Choosing a book format to buy? 3 reasons to go digital

By: Sarah Zahavi & Veronica Lee

Digital books first began in 1971, when Michael Hart started Project Gutenberg in order to allow the world to have free, easy access to all sorts of books. Since then, there’s been quite a debate over which format, print or digital, is the superior medium. For some, printed is better, owing to the increased reader comprehension and the emotional connection between a book and its owner. But digital books have their own advantages, especially when it comes to children’s books.

1: Wear and Tear

One of my favourite children’s books is a story called Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman. In it, the main character Joseph is locked in a continuous argument with his mother as he tries to keep his old, worn blanket. His mother tells him, “Joseph, look at your blanket. It’s frazzled, it’s worn, it’s unsightly, it’s torn. It is time to throw it out.”

Photo: As children's books are read over and over again, the pages become worn, and rip or fall out.
As children’s books are read over and over again, the pages become worn, and rip or fall out.

Sadly, the same is true for the paper the story is written on. The book is evidently beloved, as shown through its detached pages and ripped cover. The more a children’s story is read, the less it can be used in the future. In comparison, a digital book doesn’t have this problem since there are no physical pages to turn or rip or ruin every time it is read. A digital book can be stored and read over and over again as many times as the reader wants, since it cannot be damaged physically.

2: Easy to Transport, Easy to Store

Physical books are heavy and take up a lot of space. While children’s books are shorter and lighter, many are often required to adequately distract a child for a reasonable amount of time. For a parent trying to occupy their child’s attention while they are out and about, it is too difficult to carry around three or four books on top of their other necessities. Digital books, on the other hand, can be stored easily on a tablet or smartphone, and eliminate the need for large carry-ons when spending a day outside the house.

Photo: Collections of children's books take up a lot of room on bookshelves.
Collections of children’s books take up a lot of room on bookshelves.

3: Interactive Elements

A key part of reading to children is making sure they engage with the story being told. Reading to children helps them build their vocabulary, understand different emotions, and make connections between their lives and the characters—but not every parent is able to devote half an hour every day for storytime. Creating interactive digital books can help with this: stories can be set up to include narration (see last week’s blog post), pictures can be animated to show what is happening in the story, and activities supporting reading comprehension can be added, among other features. By adding interactive elements, a child’s reading experience can be greatly enhanced, much beyond what a printed book offers.

Which kind of book do you prefer more, and why? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!


Kris, D. F. (2018, May 15). Why reading aloud to kids help them thrive. PBS.

The Guardian. (2002, January 3). Ebook timeline.

Kraft, A. (2015, December 14). Books vs. e-books: The science behind the best way to read. CBS News.

4 replies on “Choosing a book format to buy? 3 reasons to go digital”

Hi Tali! Good point. Staring at a screen is definitely one of the downsides to digital books, and it’s something we’re keeping in mind as we research how interactivity can be added to children’s books.

Very interesting points although I still believe physical books are superior to ebooks, especially in the case of children’s stories. Studies are showing how excess screen time can be quite detrimental to childhood development, so I think limiting screen time as much as possible is the way to go.

Hi Aaron! Screen time is definitely something to be concerned about. We’re currently investigating alternative technologies that add interactivity to children’s books but may lessen the time spent staring at a screen. We’ll be presenting our research in a webinar on November 27th, and we’d love to see you there!

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