Pew Research Center study backs up recent reports of paper-based sales rebounds.
Print Book Preferences:
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There were some naysayers last year when book publishers started reporting rebounding results of printed format sales, but a new survey on people’s reading habits is the strongest evidence yet that ebooks are indeed stalling out as a niche in the grand scheme of things.
About 65 per cent of Americans have read a print book over the past year, versus only 28 per cent who have read a digital ebook, according to the Pew Research Center. More interestingly, around 40 per cent read print books exclusively, versus only 6 per cent for ebooks.
Those discrepancies jibe with a few rounds of sales results now, where publishers and book stores have reported improved fortunes for print books.
Some observers have cast doubt on those results. Last year’s improvements, for example, were attributed to the hot trend of adult colouring books and works by YouTube celebrities – not exactly the sort of high-minded literature that one would hope was fuelling a supposed rebound.
Critics also pointed out that traditional publishers and booksellers typically don’t account for the high number of self-published works available through Amazon, Kobo and other ebook outfits. If those are factored in, the overall results could look very different.
That’s all true, but the Pew study strongly suggests a truism I’ve argued before – that people just like paper books better.
It doesn’t have as much to do with pricing, publishers juking the numbers or copy protection, as some argue, but rather that readers simply prefer an uninterrupted experience that’s easier on their eyes.
Ebooks are obviously better in some situations – such as when you might want to take a large number of books with you – and they will inevitably fill a niche going forward. Paper books, however, aren’t just here to stay – they appear to be enduring as the medium of choice for long-form content.