18 pros and cons of eBooks in 2024

September 9, 2017   🕑 5 minutes read

eBooks are taking over the world of reading. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Here are some pros and cons of eBooks.

A book is no longer just a stack of papers bound together. More and more people are reading electronic books, or eBooks. Some are PDFs. Some are on Kindle. Some come in various other formats.

Digital versus print? There are pros and cons of eBooks replacing paper books. Before I list a few, let me say that I still love paper. I spend so much time staring at a screen for work, that I really don’t want to stare at a screen when I don’t have to. But there are some undeniable advantages to eBooks.

Are eBooks a good idea?

10 pros of eBooks

No trees die!

This is my favorite reason to read eBooks. They are not made out of dead trees. This is good for the environment in several ways:

  • eBooks don’t end up as landfill waste.
  • Trees are the lungs of the earth, so saving them is a good thing.
  • It takes more energy to manufacture and ship a paper book than to download an eBook.

eBooks are searchable.

One of my pet peeves in books and in long magazine articles is when, part-way through, a name is mentioned as if I should know who the person is. Typically, that person was mentioned earlier, but my memory failed.

eBooks to the rescue! If you don’t remember who that person is because you read the first chapter three weeks ago, just search for the name to refresh your memory.

eBooks are portable.

I think this is one of the advantages people like most. You can carry several books with you, without having to make an effort, without even having to think about it. They are there with you on your device.

An entire library at your fingertips!

Although many novels are fairly portable, even in paper, there are some books that you just would not drag around with you. This is especially true for reference books, but also for some very large novels.

You can read eBooks in the dark.

For some people, this is a huge advantage. You can read them in bed without waking up your spouse, or without having to get up to turn off the light. If you have young kids trying to nap, you can sit with them in the dark and read. No more flashlight under the blanket.

You can change font size.

This might not be the biggest advantage to eBooks, but if you have weak eyes or if you are tired, it’s nice to be able to increase the size of the text.

In some cases, you can annotate eBooks.

This is another advantage with limited appeal. Nevertheless, it is an advantage for some people. With paper books, annotations require having a pen or highlighter handy, and the annotation can’t be undone. With paper, you have to bend a corner to mark a page.

You can follow links.

When an author includes links in an eBook, you have the whole world at your fingertips. It’s nice to be able to easily seek clarifications or further details.

Instant download.

When you need a new book, you just get one. You can do it in the bath or in your pyjamas. No need to get dressed and drive to a store.

eBooks cost less.

Without manufacturing and shipping, the environment is not the only green you save. eBooks are the frugal way to be a bookworm.

Video and audio.

One big advantage that has yet to really take hold is embedding audio and video. Multimedia books could just be the wave of the future, and audio books are wonderful options for people who spend a lot of time on the road. “Read” a couple chapters while driving to your destination, then read the next chapter the conventional way while waiting for your appointment.

Why is this feature not yet mainstream?

8 cons of eBooks

You have to stare at a screen.

For those of who stare at a screen all day for work, this is a huge disadvantage of eBooks. Eye strain, from staring at screens too long, has become quite a health problem. Some people don’t mind, but I do.

If you enjoy reading before bed, taking advantage of reading in the dark, you might also get screen insomnia. This is a growing problem that cancels out a benefit of eBooks.

You don’t get “book satisfaction”.

There is something I like about turning pages. It’s how I grew up. In a few years, this will disappear as an eBook disadvantage, as more and more people grow up with eBooks. But I’ll remain a luddite in this respect.

You can lose your files.

If you forget to back up your files and you lose or delete by accident. This is a pretty weak disadvantage, because you can always get a new copy. Besides, you can lose paper books, too.

eBooks are harder to read in sunlight.

The glare of the sun makes a screen hard to read. Paper is still better at the beach.

You need a device.

This is a disadvantage for at least 15% of people. That’s how many Americans don’t own devices. That figure is similar or higher in most developed countries.

You need batteries.

Even if you have a device, you have it only when the batteries are charged. And I’ve seen people run out of batteries often enough. Paper books don’t run out of batteries.

eBooks are not forever.

We find cave drawings from ancient times, and we can decipher their meanings. But how will future historians decipher the bits and bytes that are not calibrated for whatever communications tools they have in the year 6852? Sci fi shows gloss right over this disadvantage of eBooks and other digital information.

Licensing can be a pain.

Digital files can be controlled. Paper books can be passed on to a friend, or bought and sold on the used books market. I’ve borrowed. I’ve lent. I’ve bought, sold and donated. As Dylan Love writes:

“Buying a book actually gets you the artifact itself. Jeff Bezos would have to break into your house to get it back.”

Licensing can end all that.

Hire a ghostwriter

Advantages and disadvantages of eBooks

There are some unquestionable advantages to eBooks. I am quite sure they are the way of the future. But there are also some disadvantages of eBooks. As with most things, progress is measured by two-steps-forward and one-step-back.

Can you think of any more pros and cons of eBooks? Feel free to add them in the comments below.

Pros and cons of eBooks

About David Leonhardt

David Leonhardt is President of The Happy Guy Marketing, a published author, a "Distinguished Toastmaster", a former consumer advocate, a social media addict and experienced with media relations and government reports.

Read more about David Leonhardt

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  1. Sagar says:
    at 8:29 am

    Hello David,

    Well the best thing I liked about ebooks is they are portable and we can carry 1000s of ebooks either in kindle or mobile while traveling, the same thing is not possible for physical books.


  2. Regina Garson says:
    at 10:53 pm

    I totally love ebooks and have a growing collection.

  3. Bogdan says:
    at 10:49 am

    From the writer’s point of view, ebooks opened a new world full of endless possibilities. You can sell your books over and over with no printing costs, without having to deal with greedy editors and publishers.

  4. Michael says:
    at 1:40 pm

    This article seems to completely ignore the existing of e-ink readers.

    Amazing battery life.
    No eye-strain.
    Can be read in bright light.

  5. Mahsa says:
    at 5:24 pm

    Well that’s my favorite cause no more trees need to die for my appeal :)))

  6. Lacy Thomas says:
    at 4:14 pm

    In my experience, unless you are factoring in the cost of a 1st edition hardback, ebooks are not always cheaper. Some ebooks are even a dollar or two higher. I enjoy ebooks for the instant gratification that comes with them, especially if it is a book I only intend to read once ( I read a book a week). I also like the font size. However, I limit my purchases of ebooks because bookstores are dying out. Small book stores were destroyed by large bookstore chains and now the large bookstore chains are going bankrupt. In short, print books are being slowly fazed out. Trees may die, yes, but I am also supporting printing companies, bookstore clerks, bookstore owners, baristas, and all the people who have spent their lives manufacturing and distributing books. We are also living in a society where our freedom of speech is being compromised. By tipping the scale to both streaming and ebooks, we are giving away our rights decide what we want to read or watch, A banned book can be easily eliminated from ebooks, whereas there is a freedom on a printed book that cannot be taken away without force. Books will become obsolete, book repair will become a thing of the past and in time, history may very possibly be erased.

  7. Scott Strain says:
    at 10:09 pm

    I much prefer real books, but am having to downsize my prized (and very large) book collection due to space limitations. I am a disabled senior and have somewhat limited income, which translates to less space for bookshelves. I’m renting a room with a good friend, but that won’t leave a lot of space for the next couple of years, until he buys a larger place with his girlfriend. So ebooks are my way to go while downsizing, due to space limitations.

    Good article, by the way.

    • David Leonhardt says:
      at 11:10 pm

      eBooks for downsizing. Good idea.

    • Stefanie Chandler says:
      at 3:11 pm

      I am dislic. After reading a bit my eyes simply will not follow a line. In cathlic school the nuns would sneek up behind and bat me in the back of the head with a book. (I remember someone saying somthing about “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.)
      In a paper book I can use a strip of paper, generly my book mark, to keep my eyes on the right line. If I get an ebook can I take the paper down the screen?

  8. Danna williams says:
    at 4:10 pm

    I’m not a collector and have read a lot of books over the years but have always used the public libraries for my book source. I have an app that works on both my phone and tablet and will move progress forward if I switch between the two. Easy app to use. I can put books on hold to get them when I’m ready unless they are new and then sometimes I must wait. If I can’t wait I then buy. E books have a time limit of 21 days but usually that’s more than enough. My point is you don’t always need to buy either books or e books.

  9. B D Ghosh says:
    at 6:05 pm

    Can e- books be downloaded and printed?

    • David Leonhardt says:
      at 2:16 am

      That depends on the format. But if you think you’ll save money by printing them yourself, you probably won’t.

  10. David Kennedy says:
    at 2:44 am

    You forgot about the big con of an ebook, that you cannot lend it to a friend. The prices of ebooks are far too high, which encourages pirating.

  11. Barry says:
    at 8:21 am

    With paper books I could pass them on as part of an inheritance. Can I do the same with eBooks? Would I really own an eBook the same as a paper book? Or is an eBook effectively only leased to me, and me only?

    • Will says:
      at 4:26 am

      It’s a fair point, eBooks can be passed on if they’re DRM-free like in ePub format, but Kindle etc require your successor to log into your Amazon account.

      Though, at risk of sounding rude, I think it’s safe to say that increasingly newer generations are caring less about physical books and are far less likely to actually want to inherit your library of paper books. They’ll say: “nah why store all that when I can just get it on my phone, Dad?”

  12. Will says:
    at 4:23 am

    Big advantages of ebooks you missed: 1. You don’t have to use one or two hands to hold the page(s) open/apart. You can therefore have both hands free while reading, and only need to occasionally turn the “page” on your device.
    2. As a direct result of my previous point, you can consume food and not worry about ruining your book with stains if you get any on the device. If the device is water resistant then a liquid spill won’t matter either.
    3. Dictionary. Long pressing a word in Kindle gives the definition.
    4. Maintenance. No worries about torn pages or cracked book spines.
    5. In addition to font size, you can change the font itself and the margins or text spacing.

    The con about losing data is rather unfair — if I lose a physical book, I’ll struggle to find it. If I lose an e-book I just download it again, and I can download it to a myriad of devices — phone, tablet, computer.

  13. Anju Grover says:
    at 9:19 pm

    Thank you for giving insight to the idea of e-book. The content talks about pros and cons. There are people who dont or cannot read books but e-book can motivate them to develop habit of book reading. Instead of writing pages and pages for a book, one can make small e-books and sell.

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