Do people still read print books?

posted by Chris Valentine

Americans have spread their book consumptions across various formats and the use of audiobooks is rising. About 74% of Americans will have read a book in any year. This has been the case since 2012. The interesting find is that most Americans still prefer print books. About 67% of all books read are in print.

However, audiobooks have become quite popular in recent times. Digital books are also quite popular. However, not everyone is purchasing his or her books. Some prefer to get free versions of the books on book torrents.

The Popularity of Digital Books

Only a few Americans read digital books compared to print books. In fact, about 35% of Americans say they will only read print. About 29% of Americans read both print and digital formats of books. Only about 7% of Americans say they have only read digital books and have not read a print book in a year.

However, the figure varies by demographic. Some will read digital books more than others will but the figure is still uniform across all groups. For instance, 10% of those 18-29 will read a digital book compared to 5% of those 50-64.

In fact, the level of education or household income does not have any effect. It is still the same for those who have graduated compare to those that never graduated from high school. However, general book reading does change across the various levels of education. Those with a college degree are more likely to read compared to those without. It is also worth noting that the younger adults are more likely to read that those above 65.

Reading Habits of College Students Across Different Countries

In a recent survey taken in the US, Germany, Japan, and Slovakia, most students would rather read print. In fact, the figure is over 75% on average. In Germany, the figure is over 94% for schoolwork and 90% for leisure.

The Growth of Digital Books

From 2009 to 2014, there was a triple-digital growth in eBooks. However, that figure stagnated after 2014 and came down to single digit growth. In fact, most people do not think there is a huge advantage of pixels over the paper when cost is not an issue.

The main reason why students would opt for digital copies is the cost. In general, e-versions of books are cheaper than print and students wants to save cash. It is the reason they browse for digital copies.

Aesthetics Matter

A common myth when reading print books is that the aesthetics mean little. However, that is not the case. A person is most likely to pick a version of a book that is more aesthetic. It is also part of the reason digital copies do poorly. They do not have the appeal of physical books. In fact, a recent study found that about 10% of Slovakian students would pick a book based on scent.

The Environment

The debate is still on if digital copies are better for the environment. While using digital copies will eliminate paper, producing digital devices and servers have a cost too. The minerals required to make digital devices leave a huge scar on the earth’s environment.

The Quality of Digital Screen

The makers of digital devices continue to work on the quality of screens. However, the quality of the screens is still an issue globally. It is especially so for students who have to spend long hours reading. In most cases, digital devices often lead to headaches and eyestrain over time. Depending on the nation, students reject digital screens by a third and up to two thirds.

Detractions of On-Screen Reading

About 92% of all students say they love hard copies since there are few distractions. When trying to use digital devices, social media and messages distract them. Digital devices are thus better for multi-tasking. However, that is not a recipe for concentration.

In essence, computers and deep reading do work. Print wins when it comes to going back to the previous text and noting down what we read on the side. This is where print media has an edge. However, this might change. There are already millions of people using digital media to read books.

The Future

Right now, a growing number of writers are self-publishing online. This is great for earning as much as you can and getting the word out there. However, it appears that print media will still hold a major advantage well into the future. Having said this, digital media can help unknown authors become famous.


Some authors have used online platforms to launch their career. However, the real money comes in when major publishers sign them up. In the world in general, most people still use print media. For one, there is limited access to electricity. Besides that, most digital devices will require you to be within meters of a power outlet. Thus, most people where electricity is limited often prefer to use hard copies. In some cases, they will use soft copies but they will get them free using torrent. In fact, very few will buy a book if it is free online.

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