Kindle vs Physical Books

At the start of the last decade, when technology was busy transitioning the world into the smart-phone era, I was introduced to a device that I could only imagine had flown in from the 1960s. Seeing the Kindle with its colorless display, laggy page loads, and slow response to touch that’s what she said, I was certain that physical books would remain my favorite way to read.

Has that changed over the years? Do I still think that the Kindle is too primitive for its times? Read on to find out!

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Advantages of physical books over Kindles

1. Excuse to step away from technology

As an algorithm writer, who’s also a blogger, digital illustrator, and photographer, a lot of both my work and play involves technology.

Even without these particular hobbies, a lot of us will agree that we’re glued to our phone, TV, or computer screens for a good portion of our days.

It only makes sense to try and find hobbies that can help us reconnect with the physical world – like picking up a musical instrument or – you guessed it right – reading physical books!

2. The feel and smell of new books

Don’t judge a book by its cover, they said. Don’t judge a book by its smell, they did not say!

I fall in love with books that are light-weight, and carry the scent of freshly printed pages (is this a candle scent that can be purchased?).

I’m crazy about deep noise from hardcover books when I tap on them with my nails, much like high-heeled shoes on tiled floors.

I enjoy reading small books that I can hold with just one hand, so I can use the other hand to munch on snacks.

Book-lovers know what I’m talking about…it’s not just about the content of the book, it’s about the experience of reading!

kindle vs physical books - reading the caliphs's house
Love the smell of new books!

3. Pictures and book covers in color

As a child, I would often revisit the image on the cover to see how the meaning behind it changed for me as the story progressed. Same with the plot-overview on the back.

Even when I don’t particularly do this, I still enjoy seeing colors on a book or the illustrations inside.

4. Reflection of personality

My tiny home-library is a collection of pride. Not that the books I have are fantastic or rare, but just that walking into a house with books on display has a special warmth and charm to it!

The books you have at home speaks to others about your interests and tastes. Are you a traveler? Do you enjoy fantasy fiction? Are you working on your productivity and confidence? Do you enjoy humor?

I also feel an immediate connection to someone who carries books that I’ve enjoyed reading.

Can you ever imagine this happening with a Kindle? Like, “Hey, can I snoop through your reading device to see if our interests align?”…no, I can’t imagine either!

5. Easy to lend

I don’t need to tell you much here, for I’m certain that you’ve either lent a book or borrowed one before – or both. Books are obviously super easy to lend, making it easy to multiply knowledge and joy!

Heck, libraries were built on this very premise!

kindle vs physical books - reading a New Orleans guide book in New Orleans
What else do you expect to see in the hands of a traveler?

6. Progress feedback

When you pick a physical book to read, you get a feel for how big the book is in International Standard Units of book thickness and how long it might take you to read. As you’re reading, you also have nice tactile and visual indicators of of how far along you are in the book.

The Kindle percentage indicators don’t quite match up to physical books. I could finish 10% of a small book in a few minutes, while 10% for a much larger one could take me a few reading sessions.

And even though the Kindle gives me an estimate of the number of hours remaining, I miss measuring progress based on thickness that I’ve learnt to love and use!

Also read: Caring for your mental health during the pandemic

Advantages of a Kindle over physical books

Now, if you’ve been nodding along for everything so far, continue reading to (spoiler alert!) find out why I prefer reading on the Kindle despite being a romantic who loves physical books.

Others, don’t worry, I know that you’ve had a lot of butts “BUTs” floating through your mind, and I hope to address at least some of them below!

kindle vs physical books - kindle equivalent to multiple physical books
All those books and more – in one tiny device!

1. Space Savers

Soon after grad school, apart from a shiny new degree, I had the following:

  • a roommate
  • limited living space
  • yearly apartment moves

My situation clearly wasn’t book-owner friendly. Also, notice that the list didn’t include a car, which meant that weekly trips to the library were not an option thanks to America’s public transportation system (or lack thereof).

Space was the reason I bought a Kindle even after dismissing it as a piece of technology from the 1960s, because the Kindle solves real-estate issues oh-so-beautifully!

Buy a Kindle (Amazon)
Buy an ebook holder (Amazon)
Buy a reading light (Amazon)

2. Eco-Friendly

Is the Kindle really better for the environment than paper books are? The answer is – it depends.

There’s the obvious argument that regular books are less eco-friendly because they’re made from paper which comes from trees. But the manufacturing process of a Kindle needs to be taken into account as well.

Analysis shows that reading 22.5 books over the lifetime of a Kindle device is the break-even point. This means that if you read more than 22.5 books on your Kindle, you’re making a more eco-friendly choice!

With a Kindle that’s more than two years old, and a reading rate of about 12 books a year, it’s safe to say that I’ve chosen wisely!

kindle vs physical books - travel friendly
So easy to carry around

3. Travel Friendly

Kindles are low-maintenance travel-buddies, and this becomes increasingly clearer the more you travel with them.

Light-weight and tiny, they fit effortlessly into your carry-on. There’s also no worry about corners folding in thanks to the hundred other things you try to fit in.

There’s also no need to choose between different books for the journey because you’ll be carrying them all! This is almost too perfect for an indecisive person like me who likes packing the entire house for a short weekend trip.

Also read: “Who will click my pictures?” and other solo travel problems

4. Easy to make and refer to notes

Highlight is my favorite feature on the Kindle! No sticky-notes, no folded pages, no ink marks on the book, yet so easy to go back to favorite parts of the book, reference material, and quotes that you loved.

If you’re feeling up to it, you can even add notes to your highlights. I use notes to explain why I liked something, or how I felt as I was reading a particular section.

I can see the highlight and notes feature being even more helpful if you use the device for academic books.

The most fun I’ve had with highlights and notes was when I gave my family an Angels and Demons tour of Rome. I spent the month before our travel marking all the interesting sections in the book, I then used my notes to plan our trip around the Path of Illumination!

Buy a Kindle (Amazon)
Buy an ebook holder (Amazon)
Buy a reading light (Amazon)

5. Quick dictionary reference

Let’s be honest, almost nobody consistently sits with a dictionary by their side while reading a book. The one time I tried to do it, the only things I achieved were:

  1. record slow-reading time, and
  2. convincing my dad that I was insane

On the other hand, the Kindle is an amazing tool for learning new words!

It comes with a long-press feature that gives you word meanings instantly, so you can go back to reading without much context switching. You can also practice words you’ve learnt on the Kindle in a flashcard-style section called the Vocabulary Builder.

kindle vs physical books - learn new words on the go
Learning new words on the go

6. Easy(er) to share and lend

Sure libraries were built on the principle that physical books are easy to share, but the same libraries now also lend out e-books in the Kindle format! Even though I have a car now, I don’t need to drive down to a library. I borrow my books with just a few clicks.

If you share your account with someone else, you can both have access with a single purchase! Reading the same book at the same time? Turn off Wi-Fi on your device so you don’t mess with each others’ location in the book – it’s that simple!

You can also lend Kindle books to friends or family members who don’t share the same account. The best part? You’re guaranteed to get it back in a few days!

Also read: Complete list of my travel photography gear

7. Many other features

  • Modify font size – I change font size all the time, depending on how sleepy I am, or how far I’ve placed the Kindle.
  • Convenient to hold – Always the same size and thickness regardless of what book you’re reading, the Kindle is super easy to hold even while lying down! It is also very easy to place on an e-book holder for hands-free reading.
    Tip: On airplanes (when you want to keep your hands under the blanket) put the Kindle + ebook reader on your food tray, and set it to a small font-size so you don’t have to flip pages often.
  • E-ink technology – which ensures that it’s not harmful to the eyes unlike the other digital screens we’re used to.
  • Read anywhere – You needn’t rely on the device. You can simply use the Kindle app on your phone, iPad, or your computer!

The Kindle has sure won me over with its convenience! I still absolutely love going to bookstores. I still buy physical books from time to time. But now that I’m Kinverted, there’s no going back!

kindle vs physical books - kinverted
“Kinverted” and not going back!

Buy a Kindle (Amazon)
Buy an ebook holder (Amazon)
Buy a reading light (Amazon)

What about you – do you have a preference of reading on one over the other?

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