The Pros and Cons of E-book Readers

July 27, 2011

By Marilynne Rudick

I love books–the feel, the heft, the act of turning pages. The idea of curling up with a good eBook seemed unappealing. Could an eBook be a page turner? (A page clicker?)

But my book-loving friends who’d gone electronic were converts. And with Amazon now selling more eBooks than paperbacks, there’s no denying the inevitable. So in December, I bought a Kindle e-book reader. Do I love it? For the most part, yes.

What I Love About My E-Reader

Traveling Light

My husband and I relish beach vacations with long stretches of uninterrupted reading time. But our tastes in books differ. So for a week at the beach, we normally lug 10 or 12 books at a pound or two each. What a pleasure it was to pack for a February trip to the Cayman Islands. I loved tucking my lightweight Kindle into my carryon. No pile of books to wedge into suitcases, no worrying about whether my luggage was over the weight limit or whether I’d need an extra bag to accommodate books.

I didn’t have to figure out what I wanted to read on vacation. Many e-book readers come equipped with WiFi and 3G so I could download a book to suit my mood anywhere, any time.

Easy on the Eyes

With my over50 eyes, thick paperbacks with small print cause eyestrain. I love that with the an e-reader I can make the type as large as I like. Dedicated e-book readers like my Kindle, and the Kobo, Nook and Sony E-Reader use E-ink technology that is crisp even in the brightest sunlight. It looks like printed paper but unfortunately if you want to read in bed at night without disturbing your partner you’ll need a separate light attachment.

Multi-functional readers like the color nook and the iPad use LCD technology which means they are backlit but you may find that long reading sessions will cause eyestrain and they are harder to read in bright light.

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Free Samples

I love that I can download a free sample–a chapter or two of a book–to see whether I like it. And if I purchase the bo0k and find that I don’t like it, I can “return” the book within seven days for a refund.

Cost Less Than Print

EBooks, typically $9.99 or less, are cheaper than hardcovers and many paperbacks. And you don’t have to wait a year before the paperback is available.

The Downsides of an E-Reader

Cost More Than Free

Yes, eBooks are cheaper than new printed books, but not as cheap as library books or secondhand books. EBooks are so easy to purchase–a single click–that your eBook tab can quickly mount up.

Hard to Share

One of the pleasures of books is sharing them with friends. But Kindle eBooks can’t easily be shared. If you have more than one Kindle on an account, you can share with others on your account. But you cannot share with anyone who has a separate account. If not being able to share is a deal-breaker, check out Barnes and Noble’s Nook, which makes sharing eBooks easier.

Not Sand or Surf Friendly

A surf-soaked book dries out. Not so an e-reader. I was super cautious about getting sand or water on my Kindle. That meant I couldn’t perch my sand chair at the water’s edge.

Plain Vanilla Formatting

Most dedicated e-readers display eBooks in black and white. Graphics and formatting features are minimal. That’s fine for books that are mostly text. But if graphics are essential–art books, Grey’s Anatomy, illustrated children’s books– consider the Color Nook or the graphics-friendly iPad.

Where to Find Free Ebooks

Not all eBooks cost money. Many are free, including thousands of classics no longer protected by copyright. Maybe now’s the time to read Crime and Punishment and all the Great Books you’ve been meaning to read. Some authors offer free downloads of their books in order to get more readers for their other books.

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Depending on your e-reader you maybe able to download books from your local library website. Currently the Kindle does not allow library lending but that will change later this year for their US customers. It is unclear when the service would be available for Canadians. The Kobo, Nook, Sony E-Reader and iPad all allow you to borrow books from the library.

When you borrow a book you are allowed access for a limited amount of time, after which the book is automatically “returned” to the library. Because of restrictions you may be put on a waitlist for your chance to read popular books.

In British Columbia, all you need is your local library card to begin downloading e-books from the BC Library To Go. You can use this search engine to find out if your local libraries offer e-books.

Learn More


Kindle vs. Nook vs. iPad vs. Kobo: Which e-book reader should you buy?”

Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iPad, Sony reader? With new eBook readers being introduced all the time, it’s hard to determine which device is best for you. For help determining the best e-reader for your needs check out:



Marilynne RudickAbout the Author: Marilynne Rudick writes about web tools and technologies in her WebOver50 blog.  She believes the web is wasted on the young, and her blog explains web apps– social networking, blogging, YouTube, and the treasure trove of new web tools—for people like herself: an over50 history major.

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  • Lorraine Catania

    I found this information very useful. However, I’m a real novice and I don’t understand the WiFi, 3G component. Does this mean I have to set up an additional account? Or does it mean that if I buy a kindle I’m set to go with no additional cost or action on my part?

  • Kelly

    Hi Lorraine,

    If you buy a Kindle without the 3G component, you can only download books when connected to a computer or in a wireless zone. If you purchase the Kindle with the 3G option, you can download books from almost anywhere where there is 3G coverage. Kindle currently covers the cost of the 3G coverage. Regardless of which option you choose, once the book is downloadeded you don’t need to be connected to the internet to read the book.

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