reader; aside from the screen, Readers are remarkably durable, as long as they’re not dropped/stepped on/have liquid spilled on them, the books themselves won’t get ripped, torn, dog eared, pages won’t fall out of them, the spine/binding won’t break down and fail, get scribbled in or defaced, covers bent/wrinkled/torn off, e-book data files themselves just don’t wear out, even if you break the reading device, you can install them on the replacement and they’ll be good to go again

Real Book; I’ve lost count of the number of Real Books I’ve worn out, I’ve probably purchased HHGTTG at least four times, 'cause I keep wearing them out, my copy of The Dilbert Principle is battered and worn, and my Far Side cartoon books are scattered all over the house (what can I say, my nephew’s discovered them and loves them :wink: )

Winner; Reader

Reader; E-Ink readers, with WiFi off and reading an hour a day can go approx. one to two MONTHS between charges, color LCD tablets/readers/smartphones range from 3-12 hours, depending on battery capacity and screen brightness

Real Book; it’s a real book, it doesn’t need power to work

Winner; Real Book

Reader; once the initial hardware investment has been made, e-books are about the same price as real books, despite what the reader vendors want you to believe, the only real actual expense you need for an E-Book is the Reader itself, that can range from surprisingly cheap to surprisingly expensive;

Cheapest option; an E-Reader application for your smartphone/tablet/computer, price can be anywhere from Free to a few dollars, E-book reading experience depends on the device in question, smartphones are the closest thing to an actual Reader device, but may be hampered by the small screen (iPhone series and the 3.5" Android devices in particular), screen protectors and durable cases (like the OtterBox) are strongly recommended

Mid-price option; Dedicated E-Reader like the Amazon Kindle/Sony Reader/ B&N Nook. E-Ink based readers are hovering around $100 for the device, and come with a charging cable you can use on your computer, free hint though, you don’t NEED the dedicated “brick” AC adapter if you already have a modern Smartphone, I charge my NST with the little Apple USB Charging Plug that came with my iPhone, it puts out the required 5V AC / 1A necessary to charge my Nook
You also don’t generally NEED a case, or screen protector on an E-Ink device, the screens are pretty fingerprint resistant, and you likely won’t need the extra protection of an anti-scratch protector like the Zagg Invisishield, unless you plan to bring the device everywhere with you, or to the beach

Expensive option; A Tablet type system like the Kindle Fire, Nook Color, Samsung Galaxy Tab, or iPad, these are basically laptops without a physical keyboard or optical drive, they are media consumption devices, and can basically “do it all”, e-books, streaming video and music, .mp3’s, but you pay a price for that ability, $200 and up, and for these devices I would STRONGLY reccomend BOTH a case AND a screen protector like the Zagg Invisishield, mainly due to the high cost of the device, and the fact that you’ll be taking it with you everywhere, just like a smartphone

Real Book; no electronic reader necessary, it’s a physical book, and far cheaper than an e-book, actually, a physical book represents a greater value than an E-Book, as you actually get an actual, physical book for your, oh let’s say, $8, the $8 you’re spending on an “E-Book” is in actuality, purchasing a license to use a downloaded data file on your reader device, you don’t actually own the book, you don’t actually have anything physical or tangible for the $8 you’ve spent, I can’t “reach into” my NST and pull out a specific batch of data and say *this is that book I just purchased, see, it’s a copy of Terry Pratchett’s “Soul Music” *, wheras I can go over to my bookshelf and pull out my actua, physical copy of HHGTTG, or Soul Music, or The Dilbert Principle, or one of my Far Side books, or a Dave Barry compendium, or… well, you get the picture

But then again, it’s easier to carry around my NST, or open my Nook app, Apple iBooks app, or the Amazon Kindle app on my iPhone, and be able to have on it the UHGTTG, Soul Music, Hogfather, Bram Stokers Dracula, the Zombie Survival Guide, etc…, it’s easier and more convenient than carrying around the physical books themselves

Final Results;
Winner; too close to call, depends on your preferences

E-Readers are convenient, lightweight, can hold a decent library of books in far less space than the equivalent physical books
Real Books are cheaper, and require no power, but take up more room, wear out with extensive reading, and can be heavier than a reader

Personally, I give a very, very slight edge to the E-Reader, the ability to carry multiple books in a device not much bigger than a paperback book itself is quite amazing to me, that said, I still loves me a real page-turny real book, the tactile experience has to count for something

so, the final results;

Size/Weight; Reader wins
Capacity; Tie
Reader holds more in a smaller form factor, but has memory limitations
Real books limited only by the size of the bookshelves in your Book-Storage-Room
Interface; Reader wins
Interaction with book; Real Book wins
Durability; Reader wins
Power/Runtime; Real Book wins
Price/Value; Real Book wins

Reader has two wins, Real book has three wins, the Tie is dropped from the competition, so based on the remaining scores, the OVERALL winner is…



eBook: Has to be shut off below 10000 ft.
Dead tree book: Can read whenever the hell you want.

Winner: Dead tree book.

oops, miscounted the results, dropping the tie score, each contender won three categories, so the end result is still a tie, D’OH!

I still give the Real Book the edge, because it’s a Real Book…

Skipping ahead to the ending to see how it all ends
Reader; have to pull up the menu, choose the Contents, scroll to the last chapter, and page over to the last page, don’t forget to bookmark where you just were or you’ll have to navigate from the last chapter you read…

Real Book; open the back of the book, thumb past the promos for other books from the publisher until you find the last page(s), read at your leisure… don’t forget to bookmark where you were (or just keep a finger stuck in that section)

Winner; Real Book

Butterfingered Readers:

eBook: If you drop it, you crack the screen and probably cause irreparable damage.
Dead tree book: If you drop it, you pick it up and carry on reading.

Winner: Dead tree book.

Battery Ooze:

eBook: Over the years, the battery will eventually no longer hold a charge or even leak, damaging the thing (which you probably won’t have to worry about anyway as you’ll have acquired the latest and greatest e-reader long before this happens).
Dead tree book: No battery, but vulnerable to fire, bookworms, children, sadists who like to rip the last page out of a murder mystery.

Winner: Push.

The one you actually spend money on
except for the matter of storage, i prefer a real book yet i find that i do most of my reading on my ipad now. physical bookstores seems to be dying while newspapers and magazines are struggling. real books will never go away but for now, digital is on the upsurge.

on the ipad, you touch the bookmark button and then just scroll to whatever page you want. it’s a closer call.

I freaking love my Kindle. I’d never bring a book in my purse, since they vary in size, shape, and weight. My Kindle is tiny and light, so I always remember to huck it in my purse. The Kindle comes in handy at the car wash or doctor’s office!

No eye fatigue, either.

It’s still a tie for me as well. I bought my son a Nook for Christmas and my ex got our daughter a Kindle. They’re both awesome.

I’m thinking the only thing keeping me from getting one for myself is the lack of color e-ink.

oh yes, portability. while you don’t have to worry about dropping a real book or getting it stolen, a book is yet another item you have to lug around. whether i’m reading or not, the ipad goes wherever i go since i need it for work.

Winner: tablet

I still can’t get over the battery life of my NST, with my iPhone 4, I’m lucky to get through the day with more than 40% capacity if I don’t plug it in (I have Bluetooth turned off and minimal sync settings, screen dimming set to auto, varies according to ambient light), at work, I have a spare AC/USB power brick and Dock cable, so I keep it charged there, during the week, worst case it gets to around 60% if I don’t have the charging cable attached

I’ve had the NST for roughly two days, and in all that time, the battery has only dropped to 97%! and that’s using it for a good 3-4 hours every evening…
3% drop over roughly 48 hours, pretty darned good

For me, personally, the winner goes to ebook seeing as how I’ve moved every year for the past four years. All I now have to do is carry my kindle, as opposed to having to box up at least 3-4 boxes. Which are heavy.

Screw that noise. I love having an entire library at the tip of my fingers.

e-book, by an absolute country mile.

I’ve got a Kindle 3G and though of course, like any device it is a compromise, it ticks so many boxes with so little downside.

I don’t know how you can call capacity a tie. With a 32GB memory card, you can store 16,000 books on there (~$1M if you buy them retail), at which point, if you really need more space, you can just buy another e-reader.

E-books win due to portability, cost, and because if you lend one to a friend, it won’t come back dog-eared.

The only thing I miss with Kindle is the ability to jump back and find something you need to reread.

For example a complicated espionage book with characters that feature weird foreign names. It’s hard to keep straight who did what and whose side is that weird Turkish guy on? You have to flip back maybe twenty or thirty pages and reread where he’s introduced in the story.

Super easy with a real book. A big time consuming PITA on a Kindle.

Tom Clancy on a Kindle would not be a fun read. His stories require a lot of flipping back and forth to keep up with his twisty plots.

As a convenient weapon
you can throw books at people and with a newspaper or magazine smash a cockroach.

Loser: pests
i’ve read that scrolling on the Kindle Fire is much faster than with its predecessors, so together with bookmarks it’s still a close call.

I love my nook. It’s very convenient to carry, and I’m also someone who re-reads my favorite books. In fact, many of my ebook purchases have been of books that I’ve read to pieces. I have always had a problem with overflowing bookshelves. Now, I can have a substantial library in a very small volume.

However, it’s hard to view the graphics on my nook. I bought a book with a map on the frontispiece, and while I could flip back and forth to refer to the map in the dead tree version, I can’t easily do this on the nook. And sometimes I do need to look at a picture in order to see where this building is in relation to another building. It also seems that some graphics won’t transfer to the nook. I bought a collection of Agatha Christie novels and it seems that some graphics were never moved from the dead tree version to the ereader version. I can’t bitch TOO much about this, though, as I only paid two or three bucks for the collection of several novels and short stories.

I also don’t like the prices of new books on the nook, I think that I’m being gouged a bit. I went to Half Price Books yesterday afternoon, and was able to find several used and closeout books that I wanted. I buy new books from certain authors, but I just don’t feel the need to buy a Steven King or John Grisham book at full price. No offense to either of those guys if they’re reading. But, as I said, I was able to find a couple of collections of old novels and short stories by authors that I love, which are quite old.

I’m terrified of losing my nook.

I LOVE my Kindle. One of the bestest things I’ve ever owned. I bought/read a dead-tree book again recently, and hated the fact that it wasn’t an ebook. It just confirmed for me that what I love about books is the text, not the container.

What about availability? So many of the books I wanted to read when I had a Kindle simply weren’t available electronically. And even the pirated ones were of horrible quality.

The situation has improved somewhat, but it’s still not a sure bet, especially for reference books or textbooks.

ETA: That’s not to say dead books win. If I can’t get it electronically, I usually just don’t bother. Back to video games…

This is the biggest thing for me. I’ve had my Kindle for over a year now, I’ve bought a few print books, but mostly I’ve gotten ebooks. For fiction there’s no beating the ebook, none. I bought a book at Boarders when it was going under because of the price. I ended up getting it for my Kindle because I just didn’t want to carry around the real book.

I don’t think the Kindle will work as well for a non-fiction book that you need to jump back and forth between chapters, the end, or pages. The other down side is I can no longer donate the books I buy to the library and get a tax write off. I donated a few hundred this year, can’t really do that with my ebooks.