I recently ran across an article in the Wall Street Journal discussing digital and physical book sales. This has been a much discussed topic with me and my loved ones in the past couple years. I am one of those people who love the feel of a physical book- the touch, the smell, being able to turn the pages, everything. I also am a devoted fan of libraries and cringe to think what would happen to my beloved libraries if e-books were to take precedence over physical books. My family has discussed purchasing a kindle for me since I love reading so much and I am vehemently opposed to this. I included a photo above of some of the pros and cons of e-books vs. real books. I’m not stupid, obviously I realize there are some definite benefits to e-books. Especially at 2am when you’re arm just can’t physically hold up your book any longer. But there is something so special to me about holding a book in my hand, there’s a connection that you just can’t feel with an electronic copy I think.
The Wall Street Journal article reveals that physical books are now proving to be holding their own in sales longer than anyone expected. One reason listed was that most people use their electronic devices to play games or watch movies. Even if those devices are specifically purchased for e-book reading they don’t end up being used for that very much. I know this is not always the case but I’m sure it does happen. Also, one person quoted in the article says that people read to get away from electronic devices. I agree with that wholeheartedly, I think this is one of the reason’s I love reading physical books- I can escape from reality. Its not much of an escape though if you’re battery starts running low (score for real books!)
Another thing I found interesting about the Wall Street Journal article was something I actually found in the comments. Someone left a comment that in France the e-book costs the same as the physical book. They did this to “keep their book-loving culture intact.” I did a little research and found another article that confirmed book discounting has been banned in France. Even further than just e-books, France regulates the prices of books so that a book in a small bookshop will cost you the same as a book from a “high-street giant.” This has allowed independent book stores to survive amid all the discount sellers.
While I was doing some reading on the e-book vs. real book debate I came across a study that was done recently. The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project conducted an in-depth survey of people ages 16 and up on their reading habits. It was really a quite interesting article (the link to the article and the study’s findings is below) detailing various kinds of topics, such as reasons for reading, book readers by age, and library use in the past year among many other things. Some of the facts I found interesting from this article included:
83% of Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 read a book in the past year
60% of Americans under age 30 used the library in the past year
About half (48%) of readers said they had purchased their most recently read book, 24% said they had borrowed it from a friend or family member, and 14% said they borrowed it from a library (see chart below)
Almost half (45%) of high schoolers—and 37% of college-aged adults—say that the library is not important or “not too important” to them and their family
Below is a chart that I found particularly interesting which shows the format of books read by people ages 16 and up in the past 12 months: