Ebooks: Five advantages of paper over pixel

Ebook sales are a tsunami crashing onto the shores of the reading public. While some are saying that sales are slowing, that’s simply not true. As Eoin Purcell writes,

One of the problems is that ebooks have become so large a market, more than $1 billion in the US alone in 2013, and have grown so quickly, that even large increases now appear quite small in percentage terms, and modest increases seem tiny.

Ebooks still have shortcomings that paper books don’t

She adds that projections showing declining ebook sales also don’t factor in independent authors and growth in countries outside of the US and UK.

ebookHowever, ebooks still have shortcomings that paper books don’t, besides lacking that comforting and familiar new book smell. Here are some examples:

  • Ebooks don’t scale. Some of the finest books available are photo books that span 12 inches in width. That kind of scale that draws the eye across two feet of real estate just isn’t possible in an ebook, many of which are read on seven-inch tablets, or worse—on cell phones. Ditto for the graphic novel category, which reduces dramatic comic book splash pages to postage stamp pictures.
  • Ebooks don’t make centerpieces. I’ve yet to see an ebook that can replace the coffee table book.
  • Ebooks don’t distribute well. What? How much easier can it be than point, click, and read? Not much, unless you’re in a doctor’s waiting room, outside a row of magazine and newspaper racks, or anywhere else people pick up free periodicals to read. There is still tremendous value in the ability to pick up a paper copy of something while waiting for the dentist to see you.
  • Ebooks discriminate. According to Pew Internet,

In the book-reading population, those most likely to read e-books include those with college or graduate degrees, those who live in households earning more than $75,000, and those whose ages fall between 30 and 49.

So if you’re less educated, have a lower income, and aren’t middle-aged, you’re not likely to be an ebook reader.

  • Ebooks are hard to use. Sure, the demographic above can navigate menus and touchscreens with ease. But if you’re young—especially a beginning reader, and what better audience for a digital library than new readers—or old, you’re likely to find ebooks and their companion ereaders confusing.

Will these things changes someday? Maybe. Perhaps manufacturers will invent virtual 18×24-inch holographic screens and a QR-type system that lets you grab the local free weekly paper with your cell phone. And as the population ages and the technology improves, there’s no doubt it will become easier to use, for young and old. But right now? If it’s a plain-Jane all-text novel, the ebook is wonderful. If it’s anything else, paper still has a distinct advantage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *