In A World Of EBooks, Physical Copies Still Reign Supreme

Despite technological advances and a notion that ebooks are the future, most people still prefer paper books when reading.

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

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paper books

When ebooks were first introduced many people believed they would replace paper books. By 2012 ebook sales were increasing and made up one-fourth of all book sales. Despite this, for the past few years, print books have sold more and still interest a higher amount of readers. This is good news being that a new study connects physical books to stronger reading rates in teens. 

Even in 2020, paper books outsold ebooks. Physical titles rose 8.2%. That set a 10 year high. Now, based on the latest information, parents may become even more eager to give children print books instead of relying on tablets and e-readers. 

The Economic Cooperation and Development hired an organization to study the reading habits of teenagers across 30 different countries. Students who read paper books scored 49 points above students who rarely read on their Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). While students who read digital books scored 15 points higher than students who rarely read. This difference indicates that reading physical print books is more likely to increase positive student success rates. 

Other studies have concluded a noticeable comprehension advantage for individuals who prefer to read paper books than digital ones, and students who scored higher on their PISA did not all isolate themselves from digital reading. Many of the students admitted to using electronic devices for research and reading the news, but when sitting down to take in a novel or the latest memoir they preferred long-term reading via physical copies. Despite digital trends, the majority of students still prefer to read print books. 

On average 35% of American students prefer to read paper books as opposed to 16% who read primarily on screens. Despite these different options, only about 18% of students enjoyed reading on both formats. This is a global trend. The majority of worldwide readers prefer physical books and sales are displaying that. 

Paper books are more engaging for young readers. Children enjoy flipping through board books and exploring the connection between words, images, and language. Even when reading through middle-grade books, students often gain a stronger sense of connection with the material because there are less distractions than tablets and other e-readers present. There are no pop-ups, ads, or notifications to worry about.  

paper books

Adults who prefer paper books often consider reading novels and nonfiction titles a separate activity from their online interactions. While tablets and smartphones often receive updates and notifications that distract readers from their content, physical books host no outside interference. In addition, print copies don’t need an electric charge, nor do they become difficult to see if there is a glare. 

10 years ago many publishers and booksellers predicted that digital reading would dominate the market. While there is enough interest in ebooks to continue releasing them, the majority of readers — young and old — not only prefer paper books, but they benefit from reading them. Students who read print books have higher test scores and the adults who support them don’t have to worry about youth screen addiction as much.