Is a generation growing up in a high-tech, electronic world, spelling the end of print books? Are we beating this horse long after it’s last breath? Maybe so, but we’ve tested this digital medium for years now, and print books are still the favorite and not likely to gallop into the sunset any time soon.
Ivana Kottasová of CNN Media revealed on April 27, 2017 that the Association of American Publishers reported a 20% drop in eBook sales whereas print books rose 7.5% during the first nine months of 2016. There are just some books that do not work as well digitally (and never will)–think the current fad of coloring books for adults. And print books have always been the go-to for children’s books.
Please participate in my Print or Digital Survey at the end of this post!
Perhaps you can think of another genre that works better in print? (Repair manuals?) There will always be those kinetic book lovers who must have the smell, the feel, and the possession or ownership of print books–old or new. Sometimes there is no substitute for the library–either the one in the neighborhood or that exclusive cache of books you’ve collected over the years now collecting dust in the bookcases of the home office or guest bedroom. When we sold our home in Idaho preparatory to going on the road, we counted among our printed treasures textbooks from our shared years in college.
After 50 years of marriage, we’d moved them–how many times? I kept a map book, the recipe book (another book that works better in print) my mother gave me as a wedding gift, and my Kindle. (They fit very nicely in the upper cabinet over the sofa in the RV.)
Lest you’re looking aghast at this point thinking of all those wonderful, now vintage, books and what might have happened to them, none of the books were tossed. Wouldn’t that be like tossing out the puppy with the dog bed? No, the books found friends and relatives homes, libraries, rest homes, and some found sales at the now defunct local Hastings Bookstore. (The defunct part is partially my fault, I’m sure, as they bought many of the books offered.)
But getting back to Ivana’s article, she further notes the plummeting of device sales as well who quoted Pew Research Center as saying that 65% of Americans reported reading a print book in the same period as opposed to only 28% an eBook (see graph below). Then she goes on to mention a quarter of the population read no books in any form.
I’ve seen the argument more than once that reading from print books actually boosts retention over the same digital copy.
And, they say, as the print pages on the left rise and the balance of pages on the right fall, you achieve a “tactile sense of progress.” There is that…maybe so, or in my case, I tap the screen to see the pages or percentage of the book remaining. You can’t deny the number of mom and pop bookstores closing up shop, but of course, that could be attributed to big box sales of print books, not necessarily the sales of ebooks.
The percentages of print or digital use change according to the article and the demographics sampled.
So, do Americans prefer paper or digital?
According to a September 7, 2016 article by Lloyd Alter of Treehugger—it’s paper. And they have the stats to prove their point. They maintain the average American reads one book per quarter (largely “unchanged since 2011”).
The article written on September 1, 2016 by Andrew Perrin also of Pew Research Center separated digital readers from print books further by age and education noting young adults 18-29 years were more likely to read either format, while seniors were more prone to read print books. Women are more likely to read print books while both men and women equally read digital as well as audio format (perfect when traveling).
We’ve read the pros and cons of print vs ebooks before:
- They both use energy–just different kinds for each format.
- The issue of ease of readability–the print book being one size and requiring artificial light versus an ebook font easily enlarged and backlit. Eye strain–an issue with either.
- Print text books are still the popular choice of 92% of 300 students sampled from the US, Japan, Slovakia, and Germany.
- Multiple distractions exist with use of an ebook or device–corroborating retention levels of print books.
- Size constraints with print books are obvious. A digital device can easily house an entire library and are lighter, easier held.
- With multipurpose devices, tablets and smartphones have an increasing share of eReaders. Download is easily accomplished. No driving to a store or library. (I’ve read exclusively on my cell phone since my Kindle quit.)
- Easier to use digital device for the purpose of quick research of a specific topic.
- Print books just work better as gifts–face it.
- Cost and time.
Certainly as many arguments for digital reading as there are for print books. But print books are not likely to go away any time soon as previously predicted. They retain popularity and have enjoyed a recent resurgence in reading for pleasure by both the young and the old. We have two new beautiful libraries within 8-10 miles of us filled to the rafters with books–“real” books; print books. I must admit though to enjoying their audiobooks, downloadable to my cell phone from my home. State of the art, impressively modern libraries.
Books–and libraries–won’t be going any where, any time soon. Neither apparently the giant Amazon, who constantly finds new and better ways to sell you a print book, soon to be delivered to your backyard via drone within an hour.
It’s never been easier to find a book and read. No doubt you have your favorite resource and will comment paper or plastic. I am looking forward to your response!
©2017 Virginia Williams