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Are printed books going extinct?
If you’ve been anywhere near the Internet recently you’ll probably have heard a lot of talk about e-books. Last year, sales of e-books outperformed those of printed books, and that trend looks set to continue. Some have even called e-books the biggest thing to happen to publishing since Gutenberg.
Along with all the chatter have been some dire predictions: the end of the bookstore, the death of printed books, even a decline in the quality of literature. The Encyclopedia Britannica recently announced that after two-and-a-half centuries it would no longer print its series but would instead focus on its e-content. Some might say that this decision demonstrates that the rise of e-books is killing off printed books. But how true is this?
Rise of the reading machines
E-books were first released in the ’90s, but twenty years later, they have gone mainstream. Research by the Pew Internet and American Life Project in January 2012 demonstrated that one in three Americans now own an e-reader.
You’d think it’s the younger generation who are picking up on the new technology, but actually it’s the older readers, aged thirty-five and above, who are driving the increases in e-book popularity. You might also think that men would embrace these new gadgets, but it’s women who account for the majority of the ten million e-readers that have been sold in the United States.
Research has shown that consumers are choosing devices such as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook to read on because they take up little space, meaning that a virtual library can be carted around in a handbag. Readers enjoy the instant gratification of instant downloads and the cheaper price of e-books.
That’s perhaps why sales of e-books are expected to increase to $2.8 billion by 2015, according to Forrester Research. So, e-books appear to be more than a passing phase. They are here to stay.
The decline of printed books?
Many have predicted the death of the printed book, but it’s simply not going to happen.
Plenty of readers, even those who regularly carry their e-readers around, will tell you that nothing compares to reading your favorite author on a printed book. Printed books do not need batteries, they can be read anywhere, and they make better gifts—and traditional print readers will often quip that e-books simply don’t smell as good as old-fashioned paper!
Studies have confirmed these observations. Verso Digital wrote a report showing that half of all readers simply did not intend to buy an e-reader, and even those who had gone digital still continued to buy printed books. So, the predictions of print extinction are simply unfounded.
Yes, modern readers enjoy browsing for books online and then instantly start reading them, but the general consensus is that reading on paper is more comfortable than reading on a screen. Who can blame them? The average office worker will spend all day in front of a computer screen. Would they really want to spend their downtime with another screen?