Kindle vs Books: A Response to Sara Barbour

After reading Sara Barbour’s article “Kindle vs. books: The dead trees society” (Los Angeles Times – June 17, 2011), I would disagree with her conclusion (i.e. Kindles aren’t as good as books) because it is unfounded.

The Pros and Cons of Ereaders According to Sara Barbour

The Pro Side

Barbour admits that kindles are lighter, readily available, more convenient, have better searching capabilities, better for the environment, and I’m sure she would even admit that they are more durable, takes up less space, and are better at highlighting and making notes. They even make sharing passages and quotes easier.

The Con Side

Barbour stated that she likes how the pages and spine deteriorate after extensive use, she likes the bragging rights of displaying her books, she likes the ‘lendability’ of physical books, and how books can be autographed by the author (even books that are stolen from the library).


After both cases were made, it should be apparent that the pro-book side is pretty weak. Barbour even makes a weak analogy stating that it is better to communicate in person than over the computer, so reading a book must be better than ereading. Despite her best efforts to convince her audience, she has not succeeded in winning me over.

The only point that she made that I will address is that ebooks are not as lendable as physical books, and how this could diminish relationships with people. She stated that if it wasn’t for a physical book that her boss lent her, she may not have developed the same kind of relationship with him. Barbour states that, “In eliminating a book’s physical existence, something crucial is lost forever… the book can no longer be scribbled in, hoarded, burned, given or received. We may be able to read it, but we can’t share it with others in the same way, and its ability to connect us to people, places and ideas is that much less powerful.”

Assuming that her claims are true, is the weight of it enough to tip the scales in books’ favour? Should it dissuade someone from getting an ereader? The answer is no, for three reasons:

1.) Ereaders do not in themselves prevent the lending or exchanging of books. Books will still exist for many more years. So if someone wants to lend you a book, they still can.

2.) It is unreasonable to think that ebooks will inhibit a relationship from forming, if anything, it will enable one since the lender knows that the lendee can get their own copy of the ebook very easily.

3.) She is ignoring a very crucial point in lending something to someone, namely, the lend out is only half of the process, you still have to get the thing back from the person – preferably within a reasonable amount of time and in the same condition (or better) than it was before the lend. In my experience, this is not often the case. As such, lending can actually damage a relationship, not to mention damage the physical condition of the book.

In a final desperate plea, she makes one more futile attempt to defend her beloved books. This time she attempts to appeal to our emotion. Her pitiful plea starts off much like her other arguments, stating that “once we all power up our Kindles something will be gone, a kind of language. Books communicate with us as readers — but as important, we communicate with each other through books themselves. When that connection is lost, the experience of reading — and our lives — will be forever altered.”

First, saying that books are a kind of language (and that ebooks are not) is unfounded. She did not offer any argument to support this claim.

Second, she claims that books help us communicate with others. As stated earlier, so do ereaders, perhaps even more so than books. Writing a letter helps us communicate with others too, but emails are clearly superior.

Finally, Barbour states that when ereaders take over (inevitably), our lives will be altered forever, but having a ‘forever altered life’ isn’t inherently bad.

As I have demonstrated, the positives of ereaders far outweigh the negatives. Therefore, Barbour’s conclusion is unfounded.

Article by Edward Mullen

Author of The Art of the Hustle and Destiny and Free Will

Host of The Edward Mullen Podcast


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