If you’ve been grieving over article after article declaring paper books “dead,” there’s some good news for you. A recent online survey on the reading habits of teens and children had some surprising results: while children 12 and under consider e-books “fun” and “cool,” teenagers 13-17 are the least likely out of any age group to read e-books. That’s right: both 5-year-olds and 40-year-olds are more likely to read an e-book than your tech-savvy, constantly-texting 16-year-old is.
A whopping 66% of teens say they prefer printed books to e-books, with 26% having no preference and only a measly 8% giving a preference for e-books. One unsurprising factor in this resistance is the small size of screens on electronic devices. But the main reason teens don’t like e-books? They’re not social enough.
14% of teens complained about the digital copyright restrictions on e-books that prevent them from sharing and discussing books with their friends. While PaidContent’s writeup of the study discusses the need to promote e-books more on social media, I don’t think that’s the answer.
One of the wonderful things about a printed, bound book is that you can share it with anyone. You can tell your friends and family members, “I just read this great book” and lend them your copy. If they really love it, maybe they’ll buy their own copy, or buy the book for someone else they think might enjoy it. But, of course, allowing digital “lending” of e-books wouldn’t sell as many copies – and maybe that’s why so many are so quick to dismiss print books as an antiquated technology. It’s better for big publishers’ bottom line if print books fade into obscurity.
We often forget the most powerful element of writing, the reason so many people become writers to begin with: people want to be heard. They want to be able to share their words with as many people as possible – selling thousands of books and making good money off of them is great, but for many writers, it’s not the main goal. Most writers simply want to touch someone, make a difference in someone’s life – and, considering how author advances (especially for fiction) have dwindled over recent years, it’s the only way to explain why more obscure writers bother to continue writing at all.
The study points to the lack of “social technology” as a main reason why teens are reluctant to pick up e-readers. But discussing and sharing something with your friends is about more than tweeting. What about being able to dog-ear a particular page, or highlight a passage you found particularly compelling when you pass your book on to a friend? What about being able to sit and talk, picking apart different aspects of the story, the characters, the world in which they live?
Whether your tablet or e-reader integrates with Facebook is really beside the point. There’s some fundamental benefits to being able to hold a physical book in your hands – and one of those benefits is being able to easily, joyfully pass it on to somebody else.
Photo by: Adam Bailey