E-Books Versus Print: The Debate Continues

The Allure of Print

Now that we are able to do so much online, it can seem like print books are no longer useful. They’re heavy. They get dusty. They weigh down your backpack and fill up your locker.

Why lug those things around when you can read almost anything on a screen now? There are e-books, digital databases, online textbooks. La Presse recently stopped printing a daily paper (except on Saturdays). Now, the best way to access it is through its app, which the Toronto Star is also using.

But the allure of holding an actual book in your hands is one that tablets and laptops can’t duplicate. Books are tactile objects that you can touch and smell. You can fold the pages over and write in the margins.

People still love books. E-book sales are down, and sales of second-hand books are up. University students continue to prefer textbooks in print – even when they’re given the electronic version for free. They find that it is easier to focus on a physical textbook, it is easier to highlight, and there is less chance of distraction. And research shows that a well-stocked home library improves children’s academic achievement across the globe, regardless of their socio-economic status or the country they live in.

A solid 21st century school library should offer a combination of books, e-books, and databases to provide students with the information they need. As a librarian, not only do I believe that print and digital resources can peacefully co-exist, but that they complement each other. There are times, like when you’re standing on the metro or crammed into an airplane seat, that e-books just make more sense. But then there are other times, like a rainy day when you’re curled up with a cup of tea, when only a real book will do.

– Laura Sanders, LibrarianLaura_Sanders

Laura Sanders, the Head Librarian at Lower Canada College, received her Master of Library and Information Science from McGill University in 2013. She taught English Literature abroad for four years and enjoys reading in both print and digital formats.

Reading Renaissance?

Blog_ReadRenaissance_24May2012There is a fair amount of speculation about the future of the book. So, is the book dying?  Is reading on the decline? You’ll be pleased to know the answer to both questions is an emphatic “no!”

There is definitely a lot of shifting and change occurring in the book world, but the book is actually alive and well.  In fact, it seems less about whether people are reading and more the question of format that is causing a stir.  Recent data actually indicates that we seem to be living a kind of reading renaissance.

A few years ago there were many who predicted an impending apocalypse in the reading world, claiming the death of the traditional book bound on paper would lead to an inevitable decline in readership.  However, the invention of the digital e-book has clearly changed the reading playing field – and it seems for the better.  Regardless of format, we now have more books, more readers, and larger audiences for words and ideas whether presented to us on paper or pixels.

In its annual report published last august 2011, the Association of American Publishers reported that overall revenues and the number of books sold in all formats have grown significantly since 2008.  However, without e-books the numbers would likely have been flat or declined slightly.

An American think-tank group that looks at current trends, called the Pew Research Centre, also reports an interesting development.  Twenty percent (20%) of Americans report having read at least one digital book in the past year – and digital book consumers read more books per year  (about 24) than the solely paper-bound readers. Another surprise:  e-book readers also read a lot of paper books as they are comfortable in both formats.

It’s interesting to note that with the growth of digital books many authors are also making more money on Kindle, Kobo and iPad format sales than they did when we were limited to traditional publishing.        E-books tend to be cheaper than traditional hardbacks as they are much less expensive to produce—and it seems readers are inclined to buy more given the savings. Think about it: e-books eliminate the pulping of paper, printing, binding, delivery trucks, stores with lots of sales employees and infrastructure costs.

But bound paper books still remain popular with people.  A lot of people prefer the feel of a book, its smell and its portability.  There’s permanence to the book that certainly has a special appeal to many.

So we should all realize that we are living through a time of profound change – probably equal to when Guttenberg invented the printing press in the mid-1400s.  The good news is people appear to be reading more than ever before.  –Chris Shannon, Headmaster