Reading: Paper vs Digital

By Neha, Grade 9

In the digital age we all live in today, we can see that many mediums of art are being turned digital such as drawings, photography and videography, journalism, music, and even writing. In more recent years, a plethora of digital reading tools have been introduced to the market, like Kindles and iPads, and e-reading apps as well such as Libby, Hoopla, Apple Books, and more. The rise of such products has left many of us wondering whether we should be making a shift towards digital reading, or if we should stick with our tried and true, the classic paperbacks and hardcovers that we know and love. 

In short, the answer is: there are pros and cons to both. There are aspects of reading that digital software isn't able to replicate, and there are aspects of physical books that are just inconvenient. 

A factor to consider when choosing a method of reading is the health of your eyes. Reading physical paper books is usually better for the health of your eyes than reading on devices, since screens have many negative effects. E-reading and screen use in general often can sometimes lead to blurred vision, dryness, and affected sleep schedules, if these tools are used too often. For people like me, who like to read a lot right before going to sleep, e-reading probably isn’t the best option for winding down in the evening and nighttime. The blue light emitted from the screens of e-reading devices trick your brain into thinking that it’s still daytime, leading to less natural melatonin production which could prevent you from falling asleep once you finish reading. Even taking blue light into consideration, there are many other facets of eye health.  Another aspect of eye health that it’s important to consider is how easy it is to read. On e-readers and devices, there’s usually built-in features to control brightness, size of text, sleep timers, and more, which isn’t possible to achieve through paper books. If you experience struggles reading smaller text or feel the desire to control brightness, paper books may not work as well for you. By using an e-reading device, you can control these features and exert less strain on your eyes.

Something else to take into mind when you’re deciding whether to use your paperback or Kindle is portability. Physical books, especially lengthier ones, can get bulky and heavy. If you want to limit the amount of space or weight you’re taking up in your suitcase or bag, devices are probably the way to go, since they’re both smaller and lighter than physical books. Also, if you are especially conscious about keeping your books neat, and free of damage, you may want to consider choosing devices over books when traveling just to ensure that you won’t damage your books when they’re packed away. On the other hand, packing a digital reader may lead to an excess of chargers and expensive devices to look after on a trip, which could add to the overall stress of traveling and keeping track of your belongings.

Coming back to my personal experience with digital reading, I think that I don’t like to live in black and white scenarios where I either have to commit to only paper books or digital reading. I like to stay in the gray area and mix and match, usually choosing which method I read by depending on the situation I’m in: paper when I’m trying to avoid distractions and when I’m trying to limit blue light, and digital when I’m traveling or don’t have access to a physical copy of my book of choice.