eReaders vs. Physical Books

January 21, 2014

The sonorous voice comes booming through the loudspeaker, “Ladies and gentlemen, Air Canada flight #8140, with nonstop service from Toronto to Vancouver, is delayed indefinitely. Please stand by for further information.” In a matter of seconds, your carefree vacation becomes an excruciating exercise in Pearson International waiting, with your only solace being the reading material in your lap. The question is which type of literary horsepower best braves the rigors of travelling, the eReader or the physical book? Consider the pros and cons of each.


Nothing compares to the sleek feel of a hardback novel, complete with solid, rough-edged pages that turn and crackle. The tactile grip and touch of an actual bookcover far surpasses the cold, impersonal metal and plastic of an eReader. Even though some eReaders come with a cover that opens to approximate the sensation of cracking a real book, really, there’s no comparison.


True eReaders such as the Kindle or the Kobo Vox feature slim, concise designs, allowing the device to slip easily in a purse or a backpack pouch and create extra room for snacks or clothes. Physical books, whether a pocketbook-size L.M. Montgomery or a hardback Life of Pi, prove bulkier, pilfering valuable carry-on space from other necessary items.


The upfront cost of a good eReader seems a bit shocking at first. The Kobo Vox retails for upwards of $95, but purchasing the individual eBooks after that ease any bibliophile’s burden, with a single toonie covering the cost of some. By contrast, an average paperback sells for anywhere from $7.99 up to $20.00, and a pricey new hardcover can force you to consider what’s more important, a dinner or a novel?


When you’re riding the rails on an adventure through the Canadian Rockies, nighttime reading sessions can prove challenging with a physical book. Either you risk the ire of your fellow passengers by turning on the overhead light, or you harm your eyes by reading with limited incandescence. eReaders were made for night-owl literary lovers, providing LED brilliance in your preferred level of brightness when you just have to read the climax before getting some shuteye.


Perhaps the biggest drawback of a physical book is that turning the last page, though triumphant in itself, creates a new dead weight to burden your carry-on and your shoulder without having another new read to take its place. An eReader provides a portal to new worlds of literature, storing a whole library of fiction and giving you Wi-Fi access to virtually book you want to read. Most Canadian airports feature Wi-Fi access throughout the terminal, with most access free or for a nominal daily fee.

Though traditionalists eschew the new digital age, bemoaning eReaders as further evidence of the sad decline of a cultured civilization, the truth is that the challenge of travel becomes a bit less strenuous with the aid of an eReader. The romantic feel and touch of a physical book resists comparison, but the ease and accessibility of a good eReader means that the interminable wait at theĀ  Pearson or Billy Bishop Airport is going to be one filled with the magic of literature.