Digital vs. Physical Books
when to buy and use which type, etc.

This isn’t going to be an attempt to persuade anyone to use only digital books or physical books. I like using physical books and digital books. They have their place in terms of utility, and in the end, they’re still books; they still present the same information. I simply have a preference as to when to use which type of medium.

I have some criteria as to whether a book should be digital or physical. Some people’s preferences lies in the medium itself (ie. they prefer physical or digital books overall). For me, the medium of preference depends on the book itself. So I’ll be outlining how I decide which book is best being digital or physical (for my use cases, at least).

Digital Books

Here are some reasons why I’d get a book in a digital format:

Reading it for the First Time - I don’t want to commit to buying a book that takes up physical space if I don’t even know what’s in it. If the book is terrible and I stop reading it entirely, at least it isn’t taking up space in the house.

Linear Book Structure - If the book itself can be read in a very linear fashion (that is, chapters in order from beginning to end) then I’d lean more toward digital. This typically only applies to fiction books, as non-fiction books can sometimes be read in a disjointed manner.

A Physical Copy is Unattainable - there are some books which are old and out of print, so the only way I can ever read them is acquiring someone’s scan of the book. Either that, or the physical copy is so extortionately expensive (because of their rarity) that it’s simply not worth getting.

Physical Books

And here’s are reasons when I’d consider buying a physical copy of a book:

A Digital Copy Doesn’t Exist - If the digital copy doesn’t exist, then I can only really settle with getting the physical one.

Will Read Often - If I like a book enough to where I’d be willing to read it more than once, and also read it often, then I’ll buy a physical copy so I have it on hand.

Favourite Books - I usually get a physical copy of a book if it’s a favourite of mine, just because.

When Digital Formatting is Awful - I dislike getting digital art books for this reason. Sometimes the digital formatting is so badly done that I’d rather get the physical copy instead.

The Price is Cheaper than Digital - Thrift stores are great places to get books because they are abundant and they’ll be cheaper than retail price. I do prefer saving physical space over money, though, so this isn’t a solid criterion.

Books that can be referenced/studied - If the book has a lot of things to highlight or reference (ex. textbooks, instructional art books), I’ll get a physical copy because it’s much easier to mark up and more convenient to access. Trying to navigate through a digital book for referencing is very annoying to me.

Concluding Thoughts

The amount of criteria for getting a physical book is a lot more than digital books. I typically consider digital books as the “entry” into my library. My first reading of nearly every book is in a digital format, because from there I will see whether I want to commit to getting a physical copy.

If I can, I’ll borrow a digital copy from a library in order to make my decision, otherwise I’ll buy the digital format first. This may turn off some because they’ll be essentially buying the same book twice, which can be deemed as an unnecessary expense. For me, though, I’d rather have a small collection of well-curated books that I read from all of the time than have every book I’ve ever read in a physical format all taking up space. I’ve already had some issues in the past with physical books taking up too much space, which is why I started cutting back a bit in that regard.

All in all, I don’t really have a large preference for either physical books or digital ones. It really depends on the type of book and what medium is best for the purpose that I’m using it for.

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