The Pros and Cons of E-readers

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Electronic readers, also known as e-readers, quickly rose in popularity after Amazon released the first model its e-reader. There are now several e-readers to choose from and many factors to consider when deciding whether to get an e-reader and which one to get. E-readers have several pros and cons. Before detailing those pros and cons, it is important to distinguish between tablets and e-ink readers. Though tablets are not specifically designed to be used as e-readers, they can be used as such. Unlike multi-purpose tablets, e-ink readers are specifically designed for reading e-books.

Tablets vs E-ink Readers

Some of the advantages and disadvantages of tablets do not apply to e-ink readers and vice versa. Tablets cannot be read in sunlight, but e-ink readers can. In fact, e-ink screens better mimic the look of paper and cause less eyestrain than LCD screens on tablets. Also, those reading on tablets may be tempted to do something else with their tablets, such as watch a movie or play a game, and become distracted from their reading. In contrast, those reading on e-ink devices would have far fewer distractions. An advantage tablets have that most e-ink readers do not is the ability to show colors—an important feature when reading textbooks or children’s books. One device falls in between these two types of readers: Barnes and Noble’s NookColor. It is a tablet-like e-reader that displays colors but has fewer features and therefore fewer distractions than other tablets (Cancio).

Individuals would prefer either tablets or e-ink readers depending on which characteristics were most important to them. Those who like to read outside would be better served by e-ink readers than by tablets. Those who like to read for long periods at a time would likely prefer e-ink readers since reading for long periods on LCD screens would likely cause more eyestrain. E-ink readers would also be better for people who would like to stay focused while reading. Since textbooks often have graphs and figures that are in color, students may prefer tablets to e-ink readers. Parents who read illustrated books to their children would find tablets more useful for that purpose than e-ink readers. Finally, those who like the color option but do not want as many distractions as most tablets have may prefer the NookColor.

E-reader Disadvantages

There are several disadvantages that apply to all e-readers. Unlike paper books, e-readers can easily get damaged and become unusable if dropped on the ground or in water. Because e-readers require charged batteries, individuals reading on them must stop reading after the battery of an e-reader dies until they are able to recharge the battery. In addition, the cost of an e-reader is high relative to most books, with prices ranging from $69 for Amazon’s Kindle to $929 for Apple’s iPad Air. Some e-readers, such as the Kindle, have their own proprietary e-book format so that anyone who buys e-books for that e-reader would not be able to read those e-books on another e-reading device. Even when separate e-readers use the same e-book format, most e-books from the major publishers have digital rights management (DRM), a technology that restricts the use of e-books and can prevent e-books bought from one e-reader from functioning in another one. Unlike with paper books, e-book purchasers cannot resell their e-books, and DRM restricts their ability to lend their books to others. Furthermore, it is harder to navigate within an e-book than within a paper book. Flipping pages in an e-book can be tedious as pages can be flipped only one at a time or a chapter at a time (Kwan).

People Who Prefer Paper Books

Because of these disadvantages, certain people would probably rather stick with paper books than switch to reading on e-readers. For those who are accident-prone, dropping paper books on the ground or in water would have far less severe consequences than dropping e-readers would. However, those who prefer e-readers can take precautions by always keeping their e-reader in a cover and placing their e-reader in a zipper bag and closing it before going to the beach or reading in the bathtub. People who do not wish to or cannot rely heavily on electricity in order to read should either read paper books or get e-ink readers, which can last up to four weeks on a single charge. Those who are unable or unwilling to pay the cost of an e-reader would also prefer to continue reading on paper. People who often reread books over long periods of time may prefer paper books so that they have no need to be concerned with the ability to transfer their books to another device if they switch e-readers. Paper books might be better for those who like to resell their books or lend them out multiple times. Even people who generally prefer e-books would likely prefer reading reference books on paper.

E-reader Advantages

In addition to the disadvantages, there are several advantages to e-readers. They are portable and convenient. With an e-reader, one can carry a large number of books that take up little space and bear little weight. People can download e-books within 60 seconds instead of waiting to drive to and from the bookstore or library. Plus, replacing paper books with e-books can help reduce clutter. While the initial cost of buying an e-reader is high, e-books often cost less than paper books (Burton). E-readers also release fewer carbon emissions and are thus more eco-friendly than paper books if at least 20 or so books are read as e-books rather than paper books over the lifetime of the e-reader (Godelnik). Those using e-readers can use the search option to find particular passages. Additionally, students beginning to develop their reading skills can better hide some of their insecurities with e-readers than with paper books. Those who are embarrassed to read small chapter books when their classmates are reading larger ones feel more comfortable reading with e-readers that obscure the size of the books they are reading. The same goes for slower readers since e-readers hide the pace at which the students read (Kwan).

People Who Prefer E-readers

Because of these advantages, certain people would probably prefer reading on e-readers than on paper books. E-readers are a good option for college students who need to carry multiple books at a time or travelers and other readers who like to have several reading selections with them. They are also a good option for those who prioritize instant gratification. Readers who want to reduce or prevent clutter in their homes may also prefer e-readers to paper books. Avid readers who wish to save on the price of books may prefer to get e-books due to their usually lower prices. E-readers are a good choice for those who care about the environment and read at least 20 or so books over the lifetime of their e-readers. Those who prefer making word searches to flipping pages to find certain passages would be better served by e-readers. Finally, those wishing to hide what they are reading or the pace at which they read would generally like e-readers better than paper books.


There are several pros and cons of e-readers, including tablets and e-ink readers. The characteristics people consider to be important will determine their preferred reading format.

Works Cited

Burton, Neel. "Should You Get an E-Reader: All the Pros and Cons." May 14, 2012. Accessed March 9, 2014.

Cancio, Colleen. "Are e-readers making books obsolete?" March 7, 2011. Accessed March 9, 2014.

Godelnik, Raz. "How green is your iPad? Analysis of the iPad's environmental report (Part 1)." June 18, 2010. Accessed March 9, 2014.

Kwan, Helen. Follow the Reader: E-Book Readers as Tools for Increasing Reading Comprehension. n.d.