Why Readers Stick To Print

Andrew AlbaneseOld habits are hard to break. Just ask the Big 5 trade book publishers who just can’t seem to walk away from a business dependence on print books.

Sales reports and reader surveys agree that readers continue to enjoy print book over e-books. The reasons for that preference, though, aren’t as obvious as some accounts may make out.

According to a newly-published Pew Research Center study on Americans’ reading habits, e-book readership has seen little change in the last two years. “When people reach for a book, it is much more likely to be a traditional print book than a digital product,” Pew says. Overall, they found that only 28% of Americans reported reading an e-book in the last year.

“Major media ran with headlines declaring that print books are holding on. But I think that’s missing the point of the survey,” reports Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly senior writer. “After a sustained campaign to protect print, most notably though the agency pricing switch, publishers have succeeded in stalling the e-book market. And I find that a troubling outcome.

“In fairness, the survey found that many readers today are hybrid readers—reading print and digital,” he tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “But the fact is that the major publishing houses have put a thumb on the scale when it comes to e-book growth. They wanted to balance print, and its established business model, with digital, where the model is still unsettled. And the result may be that they have stifled digital reading in the cradle.”

Every Friday, CCC’s “Beyond the Book” speaks with the editors and reporters of “Publishers Weekly” for an early look at the news that publishers, editors, authors, agents and librarians will be talking about when they return to work on Monday.

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