Digital Business and E-Books Dilemna

As someone who likes to read in my spare time I’ve always been tempted to look into buying a Kindle or Nook. However, every time I go to look into them I find myself drawn back to the comfort of printed books. Don’t get me wrong, I totally see the benefit of Ebooks. The ability to carry any amount of books in the palm of your hand on a device that weighs nearly nothing. The option to purchase millions of books at any time without having to wait for delivery or go all the way to the library. The fact that no trees are required to make the ebooks. I think I have a nostalgic feeling about flipping the pages of a book, and being able to see my progress as I work through it. However, I did use to think that I am was the minority here. Ebook sales have risen and then stayed high since 2010 in the U.S.


However, it turns out that many people don’t care what form their book comes in. The majority of book consumption has stayed print books up through 2018 thus far, at about twice as much as ebooks.


I was very surprised to see this, and wanted to see if I could get a breakdown of why print books are holding on, while so many other things are going digital. Looking at this study from the Pew Research Center, they found that Ebooks struggle in multiple areas. Only 19% of people over 65 had read an e-book in the past year, which made sense to me as I don’t believe they are they target market. However, only 11% of people who finished less than high school had read an ebook and on 19% if they had only finished high school.

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Ebooks unfortunately often time are priced higher than print books, as publishers for newer books have been raising prices on many titles from $9.99 to $14.99. Sometimes they charge more since they can charge you for the convenience as well. People with less education probably make less money on average and so e-books are an investment that they are less willing to make. Kindles are a bit of an investment in themselves ranging from $50 to over $100 for the Kindle Paperwhite. This could also be a barrier for many lower-income families, who would just as soon go to the library to borrow the free print version. I know personally, I rarely buy books, as I would rather borrow them from the library for free.


Some authors have argued against e-books as well, suggesting that the tablets can shorten peoples already shortened attention spans. In the digital age, consumers attention span is shorter than a goldfish and when a reader is on their kindle that can also connect to the internet many times they will end up distracted on other websites instead of actually reading. Some author have felt pressure to write shorter stories to keep readers attention, as they are competing with a world that is constantly taking people’s attention and directing it to different areas. I’m sure as students many of us have felt this way. When reading for class especially, I find myself drifting off to do something else or check my phone or check social media. This becomes worse when I am reading on my laptop rather than a printed copy of the reading or from a book. Books may prove to be one of the physical things that beats out the digital side of the business.


While e-books may allow us as consumers to have more books with us at all times, there may be more barriers to entry than publishers think. I am interested to see if the younger generation will be quicker to adopt e-books than our generation has been. Converting to ebooks could save a lot of paper so from an environmentalist perspective ebooks are definitely the way of the future. However Authors like Steven King have spoken out against ebooks claiming that the changes in publishing do not benefit the authors, they only benefit big companies like amazon. Scott Turow the Authors Guild President also wrote that the digital marketplace and e-books could mean the slow death of the American author.  E-books lead to huge amounts of illegal downloaders, amounting to $315,000,000 lost in sales in 2017. This is a massive amount of pirated material and is definitely hurting authors.

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Do you guys prefer to read on paper or on your laptop for class readings? For outside readings? Do you think that e-books will be able to grow with so many things pushing against them? What do you think a complete shift to e-books would mean for publishers and authors? Do you think the main barrier is the price or is it something else?


  1. mpduplesmba · ·

    Nice post, Tyler. Clear explanation of many of the pros, cons, and stats surrounding e-books.
    I’m with you in the printed book camp. When reading for pleasure, part of my enjoyment comes from time away from the screen. We spend so much of our days staring at our phones, computers, tablets, TVs, etc., that getting some time away is satisfying. I know most e-readers don’t have the same blue-light emitting displays as our other devices, but it is still relaxing on the eyes and mind to get away for a bit.
    When reading for school, I find it much easier to focus and learn with a printed book/article. As you mentioned, it’s so easy to be distracted by other things when reading on your laptop. Plus I like to highlight, underline, and write plenty of notes on the pages when learning new material. I simply learn better putting pen to paper.

  2. kseniapekhtere1 · ·

    That’s a great post. I personally prefer to read paper books when it comes to leisure reading. I just always liked scrolling through pages and as you said it helps to keep focused. I noticed the same trend among my friends who truly enjoy reading – they always buy paper books. So I think for people who like reading it is not the cost but rather the mere preference that makes them choose traditional books. However, when it comes to reading for school I usually opt for e-versions since they are usually cheaper and that way I do not have to carry multiple heavy textbooks. Some of the points you mentioned I have never thought about before. For example, the prohibiting cost of Kindle to low income families and the piracy issues. I think e-books will still be able to grow. As technology develops, I am sure Kindle prices can go down and become affordable to almost anyone. And when it comes to piracy the only thing that can stop it is not issuing e-version of books at all. Because those who want to download a book illegally will do it no matter what. However, I still hope that despite the e-book growth paper books will remain prominent.

  3. Molly Pighini · ·

    You did a great job with this post, Tyler. I like that you included outside research with statistics and demographics. It definitely bolstered your argument. In terms of class readings, I definitely prefer to read on paper. Reading articles or e-texts on my laptop always proves difficult. I get distracted easily (other websites, articles, text messages), and find my eyes quickly glaze over. I also find that I can retain information much better when I can highlight and write notes in the margins of printed material. With respect to outside reading, I must admit that I do not do it enough. While I am in school, I find myself turning to TV or other activities and avoiding other reading. When I do read outside literature, however, I always choose print as well. I agree that there is something about having the book in your hand, turning the pages, and seeing the progress.

    Based on the numbers you showed and my own perceptions, I think it will be interesting to see where the next generation gravitates. Children today have grown up with iPads and tablets, using them even as toddlers. Every textbook today is available online (often at a much lower price). Because of these factors, I would not be surprised if the use of e-books grew exponentially. I think this shift could be bad for publishers and authors. As some of your sources pointed out, big companies like Amazon could squeeze publishers and authors because of their purchasing power (potentially even eliminating the need for a publisher).

  4. murphycobc · ·

    I like @mpduplesmba prefer paper for school – notes, highlights, and just the ease on my eyes (I’m 28 going on 82). But @mollypighini1 makes a good points that younger generations are growing up with iPads and online reading – it might only be a matter of time before the shift happens.

    One thing I have grown to love about my Kindle (original, not paper-white, so much easier on my eyes than an ipad!) is that I will add books to my wish list, and Amazon does this amazing thing, and tells me when they are on sale. So I buy books all the time when I originally would not have. Now, is me buying them for 1.99 affecting the ultimate author takeaway? I was never going to spend $16.99 on it, I would have sought it out at the library, so I think there is some potential, especially in the realm of the “long tail” for the many many books not found on shelves.

  5. jennypenafiel11 · ·

    Loved this post. I also still prefer print books over ebooks so I enjoyed reading the information you provided on how this is still not the minority opinion just yet. Your reasoning also made a lot of sense and shed light on some of the barriers of ebooks. I particularly found your point on the economic reasons very interesting. We are seeing technology take over so many aspects of our lives and as that happens, it means setting aside more of our budget to keep up with the newest technology available. It makes a lot of sense that lower income families may the investment in an e-reader as dispensable and not worth their money right now. That being said, even those families that may have greater budgets but also want to keep up with all the newest products have to prioritize as to what they want the most. It seems to me that ebooks are losing in this step because print options really do maintain some benefits of their own. Perhaps once the younger generations, who were born into a world with ebooks, will do a better job of adapting to them. However, for now, it is nice to know there is many people that prefer print, just like me. As mentioned by other classmates, I really enjoy being able to put down my electronics and just read material for class because I genuinely do absorb it better this way. If I had time to read outside of class, I think print books would still be my go to.

  6. tuckercharette · ·

    Tyler this post really resonated with me because I just became a kindle user this past Christmas and surprisingly really enjoy it. I actually have a kindle that can’t surf the internet so essentially it is the same situation as my print version with reference to “distractions”. No internet surfing for me while reading.

    I originally was very very apprehensive to getting a kindle because I absolutely hate reading off screens. I prefer print textbooks 100x over a screen so I’ve never purchased eBooks however, Kindle Screens with their “eInk” are incredible. The display without a back light or with minimal back light really truly mimics a book. In fact, I liked the display so much I actually tried to convert PDF documents using Amazon’s free service to read them on my kindle but the service didn’t properly translate some of the documents I sent through and so I was unable to use it for class. I would love to be able to download documents and read them off it but they need to be converted to Amazon’s word processing software which isn’t actually too great. I used to use my dad’s iPad at home to read documents because I found it less distracting than my computer but I don’t have access to it anymore so the laptop will have to do…

    Aside from my personal experience, I do think that many people in this country don’t consider themselves regular “readers” and as a result might not make the commitment to a Kindle. I purely like it because it’s easy on the eyes, super easy to carry (much easier than my full 1000 page copy of Game of Thrones and I actually can digitally take things out of the library which is amazing. The convenience of these digital books actually allow me to take books out of my library at home which is in another state. I hadn’t read during school at all before having a kindle but the ease of use and light weight for reading in bed is incredible. For these reasons I do believe people will make the switch over to digital books eventually and print copies will “become a thing of the past” but not quite yet.

  7. Jobabes121 · ·

    This is a great post Tyler! Just like other bloggers, I support the printed copy instead of e-copy of my readings. Despite many functionalities to highlight, comment and even carry around multiple documents at once without bring physical copies, I still prefer paper copies as I can understand it better and focus more clearly. The issue with reading on computer is that it’s hard to digest with your eyes getting tired looking at the screen, especially the single-spaced, 10-12 font size of million paragraphs in a book/article. I think e-copy is good only when you read a short article, blog, or something worth of a few pages, not a long document. This also makes sense for the steady sale of physical copies of books, as there is a feeling of reading the fresh, new copies of books bought from the bookstore/library as opposed to simply downloading another 200 pages worth of PDF online. Psychology and people’s perception of reading habits plays a significant role as well, and because the books we are discussing in the article is rather long, I think it only makes sense for the physical copies to prevail.

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