E-books: The End Of An Era?

 

It’s been almost a decade since the first e-book reader was introduced to the marketplace, sending publishers into a panic over the future of print. Readers transitioned to new digital devices; e-book sales escalated, and bookstores struggled to stay open. Now, the digital landscape for books has shifted from e-Books back to print. For the first time in history, e-book sales are declining. The Association of American Publishers released a report in June of 2016 that shows e-book sales declining by nearly 25% from January 2015 to January 2016. While the digital landscape continues to evolve, some things are just not catching on. Digital book sales are losing their momentum and the digital trend is not transcending when it comes to how millennials are reading. Unexpectedly, the most technologically savvy generation in the United States is returning to print.

 

Digital reading devices such the Kindle once tried to convert book lovers to digital binge readers. However, digital natives like college students still prefer reading on paper. According to a recent study conducted by American University linguistics professor Noami S. Baron, the study shows that 92% of college students would rather do their reading the old-fashioned way –  with pages and not tablets. The question remains, why have students made such a notorious shift from digital to print? Despite the mobility of the e-book, which would seem appealing to college students, they are still opting to carry around heavy textbooks even with their on-the-go lifestyles. Millennials spend more time in front of screens than previous generations, so e-books would seemingly fit right in; However, numerous studies have shown that when reading digitally, some content is lost due to skimming from screen to screen.  This is where comprehension suffers, since distraction on electronic devices is practically inevitable.

Aside from the increasing distraction on devices, students are relying on paper books because they are less delicate than tablets. Water spills or accidental drops can severely damage devices, or in some cases ruin them forever.The cost of replacing an e-reader like a Kindle or an iPad is much higher than replacing a book.  Print books provide students with the flexibility of having information at hand without constantly worrying about  technological malfunctions. Some students prefer print books because they are able to turn the page in a book; this makes reading more enjoyable for them.

For a moment, e-books provided cost effective alternatives for struggling college students. The minimal discounts on e-book prices in comparison to their print versions have students opting for the paperback version, which can be resold or lent from other students. Another benefit is that students are able to rent textbooks from their campus bookstores that are already highlighted and have notes in the margins. These provide students with additional tools that cannot be found in e-book versions.Unfortunately, technological advances have influenced faculty and publishing houses to push students into digital devices. Around the country, educational institutions are buying millions of digital devices promising lower costs, more textbook updates, and less back pain from heavy backpacks. Despite the versatility and interactivity e-books provide, there has been little considerations for educational consequences.

Nine years later, the technological revolution has decreased in the e-book market. It is interesting to see how e-readers almost changed the publishing landscape and how the introduction of a new device almost vanished the earliest form of mass communication – print. The decline in e-book sales portrays how technological advances follow a product life cycle. A trend can come or go but if there is something substantial it can succeed in the market. It is still early to predict what the future holds for e-books,  but as the digital landscape continues to evolve, the complete end of e-books is not yet to come.

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