Paper Versus eBook: What the Statistics are Saying
Ever since Kindles and iPads hit their high in 2010, talk of the death of paper books has increased exponentially. But is paper really on such a dramatic decline? The numbers for 2014 book sales indicate the opposite, and trends in 2015 largely say the same. Nielsen BookScan, a technology that tracks what readers buy, concluded that the amount of paper books sold in 2014 increased by 2.4% from the year before.
Supposedly paper books were done for in 2012, when sales “hit rock bottom,” but the recent spike in sales tells a story of a resilient and long-lasting format for readers. Several studies have been conducted on the productivity of eReaders, and most indicate that comprehension increases when one reads from a paper book. It is much easier to quickly scan over a page of an eBook, causing comprehension to “[take] longer and [require] more effort to reach the same level of understanding.”
True to their first love, bibliophiles everywhere advocate for paper books, adamantly proclaiming that nothing compares to the feel, heft, or smell of a book. In fact, for many people, “the physical act of opening a thick cover and listening to the whispered crackle of spine and page is part of the enjoyment.” It isn’t just the feel or the smell that entice paper-book-fans worldwide, though; actually owning a book, a physical, tangible copy, holds a kind of magic that a list on one’s Kindle inventory cannot. Recently, the Ryerson study found that more readers believed eBooks as more temporary than physical books, perhaps due to the fact that an author or publisher can remove an eBook from the web without warning.
However, eBooks and digital readers are not going extinct either. Rather, they seem to be forming a peaceful coexistence with paper books, one where readers can choose the method by which they receive content. Because of this, both readers that prefer paper books and readers that prefer digitized content have access to published works. It seems as though publishing is heading toward a “paper-and-pixel” future.