Kindle vs paperback vs hardback

amazonkindleI’ve been a proud Kindle owner for a year now (and a sneaky borrower of my wife’s Kindle for two years prior to that), so I thought it would be useful to set out my thoughts on the subject. I’m going to rank these three media, starting with my least favourite.

3. Hardback book

I don’t like anything about hardbacks. Here’s why:

  • They are too big for their intended purpose. Why do they have to be so big? There is no rational reason.
  • They are too heavy to hold comfortably. I do regular weight training and I still find hardbacks too heavy.
  • The jacket cover comes loose and gets all creased.
  • They cost more than paperbacks, even though they contain the same number of words, arranged in the same order. They are basically a scam for publishers to charge readers more for the same thing. I hate that.
  • They take up too much space on the shelf. At our house we have bookshelves in almost every room (kitchen, dining room, lounge, bedrooms, study, etc.) but we’ve still managed to fill them up. Hardbacks are greedy consumers of space. Greedy.

2. Kindle

I have mixed feelings about the Kindle. I like it because:

  • Kindle books take up no space.
  • Kindle books are often cheaper than paperbacks. In fact the Kindle store contains many books that are free. Sometimes those books are free for a reason. But seriously, free books.
  • The Kindle is the perfect size for reading.
  • I can highlight and save text, especially useful when reading non-fiction.
  • I can look up the meanings of words I don’t know. I use this a lot when reading Stephen King to find out what root beer is, or a spigot, or a gurney, or the hundreds of other baffling Americanisms that fill Stephen King’s world.
  • You can buy snazzy covers for your Kindle.

What I don’t like:

  • I can’t easily flip back to a chapter or paragraph I read before. I have to do a search. I’d rather thumb through randomly, hoping to stumble upon the section I’m looking for before I forget why I was searching for it.
  • I don’t bond with a book when I read it on a Kindle. That’s because it always opens on the page where I left off, so I never get to see the front cover. I like front covers. Show them to me, Kindle!
  • Where are the books? They don’t actually exist. That bothers me a little.
  • You can’t take a Kindle to the beach without worrying about sand getting inside. I don’t actually go to the beach (ever), but if I did, it would bother me.
  • Sometimes Kindle books don’t cost any less than paperbacks, even though they have zero marginal cost of production. I hate that. Sometimes greedy publishers actually charge more for the Kindle version. That makes me incandescent with rage. Of course, it is not the Kindle’s fault. I get that.

1. Paperback book

For me, the paperback is still the perfect form of book. I cannot think of anything I dislike about it.

27 responses to “Kindle vs paperback vs hardback

  1. I agree with all of your points. Except I am not passionate/colorful enough to “incandescent with rage.”

  2. I have a problem with paperbacks. They wear out too fast. They are OK for a book I’m going to read once and never again. But for a book that I’m going to spend a long time with, or go back and re-read in the future, or keep as a reference book, the durability of the hardback is what I want. For a few books that I really want to keep looking nice, I’ve covered the dust jacket in clear contact paper, and then it doesn’t wear out. Or if you have access to the library-style plastic jacket covers, that works too.

    One of the things that’s wonderful about my Kindle is that you can check out library books for it without having to go to the library. Between that and the free stuff, I’ve read tons of books on my Kindle without having to purchase a single book.

    On the other hand, I don’t feel like I own what’s on my Kindle, since Amazon could just mess up my account and I’d lose everything. And I can’t lend books to friends, either.

    I have an older Kindle Paperwhite. The only drawback the interface has is that it doesn’t do illustrations well. It’s only black and white, and it can’t enlarge a photo that’s showing up too small. I expect the newer generation ones have resolved this issue.

    • Some good practical advice there, Ubi. Good point about the technology too. If formats change, or Amazon goes wrong, your book collection may vanish. On the other hand, you can recover your books after spilling coffee or otherwise being careless.

  3. I’m a big Kindle fan. The vast majority of what I read now is on Kindle (or more specifically, on the Kindle app on my phone or tablet). I usually only order the physical version of a book if there is no Kindle one for some reason (increasingly rare). I felt some of your reservations in the first year or two, but they’ve faded over time.

    That said, it’s not all happiness and light. Some Kindle books with tables and diagrams have atrocious formatting. In the current book I’m reading on the history of voting suffrage in the US, the data laden tables are useless because they’re too painful to read. They’re rotated 90 degrees and have small text, making it so only a part of the table can be viewed at a time while holding my tablet sideways, and the resolution is crummy making the text blurry. Amazon really needs to work on this aspect of the Kindle experience.

    “I don’t actually go to the beach (ever), but if I did, it would bother me.”
    Haha! I go to the beach maybe once a year, but have never in my life brought a book. Maybe if a lived by one, so that I didn’t spend all my time there splashing around in the water, it might be an issue.

    • Images in Kindle books can be tricky. Part of the problem is that they have to work on a range of devices. But generally it’s the fault of lazy publishers rather than the format itself.

  4. I don’t bond with books unless I hold this physical thing in my hand. I like to be able to easily go back and forth in a book, which I do constantly. Like the way my little dog walks about 5x as far as I do when we take a walk, because she runs around and around, that’s the way I read a book. It just doesn’t work like that for me on a device. I prefer a hard cover because they just hold up better. That said, I rarely buy hard cover novels because don’t like how much room they take up, and I rarely want to read a novel again once I’ve finished it, but I own like a zillion books that aren’t novels. And I am constantly going back to them, thus hardcover is best. But sometimes it is nice to pay less for a softcover book. Depends on the book. I just can’t keep them looking good. Oh. and I like the hefty feel of the hard cover book.But I just like books. Just this past two weeks I’ve acquired at least five books made least one, am trying to write one and currently have three overdue library books next to my couch.

  5. Books! Yes, they are good things in all formats – I forgot to mention that. I do like hardcover books for non-fiction, reference, children’s books, etc. There they are fit for purpose. It’s hardback novels I don’t like. I know what you mean by bonding with books. Reading an ebook is a little abstract.

  6. Books. I like books. I haven’t got a Kindle and have no intention of getting one. I like the feel of a book. I have a preference for paperbacks and don’t mind if they get a bit tatty and a lot of my books get tatty as I go back to a book any number of times over the months and years. That applies to fiction and non fiction. We do have some beautiful hardbacks complete with dust covers. These tend to be childrens story books and the artwork within them really is nice so a hardback works well there.

    • Yes, children’s books work best in hardback. Reference books too. One of my oldest books is a paperback version of The Hobbit that has literally fallen to pieces – all the pages have fallen out, but I keep it for sentimental reasons, because my grandmother read it with me as a child. I don’t think I will ever hang on to a digital download for sentiment.

  7. Finally, someone else gets it! I love being able to quickly flip through a book. I have a habit of flipping ahead to see how many pages there are until the end of the chapter, and I hate that I can’t do that with my Kindle.

  8. On a similar topic, I have recently discovered the medium of audiobooks. I was initially quite sceptical about them, but I now appreciate that it can be massively enjoyable way to experience a book. They have one big advantage over ordinary books, kindle in that it possible to make time listen to an audiobook, when doing everyday activities.

    The Science Geek

    • Ah yes, good addition to the list. I don’t really listen to audiobooks, but I have listened to books on the radio and enjoyed them very much. I suppose that the main barrier here is the high cost.

      • True, it is expensive if you buy a single book but there are al lot of special offers /good deals.

        My wife always signs up for a deal with audible (owned by Amazon) where she gets 24 books for about £100 (I think ). It is also worth looking out for special offers and free trials
        The Science Geek

  9. There is nothing like the feel of a real book.

  10. I’m incandescently annoyed because publishers here have introduced a larger paperback size that doesn’t fit on my paperback shelves and doesn’t match previous volumes of carefully collected series. I refuse to buy these.

    I have a lot of hardbacks from years of being a Science Fiction Book Club member. They used a light-weight paper that made a box full of hardbacks weigh less than the same box full of paperbacks. I do like the durability of hardbacks. My reference books are all in hardback.

    I love iBooks and bond with the stories okay. I enjoy physical books, but don’t have that attachment some do. (OTOH, I can read the same paperback multiple times without cracking the spine. I can always tell which of my paperbacks I’ve loaned out by their cracked spines.) I do love the copy-and-paste and lookup features. There is some quality range in their production, though. Especially the free ones can be simplistic.

    I’ve had to upgrade my music library from vinyl to various forms of tape to CD and finally to iTunes. And my video library from VHS to DVD to online digital. I figure it’s just books’ turn. 😀

    • Ah yes, series that change their format partway through – what an annoyance! Most publishers have a deliberate policy of changing book covers, and I have always wondered if this is an attempt to boost flagging sales. I still don’t know the answer.

      By the way, a good friend of mine argues passionately that vinyl to CD to download is in fact a downgrade.

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  12. Hello!
    Dear Admin. I’m a giant Kindle fan. The overwhelming majority of what I scan now’s on Kindle (or additional specifically, on the Kindle app on my phone or tablet). I typically solely order the physical version of a book if there’s no Kindle one for a few reason (increasingly rare). I felt a number of your reservations within the 1st year or 2, however they’ve light over time.

  13. I keep wanting to like my Kindle, but I notice I never use it unless I really want to read some book and it’s considerably cheaper to download it than buy a paperback. And everything you say, I agree. Especially what you said about seeing the cover…that resonates with me. There’s something about picking up a book and seeing that image over and over, then flipping to your spot, reviewing a few chapter headings along the way. I don’t know what it is, but I like it.

    BTW, I can’t imagine having to describe or define root beer. I’ve often wondered what Coke really is, and why that color could ever be appealing…it’s really gross if you think about it too much. But I drink it. How strange. So you guys don’t have root beer? I suddenly want one. Root beer float!

    • Yes, it’s the cover that I miss the most. A software tweak by Amazon could easily fix this – you start with the cover, and when you click on it, the book opens where you left off – best of both worlds!

      As for root beer, I’d never even heard of it until I started reading Stephen King. Then suddenly it was everywhere. We just don’t have it in the UK.

      • That’s something I never knew about the UK. Root beer. I never would have guessed. I still don’t really know what clotted cream is (or why the name sounds so unappetizing) but I know it goes on a scone with tea.

        BTW, root beer is worth trying if you ever get a chance. There are even “craft” root beers, believe it or not.

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