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February 26, 2024

Pros and Cons of Different Book Formats

by Donna Huber

When I started blogging 13 years ago, ebooks were still in their infancy and there was a lot of talk of whether print books or ebooks were better. As someone who is currently listening to an audiobook and reading an ebook and a print book, I'm pretty much happy anyway I can enjoy a story. But there are times when one format is better than others. So I thought I would take a look at the pros and cons of different book formats.

Print books

book cover of mystery Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Taver
My current print book. I checked it out of the library.

When ebooks hit the market people were heralding the end of the print book. Well, print books have not disappeared. While I read more ebooks than print books these days, I still see their use.

  1. They are shareable. I often share print books with my mom and my coworkers. At work, we even have a little free library.
  2. They are the most readily available at libraries. Yes, libraries have ebooks and audiobooks, but I would wager that most of their holdings are print books. 
  3. Some people (not me) like to make notes in the margins while they are reading and that is easier with print books.
  4. Easier to turn back to passages or refer to maps, character lists, etc.
  5. The feel and smell of paper.

  1. They can be heavy. I read Harry Potter before ebooks and books 4 through 6 were BIG books.
  2. Not very portable. This kind of goes along with heavy, but even lightweight books don't lend themselves to portability. I didn't notice in school when I carried a backpack, but now that I try not to carry around anything but a small handbag I can't easily slip a print book in my bag for reading on the go.
  3. Have to keep up with your place. You have to have something - a scrap of paper, a bookmark, etc. because I'm not turning down the corner of the page. I've used receipts or tear off a corner of a paper towel. I have a lovely bookmark from Argentina that is made from leather cords and beads. My cats love it. I've woken up many mornings with the bookmark across the room because a cat has dragged it out of the book that I left on my bedside table.
  4. Can't change the font size. As I get older this is becoming an important issue. I'm currently reading a print book with such a tiny font. The book is over 400 pages so I guess they were trying to keep it from getting any longer by using a tiny font.
  5. Need a light source. Another thing I'm noticing as I age. I need really good light to read a print book. No more reading my flashlight!

eBooks (and Readers)

book cover of historical fiction novel The Women by Kristin Hannah
My current ebook. I got it from Netgalley for review.

I wasn't a ready convert to ebooks. I read ebooks out of necessity - when an author only had a digital copy for review. I think I had been running Girl Who Reads for at least a year before I purchased an eReader. 

  1. Portability. I go everywhere with my Kindle. I can easily read anywhere - any time I have a few minutes I pull out my ebook. I remember standing in line for a dressing room during a Black Friday sale and I used the time to read. It's lightweight and can easily be held in one hand.
  2. Thousands (and thousands) of books available at my fingertips. I traveled to Europe for 14 days with a carry-on size bag. I could only pack 1 book. I finished it the first day or so and had nothing to read on the return flight. If there had been ebooks, I would have had plenty of reading material.
  3. Has it's own light. I love that it has a light that gets brighter as the room gets darker. I don't know how many times I've sat down on the couch to read while it is sunny so I don't have any lights turned on and then getting so wrapped up in the story and not realize how dark the room becomes as the sun sets.
  4. The ability to change the font size. I usually read as a normal size font but during allergy season or if I'm up late and my eyes are tired I will increase the font.
  5. There are tons of free ebooks available and it is often easier to get a digital review copy than a print copy.
  1. Can't share ebooks. In the early days of ebooks that was a function (at least with the Nook). I guess I could still share with family if we were all on the same Amazon account.
  2. Can't always get the titles you want through free avenues - like the library or Prime reading.
  3. Have to remember to charge the eReader.
  4. Have to have a device to read the ebook on - computer, smartphone, eReader.
  5. Maps and other visual materials aren't always easily viewed or easy to refer back to.


audiobook cover of post-apocalyptic novel Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
My current audiobook. I got the CDs through my library

Recently I did see some arguments about whether audiobooks really count as reading. I totally count it. Nearly half of the books I "read" in a year are audiobooks. Think of all the stories I would have missed out on if it wasn't for audiobooks. Audiobooks come in different formats as well - CDs and digital files. I will treat them together here.

  1. Can multitask. I listen to audiobooks when gardening, cleaning the house, exercising, working, and commuting. Obviously, it is easier with digital files rather than CDs, particularly as CD players become more obsolete.
  2. People with reading difficulties have access to stories. 
  3. Narrators can really make a story come to life with the different character voices.
  1. Have to have something to play the audiobook on. When the audiobook is on CDs, I have to use my DVD player because I no longer have CD players - my computer doesn't even have one - or my car stereo. Digital files need a smart phone or computer.
  2. Not readily available. I often find it difficult to find audiobooks I want either through the brick-and-mortar library or the digital library. Digital services like Audible often have limits. And not all titles are recorded as audiobooks.
  3. Can easily miss out on parts of the story because you are distracted by something or you fall asleep.
  4. It isn't easy to go to a certain passage.
  5. If there are maps or other visual items they are usually a separate file.

Graphic Novels

I don't read a lot of graphic novels, but I have read a few and I can see some positives to them but they are my least favorite format.

  1. For people who are not strong readers, graphic novels can let them enjoy stories without the struggle.
  2. Often they are quicker reads as action scenes can be drawn rather than described with words.
  3. They can bring the story to life in much the same way as audiobook narrators bring a book to life with character voices. Characters in graphic novels may feel more real and fleshed out to a reader.
  4. Some stories are only available as graphic novels.
  1. For prose books adapted to graphic novels, you may be getting an abridged version as parts of the story may not work well in a visual format.
  2. Graphic novels don't always work well on Readers so you would need a print version or read it on a computer or smartphone.
  3. For me, sometimes the cells are too small or too "cluttered" and it is difficult to determine what message is being conveyed.

Do you have a preferred format for reading books? Do you agree or disagree with my pros and cons? Do you have others you would add to the list? What other formats of books/stories am I missing? I would to know your thoughts, please leave a comment!

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour

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