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Ebooks vs Paperbacks

Ebooks were something I resisted. Even living abroad where access to English language books wasn’t easy, I didn’t want to switch to digital. Then my eldest son was born, and turning on lights during night feeds woke him up but reading help me stay awake to feed him. The first books I read to him were the The Hunger Games trilogy, by the light of the iPad, while his first teeth cut. I stopped dismissing the ebook, though given the choice I’ll always choose a paperback.

In home and school, we try to keep a balance. Screen time is a consideration. Very little of the time our homeschoolers spend on screens is wasted time and yet it’s always more time than in an ideal world we’d like them to spend on devices. Books are one way we lure them offline: Bookshelves with books to pique their interest, answer questions and have fun reading. But ebooks do have advantages that we’d be stupid to ignore:

  • Ebooks are accessible everywhere. Home educating doesn’t necessarily mean being at home and as long as we have a device, we can access any books in our library. Great for taking lessons on the go.
  • It’s easy to sync an e-library with audiobooks, allowing readers to listen along as they read. This is beneficial to homeschoolers who struggle to follow words on a page – an immersion in the process of reading, kind of thing.
  • Books can be annotated without leaving a mark on the page. K uses this feature to recommend books for his younger brother and it’s a brilliant option for home-ed lesson planning and when assigning independent study via textbooks.
  • Ebooks have the advantage of being able to link readers to additional information. Digital books generate learning materials you can file as resources and come back to another day.
  • If you’re home educating siblings, it’s useful to to be able to assign different work from the same textbook simultaneously, or to ask both to read the same book at the same time because ebooks allow for multiple readers.
  • Ebooks never get misplaced. The number of times I plan a lesson using a book we can’t for love nor money lay our hands on, or an argument breaks out because one sibling wants to read a book the other didn’t put back on the right bookshelf.. The inability to be lost is a big advantage of an ebook.

Try before you buy

Lots of ebooks allow sample page downloads before you buy the book. This is brilliant if you’re buying books online and can’t flip through the book as you would in a store. Time’s far too precious to waste reading books you don’t enjoy; especially when learning to read. Download samples from new authors, different genres and encourage homeschoolers to read the samples and choose books they want to read.

Books initially bought as ebooks that turn out to be great books in some way – a reference book that will continue to be useful for a while to come, or a reading book you know will be read again – these books are worth duplicating onto bookshelves if possible. Choosing to read a book on a device is making a conscious choice to read; books on bookshelves can tempt people to read even when they’d not planned to do so. Good books will get read again.