Books or E-books? Which one is best when travelling?

I will start this article by saying: I read novels every day and when I pack I always get a book.

But lately, I read only digital books and less on paper.

Here is why:

  1. Books get deteriorated while traveling, both if you read them or you don’t;
  2. Books can take some place in your backpack (especially if they are at plural);
  3. I always find a good book where I travel so most times I end up reading from that one, instead of the one I took from home;
  4. Seldom I get a good bedside lamp for reading in hotels, so I end up surfing on the phone instead;
  5. Is annoying to carry a book if only 10-15% of it is left to read. Then I have to carry it the whole trip even if I finished it at coffee break;
  6. Books don’t do good if rain struck and you are outside maybe swimming.

In this article I will cover the positive and negative aspects of tablets and phones in reading, the positive aspects of paper and the problems, the positive and negative sides of e-readers and how to pick the one you might need.

If you had at least one of the issues listed above, or others, you might have noticed there is a trend for a few years now -> E-readers.

What are they?

An e-reader can be both an object (device) or an application on your device that allows you to read electronic books a.k.a. e-books.

So that said an E-reader can be: a tablet or a phone, or even a computer/laptop.

Or it can very well be a specifically designed product (tablet) for reading books: here are a few e-readers in small and large format.

TABLET & PHONES:

When reading novels, or technical books, the tablets & phones have two big enemies:

  1. notifications => we put reading aside;
  2. fatigue => migraines that we don’t know why we have;
  3. constant cellular activity => contribute to health issues in the long run.

Be it the light coming from the screen, or from the window, a phone’s glossy screen is much harder to focus on. In the image above I exemplified the glare aspect of a tablet that has no mate-screen protector.

Next, I took this picture with my camera, (with two extension tubes behind the lens) just to show what makes you tired and also what does not allow your body to rest when all signs indicate it should: the blue light, generated by 3 pixels that form the “white colour” that is actually blue-ish. More studies on how the blue light tricks our brains can be found on the internet.

But even this type of light becomes more and more easy on the eyes, as pixels become much smaller (compared to the screen at work or your TV), the refresh rate of the screen gets higher, and there are now modes on PC/phones and tablets to transform you screen in a “warm” light source. Given these 3 factors, is pretty hard now to ask around because most tests are not done on modern* technology (that come in phones starting at 300 euros).

*In mobile technology, 2 years is a long period of time, so if a one year test starts today, chances are at least one company will say (in the coming months) that their screen is better, millions will buy into that so the test has to be redone without even finishing the first one…

Yet some users, have more sensible eyes, and they can spot faster the reactions of human bodies to technology. LCD, AMOLED, E-INK and Paper are not the same. This way we learned that watching AMOLED for more than one hour can make you feel dizzy, and watching LCD half a day, for many weeks, combined with stress, can lead to sleep disorder that lead to other problems. On the internet you can find people that have prescription from doctors to use E-ink screens that as of 2020 are very hard to come by.

Also during COVID-19, more doctors showed proofs that Cellular/Bluetooth/Wi-Fi, make us feel fatigued, and mess with our immune system (in the long run) -> much faster sick.

Anyway when it comes to novels or technical/political reading, then hours can pass and it becomes much more important what technology we use.

Here paper books has all the advantages:

  1. Paper books have no electronic components interfering with our eyes, brain or immune system;
  2. Paper if the most natural device to look at for hours and hours, but it can damage your sight and if not corrected will lead to migraines, fatigue and discomfort;
  3. Paper books are pretty and easy to share, but harder to get them back without being awkward;
  4. Paper has…

Well that is it…

Where paper fails is in volumes => you need a library!

Electronic Ink devices

It is beautiful to have a library at home, but there is another way to get access to knowledge, faster, more convenient and sometimes cheaper, that is better also for nature and could be much better also for the writer in the end.

In the picture above you have two of the most famous American devices (because Europe believes mostly in paper for the moment): a cheap Kindle to the left side of the image, and a Nook on the other side.

For me the first reason I started reading on one of these devices it was the price -> some books are for free. I say some, because the modern literature is so vast that the classics are just a few. So that few, is free.

Then on Amazon, if you have a Prime membership then you have with it: free transport, music, video, photo and e-books. I repeat: all free*.

Now there are still many books that cost a lot of money and they don’t come with prime or kindle unlimited program and here is where a second e-reader is best, especially if it is second hand.

You can visit the website of the main printing company, or the website of the writer, pay using Pay-Pal and get the book this way.

Also there is the much less talked option: piracy. I get piracy on books as it is practiced sometimes even by the author himself (the most known example is from the writer Paulo Coelho that admitted that he prefers more people to read than himself getting more rich). Also many and I repeat, many old books are not reprinted => so we will never ever learn about them if they don’t get digital. Most times even the printing house has no original means to reprint them. For instance in Romania, there are translations of not-that-famous books from France/Germany/Russia/Poland and Hungary so who has the books can read them on paper. The rest of us can only dream. For instance my favourite book: Les Thanatonautes it is not translated in digital format neither in English or Romanian (or other languages except French). So it is hard for someone to learn a language just to read one book when billions other books await in the world to be read. So those who scan these old/dead translated books or take the time to translate the texts help the community and allow access.

You can also get subscription to public libraries and you can lend digital copies of books from there. I did that -> you make an account / legitimation -> get the book -> read it faster than your own copy and when the time is up it will be deleted or you can return it faster so that another person can enjoy it.

On Amazon Kindle you can get the newspaper, every-day, very fast and very convenient.

You can also read technical books, but here stuff can get expensive, as big e-readers are very expensive (in my opinion)!

Take this example I have in the image above: a book much bigger than the European A4 standard XEROX next to a E-reader that is as big as a A4 paper.

The book I showed you (that I wish to read when on route to work, because it serve for work) is at 2215 grams -> that is almost 5 times more heavy than the E-reader sitting on top, and it is only one book. Sadly the book does not come in digital format so I read home…

So technology can allow you to read big heavy books, while not having to carry hundreds of paper material.

What I like about e-readers is also the fact that once I finish a book, I can start the read of the next chapter in the series faster than getting up from the bed to search for it in the library (that is if you don’t read right next to it).

Also with the help of accessories you can get a cover that makes reading in bed possible.

Here, I will put again the picture to show you the problem:

See how only one of them has buttons and only one of them has thick bezels?

Trust me, thicker the bezel = better the reading experience! Or else buy a cover (more on that later).

And buttons mean less dirt on the screen for when that glare happens, because even paper has glare so… but e-readers (tablets or e-ink devices) can get pretty smudgy and full of glare from different light sources (not just the sun).

So here is where Amazon says they fixed this issue by making it worse:

This is the Kindle Oasis 2020 that has one thick bezel, has two buttons and the ability to close the touch screen meaning you can hold this book even from the screen part. It has the battery and most of the weight where you hold the device… so what is the problem?

Well the bezel is not thick enough for man fingers, so you can accidently turn the page. One way around it is to disable the touch screen, but then you loose the dictionary functionality and highlights that I love to do, so I can search for them when needed.

“But this Kindle is ergonomic, look where the weight of the device is:”

Yeah… not at all. When reading in bed, it is still not so ok to hold, unless you sit upright, but then you will not fall asleep and get hungry in the middle of the night :))

So is there a solution for a perfect reading device?

Yes, for me it is this cover, that has a side pocket, where you put a finger, then another one to hold the device and to turn the pages. It works when sitting on the table, on chair, on foot and lying down in bed. And if the device resists to water, since the cover is 100% plastic, well you can read at the pool also.

So the cheapest Kindle is the best way to read books? (meaning fast, cheap, in all situations and with the biggest variety available?)

For novels, yes it is.

For PDFs, technical books or artistic books (such as Manga) you might want something better.

Look at how the text looks like on the premium 100+ euro e-reader:

That orange round “dirt” in the corner of the image is a 2 euro-cent coin (very very small)

Look how the text looks on a cheaper than 100euros e-reader:

Yep you see the pixels, but in reality, when the text is small you get the impression that it is foggy.

So what I do so I don’t notice it, I make the text bigger and that works just fine with novels. Anything other than that and you might be better of on a tablet, phone, computer or if you can afford it a large e-reader.

While I do not posses (yet) this device, please know that there are computer screens/monitors made with e-ink technology (electronic paper just like the examples above) only that the resolution is big so the text will look great (did not test it myself but I believe the pictures), and can even render YouTube clips. It is a Dasung Monitor and they are really hard to get by in Europe…

So it is about time to finish this article because I don’t know how many people actually read it until the end.

Tablets:

Good for media consumption in every way from any source. Good for every age, and it is the most vibrant environment.

Bad for spending many hours on them (some even minutes). Also the systems (iOS or Android) change so fast, so much that older folk have difficulties in using the devices so they end up in front of the TV instead. Actually, if you look in airplanes, maybe a bit more than a half know which side of the phone has the microphone, less than half know to put the phone/tablet/watch in airplane mode and even less than that carry headphones. So tablets/phones are not as good for the community as advertised. These products need education and they lack consistency and standards.

E-ink E-readers:

Good for reading books, news, blogs, articles, magazines (pictures are bad…) and listening to audio, with the same comfort as real paper, but better because you can use one hand (with a good cover, even none).

E-ink E-readers in my opinion they are the most practical way of reading books.

They are bad at being found after a while. For instance if I die, my grand grand grand children will be able to read the paper books I owned. But digital? Can even my wife read them if she doesn’t know my password to my Amazon account? Some new and famous books are just 10 to 15% cheaper than on paper. Yeah just that much cheaper…

So if I am alone, the digital book is the cheapest. Once you think about family is better to have some books in paper for easy sharing and also as legacy.

Books on paper:

Best medium to read on, if you can afford it. Not the best medium to carry around, nor to read in bed as it is hard to hold thick books in one hand for hours. Also worst medium to read on in rain, wet/moist environments and in contaminated areas.

Best to be transmitted from generation to generation making then from this point of view, the cheapest of the three.

Bad for community -> environment and also the book club. It is hard to get an update to a book. That is why there are 3,99 euro Lord of the Rings and 11,99 Lord of the Rings new edition corrected etc. If you own a e-book, the writer can update the book. (and some do that without making a new edition and charging again money for stuff they should have done right in the first place)

I guess I can write a book on this subject and even then there is still more to say. Please let me know of your opinions in the matter, as I would gladly wish to read them.

MiDe.