By Brooke Thompson
With the creation of the e-reader, be it a kindle or a nook, there has been an ongoing debate over which book format makes reading better for youngsters―books or e-books. While both have advantages, the question has divided book lovers, parents, and educators everywhere.
However, with the current pandemic, there has been a rise in e-books, causing these same groups to rethink their stance on them. While nothing beats the smell of a new paperback or the impressive display of books on a shelf, there is something satisfying about being able to read a book whenever―be it on your phone, laptop, kindle, etc.
But that brings us back to the question: which is better for youth literature―a physical book or an e-book? After doing some research, I have compiled a list of five advantages and disadvantages of e-books compared to printed books that are worth checking out.
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Table of Contents
Which is Better for Youth Literature: E-Books or Books?
Advantages of E-Books
1) They don’t take up space
One major advantage of e-books is that they do not take up physical space. You or your child have the ability to carry an entire library in your pocket. This comes in handy if you are going to be traveling and need to keep your children entertained for a couple of hours.
Being able to bring a “library” gives your youngsters endless reading options, and the best part is that you do not have to worry about keeping track of all those books―just the one chosen reading device.
Also, another advantage of having e-books is that you and your children can keep your book collection. While there is no such thing as having too many books, the fact that e-books do not occupy physical space means you can acquire more books without the fear of one day losing them or (heaven forbid) getting rid of them. Readers of all ages can keep their beloved books to revisit whenever they feel like it.
2) Cheaper alternative to physical books
Let’s face it―books are expensive, and kids can be voracious readers. While hardback picture books can be between $5-$12, the average hardback chapter book can cost anywhere between $15-$25. That’s enough for a decent meal at a restaurant!
E-books are a cheaper option for those who do not want to spend a fortune on physical books. That aforementioned $15-$25 hardback suddenly becomes $6-$10 as an e-book. The difference in prices between the two mediums is crazy!
This fact comes in handy when kids get into books that are in a series. You can find many beloved book series for children in elementary and middle grades in e-book format.
Buying physical books can get expensive, regardless of whether you purchase paperbacks or hardbacks. However, with e-books, you can buy two or three at a time to keep your children occupied.
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3) You don’t have to leave your house to buy an e-book
Another great thing about e-books is that you do not have to leave your house to buy them. Let’s say your teen just finished a book and wants the next one in the series, or their favorite author just released a new book and they are DYING to read it.
But what’s this? The nearest bookstore is on the other side of town or you don’t have the time to go buy it. Have no fear! Many apps and websites like Amazon, Walmart, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads all have a feature where you can buy it with a click of your mouse or a tap of your finger.
An e-book bought through a website or app has the advantage of always being in stock, and you can buy it in a matter of seconds. Now you don’t have the hassle of waiting in line or worrying about the book selling out.
The best part about this whole situation is that your teenager now has immediate access to the book and can continue the next installment of their favorite YA book series.
4) E-books have interactive tools
If you are reading a story to your kid or having your child read a book aloud, one awesome feature with e-books is that you can interact with the e-book’s text. This includes two features: a built-in dictionary and the text-to-speech option.
The built-in dictionary comes in handy whenever a young reader asks what a particular word means, and you are unsure how to explain its definition.
The text-to-speech feature is another useful tool. If your preschooler is struggling to pronounce a word, they can click or tap on the word, and the device will say it for them. This can be especially beneficial when they are learning how to read. You can also highlight the text, write notes, and customize the appearance of the font.
5) They can improve your child’s literacy skills
Since we live in the technology era, it can be difficult to get your child to sit down and read a physical book. Although studies have shown that children tend to grasp information better when given a physical book versus an e-reader, ebooks are still a valid tool to support children’s learning.
This is partly due to the aforementioned interactive features, such as the built-in dictionary, the text-to-speech tool, and the ability to control the font size. If a kid has poor eyesight or a learning disability, reading a physical book can be daunting with its small font and wall of text.
However, with an e-book, they can adjust the font size to help them see the text, and they can easily break up that wall of text.
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Disadvantages of E-Books
1) Children (and adults) tend to forget the information from an e-book
Extensive research has shown that when given both an e-book and a physical book, people were more likely to remember what they had read from the printed book versus what they had read on a screen.
The same can be said for children. While reading on e-readers can be more immersive and interactive than printed books, physical copies allow children to focus more on the material itself than on a screen.
The studies suggest that this has to do with the way both children and adults hold a book. The turning of the pages, reading left to right, and having a physical measure of how far you have read stimulates the senses and makes the reader pay attention to what is happening in the story.
Additionally, some e-books come with music, games, and animations. While these features might make the story more interactive, it also has the potential to distract young readers from what is happening in the story. The children are more interested in the moving pictures or which button creates which sound, instead of connecting these features with the text.
2) E-books lack aesthetic appeal
What makes physical books better than e-books is their appeal to aesthetics. When we purchase a book―be it for our children or ourselves, whether it is brand new or used, there is a particular smell that is very pleasing to the senses. We are drawn to the beautiful covers, and enjoy the heft of a physical book.
If your child is a hands-on learner, opening a book up and flipping through the smooth pages provides them a sense of accomplishment as they get closer to the book’s end. On some e-readers, there is a percent sign that shows a reader’s progress while others give you actual page numbers. However, e-books do not offer much encouragement to finish the book compared to a physical book.
3) E-books require a digital device
One major disadvantage of e-books is that they require a device to be read on. While physical books, for the most part, can withstand a fall, e-readers and other devices are expensive and can easily break with one drop. This drawback makes parents hesitant to give their young children an e-reading device.
E-readers have a limited lifespan and their batteries require charging. As technological devices, they are prone to lengthy updates and system failures. This aspect of e-readers can be especially frustrating when your child is in the middle of a good story and all of a sudden their e-reader decides to malfunction and shut off.
Printed books do not have a battery life and are pretty durable. As long as your child has a decent light source and a comfy spot, books provide hours of entertainment without the fear that the battery is low or that they will randomly shut off.
4) You can’t share e-books
The idea behind books was that their information is meant to be shared. People have used books to converse with or to educate others. Children are no different. Lending a book to a friend builds trust and later invites a lively discussion about characters, plot, or the ideas the story presents. Thus, this strengthens their social skills and helps them bond with their peers since they now share a common interest.
Unfortunately, e-books can’t be shared. While most e-readers allow you to “give” an e-book to someone, you won’t be able to receive your book back.
5) E-books can cause eye strain
Studies have shown that e-books can cause eye strain. With society growing more reliant on technology, eye strain is becoming a huge problem. Staring at a screen for hours at a time can tire children, make them forget information, and can potentially cause vision problems.
Also, using an e-reader or any screen before bedtime can cause “screen insomnia.” When reading in the dark, the light coming from the e-reader’s screen confuses the child’s body into thinking it’s daytime and keeps them awake.
Therefore, it is important to have children take breaks from screens (including e-readers) and read with a light on to prevent screen insomnia.
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Final Thoughts on Books and E-Books for Youth Literature
There is no right answer in the debate between books and e-books. While one reader may prefer the convenience of e-books, another may appreciate the physical presence of books. Likewise, the prices of e-books, books, and e-readers may also be a deciding factor when you purchase reading material for yourself or your child.
While books and e-books both have their drawbacks, they still encourage children to read and forge relationships with fellow book lovers. Books are always a way for children to learn, grow, and have fun. So no matter the type of book you give them to read, never stop giving them books!