Most people can agree that digital books are changing the landscape of the publishing industry and perhaps everything about how we interact with the written word. If you can store thousands of books on your Kindle and countless more on the cloud, what’s the incentive to own shelves and shelves filled with paper copies of your favorite books? Some might argue that the incentive is great.
Sure, gadgets can be exciting, but a true book lover will tell you that there’s nothing quite like the feel of a paper book. There’s the sensation of weight in your hand as you make the slow, tactile progression through time and space flipping from page to page. A book will never run out of batteries or fail to load properly. A book has history, character—one could even say memory (and not the kind you run out of). It activates all of your senses as well as your mind, and the experience of each physical book is different than any other.
Your brain is stimulated differently when you hold a book than when you hold yet another electronic device. One could equate this phenomenon to the advice that one should reserve ones bedroom for sleeping (and other nighttime activities) to promote good sleep hygiene. We do so much on our devices these days—working, surfing, watching, listening, e-mailing, texting, chatting, posting, scrolling. In contrast, there’s a unique mental response that occurs when we pick up a real book in our hands. It has one function: to convey information from an author to a reader. There is no multi-tasking inherent in a book—only learning and absorption. Many find that reading from a paper book is like a form of meditation—a means to slow down and dive deep. In fact, a report by university researchers in Norway found that students who read texts in print scored significantly better on reading comprehension tests than those who read the same texts digitally—perhaps because the tactile experience of paper books potentially offers a more immersive learning context for readers.
Statistics released in 2013 show that e-book sales grew 43% in 2012, but this figure was just a fraction of the triple-digit increases that were seen from 2008 to 2011. While e-books are the fastest-growing segment of the book market, they still only make up approximately 20% of all sales reported by publishers. Now, whether these figures are a result of not all titles being available digitally or because people will always love their books—that’s harder to say. In the years ahead as more and more titles become available, we’ll see just how those numbers stack up. Perhaps some inclination can be inferred from a survey conducted in 2012 by the Hachette Book Group in which half of all readers indicated no interest in buying e-books and a majority of e-book consumers continued to buy traditional books as well.
None of this is to say that digital publishing doesn’t have immense value and potential; it’s just to remind us that we should never forget books, those age-old friends. May we always treasure those weathered volumes that we pull off the shelf and let fall open to whatever page was most perused, ornamented by our hand-written impressions carefully scrawled in the margins.
Regardless of which format you personally prefer, there is a market for both. Find out more about our digital and traditional publishing consultation services and see how to best get your book out into the world!