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12 advantages of e-books over paper books

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Author: Maciamo Hay

It took me a while to switch from paper books to e-books, but after I decided to read a few books on my phone's Kindle, I feel there is just no going back to printed books. I cannot find a single advantage of buying paper books. Here is what's great about e-books.

1) More eco-friendly: No trees cut to make paper books. Billions of printed books are sold in the world every single year. Over two billion different titles are published every year, each printed in the thousands of copies. Some 700 million printed books are sold every year in the United States alone, with almost as many sold in Japan. 5 billion books were printed in the EU in 2018, down from 8 billions tens years earlier thanks to the increased adoption of e-books. There are no reliable figures for global annual printed book sales (excluding second hand books), but it is probably over 10 billions - a lot of paper! Paper production causes the loss of four millions hectares (40,000 km² or 15,500 sq.mi.) of forests every year, an area the size of the Netherlands. About a third of all paper is used to print books, newspapers and magazines, and nearly half of those are consumed in Europe and North America. If everybody switched to e-books, it would save thousands of square km of forests.

2) Always there: I always have my e-books with me on my smartphone. This way I never wish I had brought a book with me to kill time when I have to wait somewhere. All my library is with me and I can buy more on the go.

3) Less clutter: Let's face it, paper books take a lot of space. I bought so many books before switching to ebooks that my bookshelves were full to the brim and I had to pack books into boxes or give them away to make space. E-books don't take any physical space. If they take too much space on a device's memory, they can be removed with one click and can be downloaded again anytime from the Cloud when needed.

4) Easy to highlight and take notes. I would never highlight or write in a paper book as I would feel I am desecrating the book in some way. But I do it all the time on e-books as there is no permanent damage to the book. It's a great way to remember the important passages (which I highlight in yellow), the ideas to be discussed (in orange), the passages with which I disagree (in red), and potential new vocabulary or nice turns of phrases to remember (in blue).

5) Easy bookmarks: Just tap on the top-right corner of a page to add a bookmark. No need to carry around actual paper bookmarks that can slip out and get lost. No need to fold the page corners. And the best thing of all is that e-book readers automatically remember the last page you read, so you can tuck your book away quickly without fearing to lose the page you were reading or losing your bookmark. It's especially great when you have several books under way at the same time.

6) Cheaper: E-books are usually 30 to 50% cheaper than paperbacks and hardcovers, although there are exceptions.

7) Free sample: I almost always get a free sample before buying an eBook to be sure that I am interested in the book. Even if the reviews are good, sometimes a book is just not for you and you can know if after reading one free chapter.

8) Instant purchase: No need to waste time (and money) going to the book shop or wait for the book to be delivered and be present when the postman comes. When you have nothing left to read you can just buy a new book instantly wherever you are (at home, at work, on a train, at the airport, in a hotel room) as long as you have 4G or Wi-Fi.

9) Read in the dark: No need to disturb your partner in bed by keeping a reading light on. Reading on a smartphone or ebook reader is more discreet and the brightness can be automatically adjusted to the darkness of the room. Think of activating the night mode or reading mode on your phone to reduce the blue light that disrupts with the sleep cycle.

10) More customizable: The font type and size can be adjusted to one's liking. No need to worry anymore about ordering a paper book and find out when you get it that it's printed with tiny fonts.

11) Searchable: Keywords and phrases can be searched instantly through the book. This is great when you want to quote a passage but you read a while ago but don't want to browse through the entire book to find it. Also very useful for technical or academic books, or anything used for research or to study.

12) In-built dictionary: Allows to find definitions of difficult words just by clicking on a word. This is great for younger readers who are still building up their vocabulary or for people practicing their language skills by reading books in a foreign language. In this latter situation, words and sentences can also be translated whenever necessary.

Kindle is of course not the only way to read e-books and I don't want to sound like I am advertising for Amazon. The most popular alternatives include Google Play Books, Apple Books, Kobo by Rakuten,, Nook by Barnes & Noble, Scribd (monthly subscription for unlimited reading), Overdrive (free ebooks and audiobooks through public libraries or schools for U.S. residents).

You can also download free ebooks on Many Books (over 50,000 free books in dozens of languages), Project Gutenberg (over 60,000 free ebooks), (also has audiobooks), LivriVox (also has free audiobooks), The Internet Archive (over 20 millions freely downloadable books and texts), International Children's Digital Library (in five languages), Read Print, and Authorama, among others.

Note that almost all e-book readers use the EPUB file format, so you can buy the books on the cheapest online store and read them on your favourite e-book reading app. The only exception is Amazon Kindle, which uses its own file format (mobi). Kindle ebooks can be converted to EPUB files with a special programme, but it's a bit of a hassle.

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