Sunday, January 18, 2015

Guess Who Prefers Reading Print Books?

Do you remember the glory days of 2009 and 2010, when surveys and blogs predicted that the e-book revolution would overtake print books in the not too distant future? I remember discussing stats that showed a 160% jump in the number of seniors who’d quickly adopted e-books because they were cheaper, took up less space, and print size was easily adjusted.

In 2013, the stats started to change. The rise had become less dramatic and cautionary articles were appearing. One indicated that a third of those who tried an e-reader put them in a drawer and never went back. Meanwhile, e-book sales slowed a little more. Not that e-books weren’t gaining ground, just not at the anticipated rate.

In 2014, I read articles and studies which revealed that readers didn’t retain as much from e-books as they did print, and that print books might have a useful purpose. In fact, some articles and blogs maintained that print could happily coexist with e-books.

So, you might not be surprised by this recent article and interview in New Republic, which states that a whopping 92% of university students preferred print books to e-books. And this is the younger generation, folks, the ones who grew up with iPads and mice in their little hands. So, what’s going on?

Apparently, a survey of 300 university students in four different countries found an overwhelming preference for print books, especially when it came to reading and comprehending school-related material rather than a light novel. Students felt that they could understand the texts better if they were reading them in print. The reasons were varied. Some found themselves too distracted with electronic devices. Others didn’t like the fact that batteries died. There were also complaints of eyestrain and even more trivial complaints that the reader couldn’t remember the author’s name or how many pages were left in the book.

You can read more in the article, but I’ve heard many of these complaints before. I’ve also come across conflicting findings about reading comprehension when it comes to e-books. That the study only surveyed 300 students doesn’t really tell me enough about serious preferences or trends, but it is interesting. The bottom line is print is here to stay, and as of January 2015, it still represents the majority of sales in North America. As for me, I love the fact that we have a choice.

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