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Paper Books vs eBooks Statistics, Trends and Facts [2021]

04/03/2021

Paper Books vs eBooks Statistics, Trends and Facts [2021]
 

Paper books vs eBooks statistics show print is here to stay!

Dead Tree Editions Just Won’t Die!

Like the monster in a horror movie, print books just won’t die. The most recent paper books vs eBooks statistics, research, and surveys back this up.

Print books are here to stay!

Let’s look at the most important eBook vs print book statistics, key differences between print and e-books, and where American publishers are taking the industry.

Popularity Contest: Books Versus Print Books

Are print books still popular? You’d better believe it!

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center on book consumption and book formats, traditional print is still the most popular reading format for both adults and children.

Survey says:

  • 72% of adults in the United States read a book in some format over the last year
  • 65% of respondents claimed they read a book in the last 12 months
  • 37% of Americans claim they only read print books
  • 28% say they read both print books and e-books
  • 7% say they only read e-books

Ebook vs print book statistics

Demographics: Reader vs E-Reader

Book reading demographics vary according to education and income level.

College graduates make up 90% of book readers, while only 61% of high school graduates read books.

Those who dropped out of school have an even lower readership rate - a mere 32%.

Economics goes hand-in-hand with education. Individuals earning over $75,000 a year make up 86% of readers, while well those earning less than $30,000 annually make up only 62%.

Physical books are still the top moneymakers for publishers. 

Publishing market research shows the economic juggernaut of traditional books. While publishers are experimenting with different media formats — especially audiobooks — they are still investing the bulk of their marketing efforts into physical book sales.

And they should...there’s still big money in old-fashioned publishing!

  • Books sales revenue in 2019 totaled $26 billion
  • Physical books generated 74.7% of the total revenue
  • E-books accounted for only 7.48% of the revenue
  • The remaining part of the revenue was generated by other formats like audiobooks


Book sales statistics

Source: The Association of American Publishers (AAP)

Canada Book Market Mirrors The US

Canadian booksellers see the same trends as the United States: people prefer print when it comes to long-form reading

A 2020 survey from the Toronto Star supports these findings:

  • 80% of Ontarians read a book in 2019
  • 70% of those read print books
  • 28% read e-books
  • 56% of respondents said they only read print
  • 14% prefer e-books
  • 7% prefer audiobooks

Reader vs. E-Reader Statistics: Educational Levels

College graduates:

  • 90% read a book last year
  • 81% read a print book
  • 41% read an e-book
  • 34% listened to an audiobook

High school graduates:

  • 61% read a book last year
  • 55% read a print book
  • 15% read an e-book
  • 12% listened to an audiobook

Books versus ebooks - college graduates prefer a variety of formats

Reader vs. E-Reader Statistics: Income Levels

  • 86% of people earning over $75,000 per year read a book last year.
  • 78% of people earning between $50,000 and $75,000 per year read a book last year.
  • 67% of people earning between $30,000 and $49,000 per year read a book last year.
  • 62% of people earning below $30,000 per year read a book last year.

Print Book Youth Movement

One of the main reasons physical books are here to stay is because the next generation of readers has already embraced them.

Studies by Pew Research Center show that the most avaricious readers are young adults, with 81% responding they read a book in some format in 2019.

Data gathered from surveys and studies helps shape market trends:

  • 81% of people aged 18-29 read a book last year
  • 72% of people aged 30-49 read a book last year
  • 67% of people aged 50-64 read a book last year
  • 68% of people aged 65 and older read a book last year
  • 62% of 16 to 24-year-olds preferred print books to e-books
  • 74% of 18 to 29-year-olds preferred physical books to e-books
  • Only 4% of children’s fiction was published in digital formats in the past year

The Benefits of E-Books

A book isn’t paper and binding. It is the words and ideas contained between the covers. 

An e-book contains all of the words and information of a print edition with a number of additional benefits:

  • The key difference between e-books and printed books is this lack of a physical object.
  • For starters, one difference is that an e-book is more portable than a print book.
  • You can store an entire library of e-books on your phone or tablet and not take up an inch of physical shelf space. Kindle libraries can be vast and contain appropriate content for people of any age.
  • E-books take up very little data. Even if your data is limited, a dozen full-length editions will occupy no more than a megabyte of disk space. It’s hard for print to compete in this area of books vs. e-books. Physical books take up a lot of physical space.
  • E-books do not have a fixed font size. Make those letters big and easy to read before bed. Or change the color of the type or the background. The options are endless and the convenience outstanding.
  • Adopting e-book technology can make you more well-read. Your Kindle will survey your e-book reading tastes and report suggestions based on titles with a related association.
  • In addition, e-books have the benefit of a built-in dictionary. No more guessing at word meanings based on their context. You could look up word definitions on the fly. Even search the web to get deeper details about the eBook you’re reading.
  • E-books also offer an excellent way to take notes regarding the text you were reading. Digital notes can be exported into any text editor and you’re halfway through your book report or online review!
  • Like all digital files, eBooks are also very convenient for sharing. Reader-community apps, like Goodreads, allow you to share your reading progress with others almost like a built-in book club you can join or occasionally check in on.
  • E-books are also easier on the environment. Gone is the association with stinky paper mills and unnecessary tree slaughter. No glue, no expensive ink. Unlike paper books, eBooks leave little to no carbon footprint.

The Benefits of Print Books

A print book is a joy to behold!

The smell of freshly printed pages, the smooth, silky feel of paper beneath your fingertips, the crinkle, and crackle of a story flowing by. 

Print offers a unique reading experience.

Digital e-readers don’t engage the senses the way a physical book does. Reading a printed book is a tactile experience.

You feel it, you smell it, and you remember it.

This is one reason physical books are the more popular format for readers. Printed books touch readers on a more primal emotional level.

Digital books bought online generally cost less. While a new hardcover can cost $30, the same book may only cost $15 on a Kindle e-reader. And that’s the top price for an eBook.

Most back titles are available for under five dollars. If you have limited income, e-readers and e-books are a better bargain when it comes to price.

In addition, reading a print book offers an uninterrupted “low tech” reading experience. E-readers and online reading in digital formats run the risk of pop-up ads, dying batteries, and power failures.

Despite its distribution limitations, print still reaches a broad demographic, especially among older readers.

For example, 41% of Americans over age 65 are not Internet users. The number of e-reader owners is even lower among this demographic.

The Future Of Printed Books

The statistics and surveys tell the story; despite the growing popularity of e-books, traditional publishing is here to stay.

The publishing industry uses market research to determine which book format a reader will prefer. U.S. libraries also contribute valuable data and figures on reader habits.

Another factor keeping traditional book publishing alive and well is the modern school system.

Textbook publishers have yet to embrace digital media. Heavy — and expensive — textbooks are still the norm for students. College students (and school boards) must buy the same textbooks year after year. Hey, the bulk of the information inside these textbooks hasn’t changed for centuries. Shouldn’t knowledge be free online somewhere?

Even though all the educational tools needed for academic success can be included on a lightweight laptop or tablet, print textbooks remain an essential part of classrooms. 

This one of the main reasons readers prefer printed books over e-books — they were raised with print books all through school and they carry that love of physical books into adulthood.

The Future Of The eBook and E-Reader

A 2019 survey by Pew Research provides data and figures, which publishers use to determine which reading formats are most popular. While eBooks and e-readers were not the “print killers” some predicted they’d be, digital books continue to make slow gains in popularity.

The best-selling e-books are genre fiction — romance, crime, science-fiction, thrillers, and related genres.

The popularity of digital fiction in the United States is slated to grow over the next few years. As the popularity of e-books spreads, so too do the sales of e-book readers increase.

  • Projected e-book sales in 2025 = $7.78 billion (up from $5.91 billion in 2019)
  • Projected e-reader sales in 2025 = $98.95 million (up from $77.94 million in 2019)

Readers still prefer printed books over eBooks

What About Audiobooks?

We are in the midst of a “listening revolution” the likes of which the world hasn’t seen since the birth of radio

The rise of podcasts and narrated stories means more people are listening to media than ever before.

However, these modern “books on tape” aren’t eating away at physical books or e-book sales as much as they’re bringing in new readers and giving seasoned readers a new way to enjoy the stories they love.

  • One-in-five Americans listened to a book in 2019
  • 100% of American publishers are creating audio

Physical books vs ebooks vs audiobooks - traditional book is still the winner

People Still Read Books... And Always Will

From a social media post to a blog article, people today read short-form writing on smartphones and tablets. But when they want to read in longer formats they turn to books, and, more often than not, they turn to “dead tree” editions printed with paper and ink.

Print books aren’t dying — they’re evolving, offering more accessible ways for people to enjoy them.

Technology has expanded our reading choices, allowing us to connect with books in different ways. In many ways — in terms of selection and availability — books are healthier than ever!

To get more insight into digital books vs. print books, we reached out to author Armand Rosamillia. 

Rosamillia says his sales were pretty evenly split between print books, e-books, and audiobooks until the pandemic hit.

“Looking at my stats from the last 18 months, my sales are roughly 18% print, 27% audiobook, and 55% e-book,” Rosamillia reports. “Audio sales have nearly doubled since Covid, mostly affecting the print side.”

In addition to writing books, Rosamillia also runs The Little Free Library, a take-a-book / leave-a-book public bookshelf, which is a hit with younger readers. 

Printed books are still preferred for nature journals, cookbooks, and children’s books. A recent Nielsen study found that parents and kids want to hold books and turn the pages together.

You can’t do that with an ebook.

The same goes for interactive books like coloring books, puzzles, and workbooks. You need traditional pages to get the most out of these books.

“Even though children are at ease with their tablets and technology (more so than I ever will be), they still gravitate toward the print books until they hit their teens, in my opinion,” Rosamillia says, “I have a Little Free Library on my property and the children go crazy whenever I put a new stack of picture books into it.”

And that’s good news for bibliophiles of any age!


Sources:

Statista

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/25/one-in-five-americans-now-listen-to-audiobooks/

https://publishers.org/news/aap-statshot-annual-report-book-publishing-revenues-up-slightly-to-25-93-billion-in-2019/

https://www.thestar.com/business/opinion/2020/01/27/print-still-rules-when-it-comes-to-books-in-ontario.html

https://www.voxburner.com/blog-source/2015/5/18/16-24-prefer-books-as-physical-products

https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2014/04/03/older-adults-and-technology-use/

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/25/one-in-five-americans-now-listen-to-audiobooks/

 
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