E-Readers: Are Books a Thing of the Past?

News outlets have been sounding alarms about the death of print ever since e-readers and tablets hit the market. And it’s true that e-books have outpaced paper backs and hardcovers since 2011.

But despite reports to the contrary, books are still on shelves — and not just the bookshelf widget on your e-reader, either. You can still find paperbacks and hardcovers everywhere you turn, from airports to schools to your local bookstores.

So – what’s the story? Are we in a world of e-books, or does print media still have a chance?


E-books are growing…

Since e-readers became commonplace in the mid-2000s, they’ve continued to grow in popularity. 43% of Americans 16 and up own an e-reader or a tablet. In 2012, the same percentage had read a book on an e-reader, tablet, computer or cell phone.

There’s more than enough digital content for all those users. There are more than 1 million titles in the Kindle store – and that doesn’t include Apple iBooks, Google Play, Barnes & Noble and more. As of 2010, Amazon alone had sold more than 22 million e-books. There are books of every genre available to purchase, rent or even own for free.

And if you’re interested in an e-reader, you have a lot of choices. From Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite to Barnes & Noble’s Nook GlowLight, e-reader technology has improved by leaps and bounds. Now, you can connect to the Internet, adjust your backlighting, change your font size and even read outside without glare. With Amazon’s Mayday, you can connect to live tech support with the press of a button. And if you prefer devices that multitask, you can download e-reader apps for smartphones, tablets and computers.


…but print isn’t dead yet

E-book sales and e-reader use may be on the rise – but that doesn’t mean that print is gone for good. In fact, according to 2013 reports from the Association of American Publishers, total book sales grew 4% in 2012. That’s a good thing for book lovers of all kinds. And physical books sales for fiction and children’s literature were actually up from 2011.

Another area that’s helping physical books grow? Hardcovers. During the first 8 months of 2013, hardcover book sales grew 10%. During that same period, e-book sales dipped about 5%.

What’s helping physical books stick around? A combination of things. It’s part nostalgia — people still like turning pages when they read, and adding books to their collections. According to Salon.com, three times as many readers prefer print to digital, and 58% of e-book readers also read print books. And for now, e-books can’t compete with print in terms of photographs, illustrations and pop-ups.

No one knows what will happen in the world of publishing in coming years. But one thing is clear – with all the available choices, now is a great time to love books.