Do Paper Books Still Have a Place in 2017?

Child Reading 2
Boy reading Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief written by Rick Riordian. Photo by Hannah Onder

In 2007 with the introduction of smartphones, Facebook, and Twitter the idea of people not reading as much as they used due to the increase in technology was created. However according to a Gallup poll, people are still reading at the same rates they were back in 2002 (Anders and Swift). With people reading the same amount they did in a technologically dominated society it begs the question of whether people are still reading the traditional books or the e-books. The traditional books would encompass anything printed out and bound. While e-books are books that are read online through Amazon, Kindle, Google or whatever else. While both paper and online books are methods of reading, they each have their own advantages and disadvantages. However, with the different pros and cons is there a preferred method with all the new technology available.

First one important factor when determining which method to use when reading is price. When producing a physical book the costs are more expensive to produce and sell. According to Rodriguez and Nayeli, the average cost for creating a $26 hardcover book is $4.05. The higher the production cost the more expensive the publishers sell the books. The higher prices could turn people towards other methods. For example with e-books, according to Rodriguez and Nayeli, when producing a $9.99 e-book it cost the publisher $0.50. Therefore e-books are cheaper to buy since it cost less to produce. This is further confirmed when looking on Amazon and comparing the prices of Rick Riordian’s new book, The Trials of Apollo: Dark Prophecy. The hardcover book is being sold for $19.99 while the Kindle edition is being sold for $14.99. Although there are places like Half-Price Books or Amazon that sell paper books cheaper which could help alleviate the issue of high priced paper books. For example, on Amazon with Rick Riordian’s The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle, the new hardcover book costs $19.99 and the Kindle edition costs $9.99, but the used hardcover book costs $6.10. While people can get the discounted prices for used paper books, with e-books people must pay full price since there’s no such things as a used version without a physical copy. Therefore, when purchasing a new book at full price it’s more cost efficient to purchase something online rather than in print form, but when purchasing something used it could be better to purchase a paper book.

Next another important factor when deciding between paper books and e-books is accessibility. When accessing print books people must go somewhere to pick them up which can be an inconvenience for some. For example, print books can be accessed from stores, libraries, and online but they either must be delivered or picked up which takes time. Also, when you have multiple books it takes more space to store and travel with them since each story has its own book. This can also be inconvenient for people that don’t have a lot of storage space or travel a lot (Rodriguez, Nayeli). Although having physical copies of books laying around the house also allows people to access to what someone is reading. This can be good if someone is trying to impress someone with what they’re reading, but it could be bad if someone’s embarrassed by their reading material (Rodriguez, Nayeli). For example, if someone is reading some research book it could make them look smart in front of their friends, but if an adult is reading some middle grade fiction book it could be embarrassing to reveal that to their friends. With e-books, it’s easier to access the books because you can purchase them online and then have immediate access to them. There isn’t any time wasted on having to go pick up the book or waiting for it to get delivered. Also with e-books since their all online and can be accessed through one device it’s easier to store and travel with. They don’t take up the space needed by physical books so they don’t need as much shelf or suit case space and its lighter weight to have multiple stories (Rodriguez, Nayeli). Although with e-books less people have access to what someone is reading because there’s not books sitting out in the open for them to look at. This can give someone privacy if they’re reading an embarrassing book but if that person is reading a high-level book it prevents them from showing off as well. For example, if someone reads a lot of high-level novels on Kindle to someone walking into their home they won’t see any books laying around which can also make it look like that person doesn’t read anything. Therefore, when people are reading it’s quicker and more space efficient through e-books, but someone’s reading material is more accessible to others when it’s paper because it’s visible.

Finally, one last important factor when choosing between paper books and e-books is their effect on their readers. According to the studies reference by the Huffington Post it’s easier for people to connect to paper books. For example, reading paper books allows people to get more emotionally connected to the characters and to better comprehend the content. Studies also show that people retain information they read in paper books easier (Crum). Also, reading paper books is better to for your eyes and sleep, according to studies referenced by the Huffington Post. Print books are also more likely to be read between parents and children, which helps build a parent child-reading connection and encourage reading habits (Crum). While with e-books it’s harder for people to get emotionally invested in a book and it’s harder to understand the content, according to studies referenced by the Huffington Post. Crum, Rodriguez, and Nayeli also suggest e-books are bad for people’s health. For example, Rodriguez and Nayeli state paper books in direct lighting are the easiest on the eyes. While Crum refers to a Harvard study that found the light emitted from e-books were making people take longer to fall asleep compared to the people reading paper books, which caused people to be sleep deprived. According to Crum, parents were less likely to read e-books with their kids because they felt fancy features online where more distracting then helpful. Therefore, paper books have the better effects on readers because it allows them to be more connected to the material, have better health, and connect with their parents, unlike the e-books.

With technology dominating society and creating more convenient methods for doing tasks people predicted that e-books would become the dominant reading method (Anders, Swift). Although according to a 2017 Gallop poll examining reading amounts and methods, 73 percent of people said that they preferred reading print books to both e-books and audio books. Looking back at the points of this paper e-books have the more factors in its favor. According to the research e-books have the advantage in price when it comes to production costs for publishers and when it comes to pricing of the new books. It would make sense looking at that for producers and readers to move online since it would be cheaper for them both. Also looking at the research for availability it makes more sense to go to e-books because it’s faster to access, they take up less space making it easier to store and transport, and it gives readers more privacy with what they’re reading. Paper books had a small advantage in pricing when they were bought used, but most people would want buy books when they first come out rather than years later. They also had the small advantage in accessibility if people wanted others to know what they were reading. Although if people didn’t have internet access the ideal method for getting access to books would probably be the public libraries’ paper books. The only major advantage paper books had over e-books was their effect on people. Paper books are easier for people to connect with in comprehension, emotions, and content. This could be because turning the pages and the lack of other activities available makes people more engaged with the story (Crum). Paper books were also better for people’s health if read in proper lighting. This is because of the artificial lighting that comes with e-books is bad for the vision and makes it harder to sleep after just using it. Another effect of paper books is the increase in parent preference to use them to read with their kids since they feel they engage them better and have less distractions then e-books. Paper books only have one major advantage on the three comparison points between e-books, so that would suggest people would switch to e-books. Yet, people still are using the paper books and a majority of people strongly prefer them over e-books. This is mostly likely due to the priorities people want when reading books. This research would suggest people prefer the effects reading paper books has on them compared to the better pricing and access that comes with e-books. It’s interesting to think people prefer the interaction between people and text when so many people usually value fast and cheap when it comes to other methods of completing tasks especially with communication. Email, for example, is quicker and cheaper then writing letters so most people use that even though they value written letters more. It’s strange the fast and cheap methods hasn’t spread to reading when it has with so many other places in society.

Both paper books and e-books are methods of reading in society and they each have their advantages and disadvantages with their readers. With a society that typically prefers a fast and cheaper method of doing tasks the different pros and cons would suggest that the preferred method would be e-books, yet it’s paper books. A reason for this could be that people value the effects such as connectedness to the story, better health, and the preference of parent-child reading that paper books have on people higher than the better access and cheaper costs of e-books. For many decades people, have been enjoying the use of paper books for school, family, and personal use and as of 2017 it looks like the tradition of paper books is here to stay.

Works Cited

Ander, Steve, and Art Swift. “Rumors of the Demise of Books Greatly Exaggerated.” Gallup, 6 Jan. 2017, http://www.gallup.com/poll/201644/rumors-demise-books-greatly-exaggerated.aspx?g_source=Social Issues&g_medium=newsfeed&g_campaign=tiles.html. Accessed 1 Feb. 2017.

Crum, Maddie. “Sorry, Ebooks. These 9 Studies Show Why Print Is Better.”                    Huffington Post, 27 February 2015, www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/27/print-ebooks-studies_n_6762674.html. Accessed 1 Feb. 2017.

Rodriguez, Nayeli E. “BOOKS Vs E-BOOKS.” Newsweek 156.6 (2010): 56. Middle Search Plus. Web. 6 Feb. 2017.

“The Trials of Apollo, Book Two: The Dark Prophecy.” Amazon, 2 May. 2017, https://www.amazon.com/Trials-Apollo-Book-Dark-Prophecy/dp/1484746422/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1486412860&sr=1-1&keywords=apollo+trials+book+2.htlm. Accessed 6 Feb. 2017.

“The Trials of Apollo, Book 1: The Hidden Oracle.” Amazon, 3 May. 2016, https://www.amazon.com/Trials-Apollo-Book-Hidden-Oracle/dp/148473274X/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1486412860&sr=1-2&keywords=apollo+trials+book+2.htlm. Accessed 6 Feb. 2017.


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