Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Millennials Prefer Print Books Over Ebooks?

So says WaPo:
Textbook makers, bookstore owners and college student surveys all say millennials still strongly prefer print for pleasure and learning, a bias that surprises reading experts given the same group’s proclivity to consume most other content digitally. A University of Washington pilot study of digital textbooks found that a quarter of students still bought print versions of e-textbooks that they were given for free.

“These are people who aren’t supposed to remember what it’s like to even smell books,” said Naomi S. Baron, an American University linguist who studies digital communication. “It’s quite astounding.”

Earlier this month, Baron published “Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World,” a book (hardcover and electronic) that examines university students’ preferences for print and explains the science of why dead-tree versions are often superior to digital. Readers tend to skim on screens, distraction is inevitable and comprehension suffers.

In years of surveys, Baron asked students what they liked least about reading in print. Her favorite response: “It takes me longer because I read more carefully.”

The preference for print over digital can be found at independent bookstores such as the Curious Iguana in downtown Frederick, Md., where owner Marlene England said millennials regularly tell her they prefer print because it’s “easier to follow stories.” Pew studies show the highest print readership rates are among those ages 18 to 29, and the same age group is still using public libraries in large numbers...

 it can be seen most prominently on college campuses, where students still lug backpacks stuffed with books, even as they increasingly take notes (or check Facebook) on laptops during class. At American, Cooper Nordquist, a junior studying political science, is even willing to schlep around Alexis de Tocqueville’s 900-plus-page “Democracy in America.”

“I can’t imagine reading Tocqueville or understanding him electronically,” Nordquist said in between classes while checking his e-mail. “That would just be awful.”


  1. I have a theory that with a real book, you always have an awareness of where you are in the text. With a Kindle, each page is like any other, so there's no context.
    Now any one living on a boat will tell you that the Kindle is a miracle and I agree. The few paper books I retain (Patrick O'Brian of course) are slowly turning into paper mache'.

  2. I prefer print over digital, but read 90% digital. I would also prefer to drive a Porsche, but currently drive an Infiniti. The fact is that all readers, not just millennials, are buying digital books at a rate far exceeding anything print has ever seen. The ease of acquisition and the low cost of digital is beyond what print can compete with.

  3. As someone on the high end of the millennial scale (I was born in 1982), I much prefer paper. I find it very satisfying to flip the actual pages and see your physical progress through the book as the bookmark inches closer to the end. I also sometimes like to highlight important passages in books, and it is nice to easily go back and grab an old book off the shelf and have the option of re-reading the whole thing or just going back over the highlights. There's also no chance that your physical book you bought will be in an obsolete software code in 10 years like an e-book could be.
    In Nassim Taleb's book 'Anti-Fragile' he talks about various writing projects which he had started 10-15 years earlier and had saved on his computer hard drive or on disks. He tried to go back and work further on them and couldn't open them as the software was obsolete or corrupted somehow. Not a problem with paper!

    1. That's more of a problem of Taleb being technologically illiterate than anything.

  4. I was born in 1984 and honestly I prefer to the hard book than the digital copy. If said book is only available via digital then so be it. Also for me it's not just books, I still buy CDs for music and then burn them to my hard drive and transfer them to my ipod, same thing with movies. I like to have physical copies

    1. Great point. While a digital movie is nice for travelling, I like to have a physical DVD/Blu Ray for home use.

      As an "old" college student, having finally graduated at age 41, I would have been lost using a digital textbook. The ability to paper clip pages, highlight, write in the margins, or quickly flip to a particular page was a godsend. I'd watch those using digital copies having to scroll through numerous pages to get to the same spot.

      I'm not knocking digital at all - I love my Kindle and the fact that it takes up little space on my desk and can hold thousands of books. But, there is something to be said about flipping through the pages of an actual book.

  5. First, some context: born in late 70's, went fully digital in early 00's. The reasons I prefer ebooks are practical:
    - one drive of storage for ebooks is equivalent to one building for paper.
    - search! Ctrl-F is so much more productive than flipping pages back and forth
    - value for money, as modern books (namely science and engineering) are by far more 'money' than 'value'
    - access to old and rare books impossible to obtain otherwise

    I have scanned copies of books printed decades ago in total quantity of five hundred copies - pure unobtainium. How I got it? Someone who knows their value, somewhere, scanned it and shared it, and now I have it - there is literally no other way to see it. Still, library is one of my favourite places - it was quality time, but I long lost access to the uni library. So I have my digital library on a laptop, backed-up in three places. Same is true with music, movies, notes and other information. The only caveat is reduntant storage: drives predictably fail in 2~5 years, CDs degrade and fail without warning, laptops (are simply made to) die, and the "cloud" is the same drive plus a very long wire with a plug that can be pulled any time, and a hundred million lines of code of which 5% is known to be defects.

    Paper books are as good as they ever were, but in uncertain times when one may have to pack and leave within 24 hours, never to return, a library room will unavoidably have to be left behind. Also paper is inconveniently subject to conflagration with complete loss of value.

  6. The used of books is depend on the choice of people. Their are some people used printed books for their choice and some are used e-books or we called Digital Books/Outlines. It is not confirm that which is the best. Thanks.