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Infographic: Top Ten Reasons for Choosing a Paper Book over an eBook

A cursory glance at the statistics for the US ebook market will tell you most people are sticking with paper, and there’s a good reason for that. As the following infographic will show you, paper books fill many uses which ebooks cannot.

The infographic is based on a poll conducted recently by Fatbrain, a UK-based used book marketplace. Over 1,000 Fatbrain users responded, and they revealed that the most popular reason for staying with paper reflected their emotional attachment, and not any practical use.

However, right behind there are two down-to-earth reasons: learning (61%), and sharing (58%), and those are 2 answers that I can fully understand. Paper textbooks are still more useful that digital textbooks; even I will say that.



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Valentine February 18, 2014 um 10:40 am

The website that did the survey sells paper books. Don’t you think the results might be even just a tiny-little-bit skewed?

Nate Hoffelder February 18, 2014 um 10:43 am

Yes, but it didn’t ask which was better. The survey simply asked why people made the choice. It’s not entirely fair to claim that asking about personal preferences gives a skewed result.

Ben February 18, 2014 um 11:11 am

Minus the convenience and interactivity of ebooks/apps and you are back to physical books. Some things in life even the latest tech can’t replace.

eBooks/apps isn’t for everyone nor can it replace some of the "convenience" paper offers. Transmission of information in the digital age is in part limited by wealth. Strange as it sounds, I think people has been ignoring wealth distribution and education in population and how it correlates to ebook growth.

Chris Meadows February 18, 2014 um 5:22 pm

Oddly, the Hugh Howey Author Earnings survey seems to show that, among the top 7,000 genre titles on Amazon, e-books are outselling paper books by a considerable margin. How do you square that with this?

Nate Hoffelder February 18, 2014 um 5:31 pm

How did you get that detail?

I’m not surprised. Amazon has said that they were selling more ebooks than paper books, and it would make sense that the sales were concentrated in the best sellers.

Mark Wickersham February 23, 2014 um 9:46 am

E-books tend to cost less than paper books.

William Ockham February 23, 2014 um 10:03 pm

Most readers not equal to most books. Most readers read a half a dozen books a year or less. Most books are read by readers who read 10 times that many books. If you don’t understand that, you can’t understand the market for books.

CCarm March 26, 2014 um 7:45 pm

Not everyone buys their books on Amazon. Those of us who prefer paper books like to shop for those books in a store, not online. If the survey only covered online sales that could explain it.

Chris Meadows February 18, 2014 um 7:45 pm

It’s right there in the report. Scroll down and look for the pie charts that are almost entirely blue…

Nate Hoffelder February 18, 2014 um 11:14 pm

I saw it in the Bookscan update post, actually.

I’m nt sure how much faith we should put in this report, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true. It matches with what Amazon has said before.

Bart Anderson February 19, 2014 um 2:58 am

The InfoGraphic misses some of the key points why printed books haven’t disappeared:

1. E-book technology is still primitive and clumsy. I don’t mean the displays, which are fine, but the software for downloading and managing books. Multiple formats, DRMs, interfaces that are awkward and inconsistent.

2. You can get many books cheaper in paper, e.g., libraries and used books.

3. Many books are just not available as e-books.

Blue Moon March 3, 2014 um 10:49 am

Maybe e-book technology was primitive and clumsy years go, but it’s almost too easy to buy from Amazon. There is very little effort to download an e-book. Many e-books are free, especially classics. Those that belong to public domain are free and you can have them instantly. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can get a free e-book (of a choice of four) each month, and there are many through Amazon that you can borrow for free. Disclaimer – I have no affiliation with Amazon, other than being a satisfied customer.

Bart Anderson March 3, 2014 um 1:35 pm

@Blue Moon, you are absolutely right that Amazon does a bang-up job of making the e-book experience easy … as long as you stay within their walled garden! The problems come when you want to do anything that is outside.

For example, they carry few of the books in a language I am studying, so I have to look elsewhere. At that point, one has to break out Calibre and start dealing with DRMs, e-book formats, etc.

Or if I want to loan books to someone who doesn’t have an Amazon account.

Or if I want to borrow books from the library that are in a different format.

Right now, Amazon provides good service and appears stable. But we know that most companies have their ups and downs, and a good percentage of companies that *seem* invulnerable go bankrupt, or change direction. In the case of Amazon, that might happen if Jeff Bezos is no longer at the helm and the excessive stock evaluation disappears. And then many users would find themselves in a walled garden that is not so pretty.

tortillarat February 20, 2014 um 2:20 am

If a book is in color with illustrations or just has a lot of diagrams and tables, it’s better to just have the physical copy. If it’s text-only, I usually prefer to have the e-version.

Dawn February 20, 2014 um 10:13 am

The infographic is wrong about not being able to lend e-books. You can lend e-books through Amazon.

Nate Hoffelder February 20, 2014 um 10:15 am

You can lend a single title a single time – if the author allows you to. That’s no where near what you can do with a paper book.

Jenny R February 20, 2014 um 1:02 pm

AND the recipient needs to have an Amazon account.

Bart Anderson February 20, 2014 um 2:20 pm

I think the question of loaning e-books is a great example of an underlying issue – namely that e-books are not intuitive.

With a p-book, either it’s there or it isn’t. If it’s there, you can loan it or do what you want with it.

With an e-book …. it is complicated and the information you need is not immediately apparent. Can you loan a book? It all depends … is it a public domain book? Does it have DRM? Is it a Kindle book? Is the format compatible with the device of your friend?

Cognitive overload!

Ironically, this problem is not technological – it’s organizational. We know how to design software to make the e-book process intuitive. Unfortunately, the different organizations are pursuing their immediate self-interest, to the detriment of the users and ultimately to the detriment of the industry.

Lee February 23, 2014 um 8:28 pm

It’s time for ebooks to be bundled with paper books. The movie industry is apparently doing this. Buy DVD and receive a code to watch that movie online.

John Robert Marlow February 25, 2014 um 4:34 am

They should add "owning" as–should you somehow run afoul of amazon, B&N, etc. (or should they mistakenly think you have)–the seller can promptly delete your account, and all of "their" books with it. No refund and no appeal.

Also "privacy," as major ebook readers report back on what you’ve read and when (and probably where), where you’ve paused, what you’ve read more than once, what you’ve bookmarked and highlighted, etc.

Nate Hoffelder February 26, 2014 um 6:53 am

Excellent points!

Laure Covert February 25, 2014 um 8:44 pm

Yes! All of these reasons mean so much to me – especially the page turning physicality – and the owning/collecting, lending, and illustrations.

Blue Moon March 3, 2014 um 11:05 am

If I am studying or doing academic work, I prefer a physical book. For all other reading, I’ll take the e-book any day. The one thing that I totally disagree with, on the chart, is "Shopping." Maybe you want to get dressed, spend money on gas, not to mention spending your time, deal with parking and shoppers to go into a bookstore in order to purchase an e-book, but not me. Give me the satisfaction of a little research about the book, reading reviews, etc., then "Click," you’re done. You’ve now got the book.

I frequently read when I am lying down – recliner, bed, etc. I can hold the e-book reader in one hand and turn pages with the same hand, thus ensuring a better reading experience.

Also, I can read at night without turning on the light to disturb my wife. What more do you want?

Jen Estes March 6, 2014 um 5:41 pm

I LOVE my e-reader, but I still buy physical books too. Why? One, I love browsing at bookstores and that usually ends up with me buying something right then and there. Two, I like to decorate my house with books. They’re good conversation pieces and easier to dust than picture frames. And three, I love having a hard copy of my favorite books. I don’t really know why, other than to have the author sign it and to keep it on my shelf to remind me how great it is. I also prefer the tangible feel of an actual book, so if it’s something I’ll be re-reading, it’s worth the investment to me.

I don’t take a side in the ebook versus physical book debates. I love them both. Both have their pros and cons, and I think they’re both here to stay.

The Daily Roundup: 24 February 2014 | April 8, 2014 um 7:03 pm

[…] Infographic: Top Ten Reasons for Choosing a Paper Book over an eBook – Interesting infographic that outlines the reasons to read paper books over their e-book kin. […]

A.W. Johnson June 3, 2014 um 9:29 pm

People who buy books love books. People who buy ebooks love reading.

LS June 4, 2014 um 12:01 am

That sums it up nicely!

Nate Hoffelder June 4, 2014 um 7:58 am


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carmen webster buxton March 29, 2016 um 4:14 pm

I think people should buy and read whatever format they prefer. Neither format is an enemy of the other. The "enemy," if there is one, is anything that makes people not read books. I have two good reasons to prefer ebooks. They occupy a space on either side of my face, just above my nose. My eyes prefer adjustable fonts and I haven’t found a paper book that lets me change the font size.

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