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For the reading addict: Paper Books vs E-Books vs Audiobooks

Kindle Paperwhite ebook reader with the cover of Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

If you have ever tried to decide between getting a paper book, ebook or an audio book then you understand the challenge most people face when trying different modes of reading. While they all contain the same information from the books, there are differences in each medium. If you’re trying to cut your reading expenses and make reading more efficient I will explain the differences and help you choose a format that works best for you.

A few years ago, if you asked any boomer or Gen Xers if they’d switch to e-books, you’d probably hear them gasp and scowl in horror at the thought. E-books are so impersonal. I could never give up the touch and feel of REAL books. It’s blasphemy to even think of reading on a screen.

I know because I was one of those who turned their noses up at the thought of anything apart from a paper book. (We shall discuss book snobbery in another post.) 

Physical paper books have been around for centuries and will never go out of fashion. But they are not the only option anymore when it comes to reading. You can still read, but on a digital device like a tablet or a smartphone.

Digital books are the future

I got my first Kindle from Amazon in 2011. At the time it still needed to be shipped from abroad to India. I got it because someone I knew was ordering it and I thought I’d try. It didn’t take me long to get addicted to it.

In the absence of robust libraries in India, I had to think twice before buying a paper book. Did I have enough space? If I didn’t like the book should I keep it or just give it away? How much money would I spend on books I wanted to take a chance with? I would rather buy books that I know have rave reviews. 

Kindle expanded my reading list for sure. I could buy Kindle ebooks without worrying about storage. It’s a lot easier to read, hold, and travel with. I could read a lot more on it. I can look up words in the in-built dictionary, highlight quotes I want to save, and even make notes without worrying about ruining the book. 

With Kindle Unlimited, you just pay a subscription fee for thousands of books that you can read without paying anything more. You also get a whole bunch of copyright-expired free ebooks from all over the Internet.

Next came the Audiobooks. Again I was very skeptical. 

I tried the Audible free trial. If I was listening during the day, I’d get distracted, and at night I’d fall asleep in between the chapters. 

Then during the lockdown, once I started taking time to do some drawing everyday, I tried audio books again. It was a revelation!

I found it soothing while I worked, and I could follow the narration as well. Audible membership is still much cheaper in India than anywhere else, so I’m planning to take full advantage of it.

I love my Kindle Paperwhite. It lets me read at night without disturbing anyone. The screen is glare-free unlike other screen devices so you needn’t worry about spoiling your eyesight. If I suddenly get an urge in the middle of the night to buy and read a particular book (it has been known to happen), no worries! I don’t need to wait for the book to arrive, and can start reading instantly.

Recently, my husband gifted me the upgraded Kindle Oasis. It has features that I absolutely love. For example, the screen orientation changes as you turn the device, which is super convenient. The device is a little larger so easier to grip. I find the page turning buttons also helpful and I hardly need to move my finger to turn the page.

The Pros and Cons of Paper and Ebooks

Ebooks are generally cheaper than physical books so you can budget for more books. Another advantage is that it reduces your carbon footprint, especially if you buy books online. No paper, no printing, no packaging, and no shipping.

Unless you have a large house with a dedicated library, you’d run out of space soon, especially if you’re an avid reader. Not to mention the time needed to dust the books every day.

Libraries are a great option if you love paper books. However, in India they are not very common. The small one we have at our community has very limited choices and is solely dependent on donations from residents.

I have been using Amazon for my ebooks and audiobooks because it’s the most comprehensive one available in India. I can also switch between reading on my Kindle device and on the Kindle app on my phone, laptop, or tablet. I don’t need to remember the page I fell asleep at. It tells you where you left off.

As a book snob, I had also failed to take into account how these new forms of books make it accessible for more people to read. Kindle has a text to speech feature and you can easily enlarge the font size for better visibility. Audio books are so much more accessible than books in Braille. 

I love finding bookmarks and forgotten pressed flowers and leaves between pages of a paper book I love. For poetry books, and books of a series I love and want for my bookshelf, I still buy physical books. During the #Bookstagram phase I bought books with pretty covers but thankfully I reeled myself back after looking at my overloaded bookshelf. 

For those on the fence about making the transition, just take a moment to ask yourself why you prefer your current method of reading, and what’s stopping you from trying something new?

Note: The links are part of an affiliate program, which means that if you click on a link and buy something, I might receive a percentage of the sale, at no extra cost to you. 


  1. I’ve read e books a few times but I’m apprehensive that they’ll affect my eyesight. The caveman principle, ofcourse. That’s what stops most people from making a permanent shift. The smell of books, their feel, the world, the tangible aspect of it is what we don’t get in e-books. I sooo love what a pragmatic reader you are, being considerate about carbon footprints (very important!). Love your rational thinking very much! 🤍

    • The Kindle paperwhite doesn’t use LED screen so doesn’t strain your eyes. Carbon footprint is just the side effect, I just love the convenience of reading on it and that my physical bookshelf only has books I really love

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