With the surge of e-books, are physical books dying?

This is a guest post by Nancy Cudis, an award-winning Cebuano journalist.

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IN LATE December 2011, The Christian Science Monitor reported of e-book readers complaining of higher prices of e-books as prices of reading devices plunged, saying that it is difficult to justify the purchase of e-books worth $10-$12 when one can buy a used physical book over at Amazon for $2.

However, in January this year, the USA Today reported a post-holiday e-book “surge” with 32 of the top 50 book titles on its list at that time selling more copies in digital format than in print, including all top 10 titles such as The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins; Private: #1 Suspect by James Patterson; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson; and The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

I’m not going to jump into conclusions, but I can tell that there is a trend of readers across the globe reading e-books. Does this affect physical books? Will this trend lead to the death of print books?

There are different ways of looking into this. One is, I know of many book bloggers who read both e-books and physical books and still express their love for the latter, saying that the scent and feel of paper can never replace the convenience that e-books give. Hence, if these book bloggers represent a sample in the whole reading population, then we can surmise that more individuals will embrace e-books without giving up print books. This will then lead us to surmise that authors and publishers will have to learn to embrace the two reading formats.

Two, not all can afford a reading device, especially here in the Philippines. Many poor and even middle-income families are more concerned with putting food on the table than buying their eldest with a tablet for his/her birthday. But that does not stop companies and organizations, such as Vibal Foundation, from digitizing book titles.

There is a question by pinoytechblog on whether or not the Philippines is ready for e-book readers. Judging from the way the young generation in the country is embracing technology, particularly gadgets, I think the Philippines is ready for e-book devices; we already have tablets and smartphones dominating the malls’ cyber zones. Still, with this case, how do we explain the numerous young people flocking to the local bookstores when I visit these shops almost every other day?

But for the younger generation, or the children, you might want to reconsider reading to them over an e-reader after studies show that doing so makes the children slower to read and understand the story. According to the researchers at Temple University, parents reading aloud and asking questions at certain intervals allows the children to think and focus on the story rather than having a device read to them wherein children are more focused on how to use the device properly.

To conclude, these scenarios tell us that it’s really the consumers who decide whether or not they let physical books die. So, if this question is thrown to you, would you let physical or print books die?

For me, I know I wouldn’t.

Nancy Cudis writes at her blog, www.nancycudis.com. She hosts Short Stories on Wednesdays and monthly Readings in Philippine Literature. Apart from short stories, she enjoys classics, children’s and middle-grade books, Christian and historical fiction, and (clean) romance. If she is not blogging, writing, or reading, she is driving and enjoying the fresh air on a road trip. While she owns a Kindle, she prefers bringing a physical book anywhere. Bump her at enarse@gmail.com.

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Empress is a tech enthusiast who loves to read and write. She founded Empress Content Writing & Digital Marketing Services to help small entrepreneurs grow their business.

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17 Comments

  1. As digital is surging, printing is dying but I don’t like the idea of changing the way we see books in a digital format. I love books and I like to physically turn pages and read it in bed.

  2. As a writer for a magazine, this entire train of thought freaks me out completely. Hopefully we’ll never see the day where print magazines get completely replaced by e-magazines a la Newsstand, they’re such a beauty to flip through, but you never know.

    Great article by the way!

  3. Thank you very much for stopping by and commenting. Yes, I understand that there is no stopping technology from making our lives easier. Who knows someone might even make some mechanism to brush our teeth so that we don’t have to do it ourselves. Anyway, I don’t have anything against e-books (I have tons of e-books on my Kindle) but my only hope is that physical/print books won’t die and become a museum artifact.

  4. I can’t wait for college ebooks. Normal college physical books cost way to much money, I wont rather but it for 10-20 bucks online. I can’t remember the last time I read a book. I’ll read blogs all day:)

  5. Michael you are right and they are heavy too, with all the studies done on how backpacks can hurt peoples backs by being over weight this would really help tackle that issue.

  6. I would still prefer print books over e-books though. The smell of its every page is very refreshing and very comforting. That’s something e-books don’t have. E-books are somewhat life-less and very boring. They have no souls. ):

  7. well Agnes,i have read joel comm’s ebook and it was very inspiring and very informative i wouldn’t get my adsense check if it’s not for that ebook and so are the thousands of adsense publishers i think it’s the words that embodies a book or the ebooks that inspires us

  8. I have to say that I hope print books never go out of style. Although I love e-books there is just something about the smell, feel and look of a regular book that keeps me coming back. My dream is to one day be published and I will probably be using paperback and e-book when that day comes, that is if print books aren’t completely out of style by then. I appreciate this post and I love your site!

  9. Physical books will never die completely and will always be around, but I think they could very well be replaced by e-books as the dominant form. I personally prefer reading on an e-reader because it is more comfortable for me, but sometimes it is nice to sit by the candlelight and crack open a physical book. For this reason I think physical books will never die completely.

  10. In this modern age, everyone use Laptop, Tablet, Smartphone etc. So, everyone can carry e-books with them every time and use it anywhere rather physical books.

  11. I agree that physical books won’t ever die fully. The feel of a nice book trumps a kindle or iPad every time, although each has their own place in modenr society. We love the art of bookbinding and feel of a hardcover book. We’ve actually blended together old and new with our iPad case which resembles a hardcover book but encases your iPad. Would love your opinion when we finally get it to market. – http://ww.anchorcase.com.au

  12. I have my iPad and iPaq for quite a while but it took time for my husband to convince me in buying ebooks. I love reading and I’m a fast reader. I can finish 3 books in a week. It’s a thrill for me scanning different books in bookstores. Well, I got my first ebook, “Fifty Shades of Grey”..okay, I admit that I’m hooked. Finished 3 books in 1 week. The only advantage with ebooks is that I can read it at night when the lights are off already. Other than that, I’m still traditional and still go for the old school books, especially collector’s item kind of books.

  13. E-books should not be seen as a replacement for physical books. E-books just offer a different experience. Physical books are somewhat rare. Hence, your copy is ‘uniquely yours’.

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