Mourning the Death of the Paper Book? Not So Fast!

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.


Related Stories:

E-Books or Paper Books: Which Is Best For Kids?

E-book Borrowing: Publishers and Libraries Disagree

E-Textbooks Are No Bargain (Yet)


Photo by: Adam Bailey


William C
William C2 months ago

Thanks for the information.

W. C
W. C2 months ago

Thank you.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

no paper books will ever die in my household :) my 2 yr old, my bf, and i are all book worms

ii q.
g d c5 years ago


Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe5 years ago

I'm in the 50's age group and I'd rather have a 'real' book in my hands than an e-book.
#1. I agree with other commenters, you get more out of a book than an e-book. It's easier to refer back to something, or skip ahead in a real book.
#2. A friend of mine and I exchange books and that is certainly easier.
#3. It is easier to take a real book to the doctor's office, to the beach, in the bathtub, and etc...
#4. A real book doesn't make my eyes burn like a computer screen does.

Helen H.
Helen H6 years ago

Paper books are definitely better. With e-books you don't feel like you're getting anywhere. I love the feeling of making your way through a book. I love looking at where you are in a book and feeling good that you read a few more pages than yesterday. There's no feeling of acomplishment with an e-book. Paper books forever! :)

Randi L.
Randi Levin6 years ago

Ebooks are killing the evolution of the brain, intelligence and the publishing world. Maybe in this instance the kids are smarter than the adults.

Last year it was studpied and proven that digital education is not as effective as the more traditional forms of education---school.

And now Pres. Obama approves of digital text books? Although I support him, I severely question this agenda of his---as it is contradictory to his wife's agenda of moving more.

Sorry Mr. O, but when stuck in front of a computer it becomes more difficult to find time to move.
AND For any who question the value of a real book, go to a library and search out the wonders found in real books-----not tweeked digitalized versions of such!

Janice M.
Janice Ma6 years ago

I've always loved books. I keep the books I like and reread them, some of them many times. Ask Lord of the Rings fanatics how many times some of them have read those books. Real readers like to reread their favorite books. I have somewhere between 2 and 3 thousand books. I'm uncertain of the number because I have hundreds of new books I haven't read yet and it's just hard to keep track of the exact number. Also I only really keep track of the sci-fi/fantasy novels, sort of. I put them in my computer but I still haven't counted them. When I get really old I'll still be able to lie in bed and reread my favorite books. You can't do that with e-readers that don't keep a book past a certain time.

Harsha A.
Harsha A6 years ago

I Think the paper books makes us more involved into the book than e-book reader... !

Suzanne B.
Suzanne B6 years ago

One of the wonderful things about a printed, bound book is that it remains exactly the same no matter how long you keep it. We need to be very careful in an age when there is a push to rewrite history and censor classics not to let the actual written word disappear. Digital is far too malleable, and what happens if some government decides to simply stop everyone's access to digital information? We need to guard and protect our printed books or risk having reality rewritten all around us.