August 14, 2023
Digital book aficionados report that some aspects of eBooks can’t be beaten, like having access to thousands of books on one device. On the other hand, many readers surveyed by the Association of American Publishers noted that holding a digital device and staring at yet another screen for long periods doesn’t compare to the calming experience of reading from the pages of a paperback.
While it’s clear that the popularity of both printing books and ebooks is undeniable, some readers prefer one over the other. So let’s take a look at the differences and similarities between ebooks and print books and why we think that both of them are here to stay.
When it comes down to it, one of the biggest differences between ebooks and printed books is the user experience, and in today’s world, convenience plays a big role in how we view something’s value, and in turn, how that affects our experience. With constant advances in technology, just about everything can be viewed on a screen today, including mail, marketing, business transactions, and, of course, ebooks.
But according to AAP, just a scant 7% of readers prefer to read ebooks on digital screens even though the ebook format has been readily available for a decade or more, making reading a whole library of books highly convenient. Conversely, 39% of readers report that they like to read printed books, even though hoisting around one or more books can be less convenient than transporting a single e-reader.
Unsurprisingly, however, 29% of readers choose both, stating they like to read printed books and ebooks. So even though it might feel like the world has shifted from paper to screen for just about everything, readers favor reading physical books. And the reason why printing books is so alluring is pretty easy to see, even in this digital age.
Just about everyone who loves to read has planned to snag a great beach read to take on vacation or dream of settling into a long novel on a long winter’s night. The allure of reading physical books is almost universal, starting as early as the toddler years when readers fumble through the thick pages of board books.
But mature readers typically choose printed books for three main reasons: the physical attributes of the book, their intrinsic value, and their environmentally friendly nature.
Readers consistently report that the physical feel of a book in their hands is hard to replace. The weight of a book, the lightness of the pages, and even the way that the book’s weight shifts from back to front as you read through it.
Physical books make photos and graphics look crisp and beautiful in a way that ebooks cannot. While image resolution on computer screens is outstanding, e-readers and ebooks don’t utilize high-quality images because the focus is primarily on text. Looking at a printed book doesn’t cause eyestrain like a screen does, and readers report they enjoy looking at one less screen a day by choosing a physical book over a digital one.
Just like a shell brought back from a memorable beach holiday, readers stack meaningful books on their shelves. And a book’s collectability brings a reader great satisfaction, not only as a reflection of what they have read and which books spoke to them but also because the presence of certain books might project a specific image or status. Some books have more than sentimental value, and collectors buy and sell rare or antique books for their historic content, prized authors, or even the signatures inside.
Paper and the materials needed to produce a book are highly sustainable. These natural resources, while not unlimited, are regularly replenished, making printed books a green product that those concerned about the environment can support.
Paperback books and all book pages are easily recycled into new products. And printed book pages are often upcycled into art projects or other decorative pieces, furthering a book’s life cycle beyond being enjoyed for the words on the page.
While the benefits of printing books are plentiful, a few perils of the printed book cast a small shadow over the argument for printing books.
1 Physical books can cost more to produce than eBooks. The printing process is more costly than transforming a digital file into readable online manuscript, making eBooks attractive for many authors.
2 A physical book must be stored, in contrast to the virtual space that electronic eBooks require.
3 Printed books cost more to transfer from production to the reader. Shipping costs for heavy books can add up, especially for a self-published author.
Choosing a physical book to hold in your hands, until fairly recently, was the only option for readers. But today, ebooks are continuing to grow in popularity among readers of all ages for their convenience, their cost point, and the volume of books readers can access on them. While holding more than one book in your hands might be challenging, grasping twenty, thirty, or hundreds of books is impossible.
But e-readers have made this task easy, a perfect solution for the avid reader, book collector or reader who enjoys delving into more than one book at a time. The convenience of keeping thousands of books in your virtual pocket at any given time has been a game-changer for some digital book aficionados. Purchasing a new, just-released hardback book can be an expensive prospect while softcover books are typically sold at a lower price point.
But eBooks are sold at an even lower price, with some even downloadable for free. This low-cost alternative to books results in great value for readers but also potentially reduces author profits. One of the biggest selling points of owning an e-reader is the ability to put a virtual library in your pocket. Digital book readers can hold hundreds of books at any given time, creating a treasure trove of available books for avid readers.
Using digital books, while convenient and easy to do, doesn’t appeal to a large segment of readers for a few different reasons. But the most compelling downsides to digital books are simply due to their electronic construction.
1 Constructing and using an e-reader both create a surprisingly large carbon footprint, much to the dismay of many eBook fans. The electronics within the digital device are resource-heavy to create and each use emits carbon, rendering the small devices not earth-friendly.
2 Reading on an electronic device requires screen time, something many people are seeking to limit now that computers, smartphones, and other screens are such a huge part of our everyday lives.
3 While digitally downloading a book may place it in your e-reader, consumers don’t really own the book. Membership in book-reading apps, ownership of a working device and the usability of a device are all barriers to digital book ownership. In addition, downloaded books cannot be gifted or lent to others, further reducing the benefits of truly owning the book.
4 Digital readers are not recyclable, a big pitfall for readers who are concerned about the environment.
5 In order to read an eBook, readers must recharge and update their devices. Unlike reading a physical book, where the only requirement is a light source, e-readers require constant upkeep and sometimes updating to access purchased or downloaded books. In addition, if an older device breaks and a new one must be purchased, owners risk losing their whole library of books in the transition.
Authors can choose to bring their stories and book content to their readers in a variety of ways, either digitally, through self-publishing or via traditional publishing. Working with a printing company like Publishing Xpress makes becoming a self-published author easy to do since creators make all of the decisions on when and how their content is printed as well as who and how it is marketed to potential readers.
Many authors choose to self-publish because, statistically, a print book is more likely to find its way into the hands of a reader than a digital book. According to the America Association of Publishers, out of the almost 2 billion books published every year, only 191 million eBooks were purchased in 2020, making physical books a safer bet for authors eager to find their audience for their work. Publishing Xpress helps authors take their book content and turn it into a gorgeous book that readers can read now, gift to another reader, sell, or even keep forever on their bookshelf.
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