The Case for Reading the Old-Fashioned Way

Every time I try to read something online, my eyes start to hurt, advertisements pop up everywhere on the screen, and the device I’m reading on dies. Does this story sound familiar? Has any of that ever happened to you while you were reading on your Kindle or other electronic device? It’s no wonder that 65% of people who took a survey comparing paper books versys electronic books and audio books said that they preferred paper books. Reading physical books is better than using electronic reading websites because physical books cause less strain on the eyes, give you more details, let you actually read the book instead of just listening to it, and get rid of the distractions that book websites encourage.

One of the many reasons real books are better than electronic books is that electronic books can hurt you. Staring at a screen for too long can hurt your eyes. At first, it could just cause your eyes to be dry and for you to see double for a few minutes, but over time it can lead to headaches and eye fatigue. You could even lose your sight by reading an electronic book. The blue light that comes from the screen damages the cells in the retina, which is the part of the eye that sees images and sends them to the brain through the optic nerve. 

Not only can they harm you physically, but ads can pop up on the screen that you may press thinking it is a link to buy something, but in reality, it is a way for people to steal your personal information. With your personal information they could use your money, name, credit cards, gift cards, or even blackmail you into paying them for your entire life. They may also hurt you if you work in a printing or publishing company. If everybody was reading electronic books, the people who made paper books would not have any jobs anymore. This could be financially damaging. After getting fired from their company because they don’t need physical books anymore, publishers can fall behind on payments and enter debt. As of now, printing and publishing companies are safe. Stora Enso’s Jonathan Bakewell, Vice President and Head of Segment Office and Book Papers said “…the market for physical books is set to stay strong, which is good news for our printer and publishing customers” (Vision Source), but in the future this might not be true. All of these terrifying things could take place just because you read an electronic book.

Another reason printed books are better than electronic books is that they lead to a more thorough understanding of the subject matter. For instance, some print books include pictures that are important to the story. If you are reading a book that includes pictures on certain electronic devices, you may not get the pictures with the book and the story will not make sense. For example, I have a series of books about Disney villains. Those books have book jackets with one picture, and the cover itself has a different pciture. Both pictures greatly contribute to the stories, but on electronic books only one picture could be shown. Some book covers also wrap around to the back, and with a physical book you can flip your copy around to see it. With an electronic book, you would have to flip through the whole book to get to the back which wastes time. Some electronic books also won’t include the backs of the books, which will make you confused about why the cover just cuts off. 

Some electronic books have a text-to-speech option that some people will listen to. It is debatable whether this option counts as actually reading. Furthermore, sometimes the built-in voice reading the book to you can be hard to understand, potentially causing readers to miss something important and no longer know what is happening in the book. On some electronic books, you can’t rewind text-to-speech, so you would have to start the book all over again to find out what you missed if you were out of the room for a moment, or a loud noise distracted you from the audoio. In a real book, you could just stop reading for a moment and then continue reading. 

In a study when two groups of children read books, one group with electronic books and the other with paper books, the group that read the paper books recalled the events of the story better. Both groups were given the same amount of time to read the short story and were given the same reading conditions. The people who conducted the study think that the people who read the electronic books were less engaged in the book because their eyes got tired and it took them longer to read the story. They also think that it is harder reading the electronic book because there are less words on each page, so while you’re flipping the page in the middle of a sentence, you forget a little information. Since electronic readers had to flip the page more often, they forgot more information. 

In many photos I found of people reading electronic books next to people reading paper books, I realized that the people reading paper books looked more focused and interested in what they were reading. They were hunched over the paper books, staring at the book as though if they had to stop reading, they would think of nothing else than what would happen next. On the other hand, people reading the electronic books look bored, tired, and uninterested. They look like they are being forced to read their book, rather than reading for pleasure.

The last reason that physical books are better than electronic books is that there are also problems with the electronic devices you are reading on, not just the electronic book. Real books never run out of power and you could read them for years if you keep them in good condition. Even if you get the book wet, you can almost always dry it out. The electronic that you are reading on can run out of power in the middle of your story and leave you wondering what will happen next, and if they get wet, it is likely that the electronics will not work. Electronics, reading apps, books on the apps, upgrades, chargers, cases for the electronics, and all the things you need for the electronic are also way more expensive than physical books. You could save money by just buying the physical book. On some electronics, kids that are supposed to be reading could instead be playing games on the electronics. This is because the electronics are distracting. “For older age groups, physical books have been outselling e-books in areas like human potential and mindfulness,” reads a study commissioned by paper producer Stora Enzo demonstrated (Rowzie). In other words, paper books are less distracting and help with focus.

Some people do prefer electronic books because they don’t want to contribute to cutting down trees. Cutting down trees can hurt the environment and make many species go extinct. Trees help take carbon dioxide out of the air we breathe and put oxygen back in the air. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to breathe, and would therefore die. They don’t think that a paper book is worth those risks. I think that this is in some sense true, but I also think that you can always replant trees. Sometimes you can even plant more than there were before. You can’t always get your eyesight back after you stare at a screen for too long, or your personal information back after you click on an ad for a “game” or “website.” Others think that electronic books are light and easier to carry than a lot of books. The problem with this is that not everybody has access to electronics or can afford them, which means that even though they do have some efficient features, they are not very useful to others.

The advantages of paper books over electronic ones, when added up and compared, are immense. Electronic books can hurt your eyes, hurt you financially, often do not give you as much detail as paper books, and ultimately can fail and break. Therefore, wherever possible, you should strive to read paper books. While paper books do have their faults, they certainly have way fewer than electronic books. I could most definitely name many more problems that electronic books have, but it could take a great number of years to research them and write them all down. I hope that next time you read a book, you choose to read the paper version of the book as opposed to the electronic version.


  • Rowzie, Kathi. Two Sides NA. “New Survey Shows Readers Overwhelmingly Prefer Physical Books.”,20%2F20%2F20%20rule

Glass Heart

“Give me a song of hope and a world where I can sing it.” – Pauli Murray

Give a glass heart to

Me. say you’ll trade my heart back maybe tomorrow–

A lie too raw like a newly picked scab.

Song structure had always confused me–

Of sweet flowers and

Hope I was born

And songs never felt quite right like


World where my heart lives gleefully. I will never stop asking

Where? Where?

I can’t keep searching, stars.

Can you sift it out of the never-ending gem-studded sand of infinity?

Sing a song to help me understand–I won’t, though–that

It isn’t personal, it’s just the wrong world.