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bookmarkYou may have heard that traditional paper books are disappearing in favor of those new-fangled electronic books. While e-books have made huge inroads in the publishing industry, I don’t believe that traditional books will ever completely disappear.

I grew up reading books as my special pastime. Nothing can compare to sitting by a crackling fire turning the pages of a leather-bound book or lounging at the beach with a good dog-eared paperback while soaking up the sun. Yet, recently, I have turned to e-books for much of my reading. I believe that there is room in my life for both types of books. I believe that while Americans still love paper books, they are reading e-books than ever before and they are reading them on more kinds of devices. 

While you can read e-books on the computer, the dedicated e-book reader is what made e-book sales soar. The Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook readers are the devices that have made e-books wildly popular.

E-books have many advantages, but there are things that we give up in order to use e-books instead of traditional paper books. Here is a brief summary of the pros and cons.

Speed: E-books are convenient. You can purchase a book directly from your cell phone, tablet, or e-reader. It appears on your device and you can be reading it in a matter of minutes. You can purchase a book at any time, day or night. There are no or shipping expenses. What we give up is the joy of searching through shelves full of books in a store to find just the right one.

Storage:   E-books are lightweight and take up practically no storage space. Since one device can hold hundreds of books, when you travel you can take your entire book library with you and hold it in the palm of your hand. Any book that you have purchased online can easily be downloaded again, so you never have to worry about losing a book, even if you lose your e-book reader. What we give up is the idea of owning and being surrounded by stacks and rows and of books. Physical books are somehow comforting and being surrounded by them can also make you feel smarter than you actually are.

Reading: Reading an e-book has certain advantages over reading traditional books. The biggest of these is that you can adjust the size of the text. Rather than trying to find a paper book in large text, you simply make the text larger on your device. In some of the newer devices you can also change the font and the color of the background to suit your tastes. For example, you can change to black text on beige background or white text on black background. With e-book readers you have your choice of e-ink readers like the original Kindle and Nook, or backlit readers like the new Kindle Fire and other tablet-type readers. E-ink book readers have no color, but they are easier on the eyes. Like traditional books they require exterior lighting. They are great in bright sun, but require a lamp for reading at night. Backlit readers, like computer screens have, have color capabilities, but reading on them is a little more tiring for the eyes. However they give you the ability to read in a dark place without external lighting. Both Kindle and Nook also have e-ink readers like the Kindle Paperwhite that are black-and-white e-ink, but have their own internal lighting. The advantage of a physical book here is that you don’t have to worry about the type of technology. You simply pick up the book and read.

Annotating: In a traditional book, you can write notes in the margins, underline phrases, dog-ear pages, and use physical bookmarks. In an e-book you can also highlight passages, write notes, and bookmark pages. If you like you can also see what other people who are reading that book have highlighted. (You can keep your highlights private if you like). You can look up the meaning of any word without leaving the page you are on. You can also quickly search the book for words or phrases. What you give up is the ability to leaf through the pages and feel the paper between your fingers.

Ownership: Here’s where e-books come up short. When you buy an e-book, you are not really buying it in the traditional sense of the word. You are instead, just renting it, or paying for access to it under a specific set of circumstances. You have no rights to bequeath or sell it. This, however, may change in the near future, as just last week, Amazon was granted a patent on a method of selling used e-books. (It will be very interesting to see where this goes in the future). In stark contrast, when you purchase a traditional book you own it and can give it away or sell it as you would any other possession. If you are lucky, you can even have it autographed by the author.

Extras: Some e-books can be interactive and contain audio, video and animations, which can be very attractive. E-books can be read on smart phones, computers, tablets, and e-book readers. With most of them you can switch between devices and have your reading pick up right where you left off on a different device. Some Kindle books even have a feature called X-ray which gives you the ability to see everywhere in the book a certain character or phrase was mentioned. Many e-book readers can also play audio books. Some, like the new Kindle Fire can even switch between the audio and text of the book seamlessly.

The biggest drawback of e-books is that you need to purchase a device to read them on and you must keep that device charged. Although you don’t have to charge most dedicated readers like the Kindle very often, you do have to make sure it is charged when you are ready to read. E-books use electricity, but the trade-off for environmentalists is that no trees are required to manufacture paper for the pages of e-books.

It seems that in life there are always pluses and minuses. For me, however, this one is a win-win situation. I will continue to own and display my physical books while also reading e-books on my smart phone and tablets. Book lovers around the world are joining me.