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.
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.
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?