The rise of the e-bookworm?

I’ve always proclaimed my loyalty towards the traditional printed word.

I used to be that person who would turn up their nose and scoff whenever someone said they preferred reading books on their Nook. I thought e-readers took away from that experience of being able to physically leaf through a novel.

But these false preconceptions of e-books quickly changed when I entered college.

Hauling around five to ten pound college textbooks are the highlight of any college experience. I would know because I had once foolishly committed to carrying around every single textbook for every single class during my very first week of college.

It didn’t take long for me to venture in to the world of e-books when I realized that lugging around a pile of hardcover textbooks made my walks along a college campus a miserable excursion. By the second week mark, I was tired of all the back ache that came with carrying around my three-hundred page Macroeconomics textbook.

So, naturally, I caved and finally jumped on the the e-book wagon.


What exactly are e-books/e-readers – and why do young people love them so much?

E-books are digitally formatted books that can be accessed online either through your laptop, tablet, or e-book device called an e-reader. The more popular devices specifically made for e-books are Amazon’s Kindle, or the Barnes and Noble’s Nook.

If you take a quick peruse through various forums and blogs on the internet, it’s quick to notice that the loudest voices among the pro-digital crowd are young people. There are a couple reasons as to why they tend to cite e-books as being superior over the traditional printed word:

1. Environmentally friendly

A lot of young people tend to be a lot more environmentally conscious than the previous generation: according to a poll commissioned by Microsoft and the Clinton Global Initiative, 66% of millennials believe in the evidence pointing towards global warming with 75% of responders believing that human activity is to blame for it.

The biggest upside to being an avid consumer of e-books is that your hobby doesn’t kill trees. Thus, this makes e-readers and e-books a more positive, green alternative that appeals to any eco-friendly bookworm.

2. Travel friendly

Any millennial’s dream is to be able to travel the world. According to the global consulting firm, Boston Consulting Group, most of today’s 16 to 34 year old have the propensity of embracing global perspectives and new experiences. This makes millennials natural travelers, and BCG proposes that as they enter their peak earnings in several years, the airline industry will see to a rise in spending on taking those spontaneous, three month long backpacking tours across Europe.

Therefore, e-readers are a traveler’s best friend. Luggage space is easily saved with the average Kindle e-reader weighing a mere 5.7 to 6 ounces, and you can load anywhere between 3,500 to 6,000 books on a Kindle according to what model you choose.

3. Instant access

In my opinion, the biggest advantage of having an e-reader is the fact that e-books are easily downloadable as long as you have reliable access to WiFi. This means that if a friend recommends you a book over coffee, you can easily whip out your tablet or e-reader right there and then and download the book. Instant gratification can be accomplished within the confines of your own house – you can read that newest, bestselling book you have oh so desperately wanted without having to change out of your pajamas!

4. Checking out e-books

E-books can also also be easily borrowed through our local library’s catalogue system. Having a Contra Costa Library Card gives you access to Overdrive, a tool that allows cardholders to check out books through the library system by having them borrow books online and download them on to their e-readers or tablets.

These e-books are loaned out for the standard three, six, or nine week period, and these books are easily accessible from any device. The library has also compiled an online Overdrive guide that gives instructions of how to download the app on your device, how to access and download these books, and how to maneuver through any error messages.


Note taking and price variances

Note taking for classes can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to e-books.

On one hand, certain e-textbooks published by popular publishing companies such as the British-owned Pearson have added features that make it easier for students to “takes notes” digitally. My last class enabled us students to use Pearson “MyLab” which allowed students to highlight passages by clicking and dragging over the text and choosing a color to highlight it with. “MyLab” also enabled students to take digital notes comparable to “post-it” notes.

One the other hand, e-textbooks are considerable pain in a neck when it comes to classes such as Calculus which rely heavily the need to constantly flip through pages to compare answers to the solution manual in the back of the book. It’s also a hassle for English classes when you’re looking for a specific passage in a novel – it’s tedious to flip through pages when you have to keep constantly clicking the “next” button through a two-hundred something page digital novel.

Either way, they both have their pros and cons. It ultimately comes down to people’s preference for handwritten/digital when it comes to note taking. 

As for the price variances between e-textbooks and physical textbooks, there could be significant differences depending on your circumstances. Personally, I find that e-textbooks are insanely reliable if your professor/school gives you a discount on the textbooks you need for a certain class. But, sometimes students may find it cheaper to rent physical textbooks through popular textbook leasing sites such as Amazon Rental or Chegg.


Are e-books replacing printed books?

When we first saw tech-savvy folks start to embrace the digitally enhanced versions of our favorite novels back in 2010 and e-readers started to gain traction, one couldn’t help but wonder if physical books would still even be relevant after a decade or so.

Publishers were worried that the rise of e-reading devices such as Kindles and Nooks would bring about the eventual death of sales in print. According to data by Pew Research, the share of readers reading from behind tablets, e-readers, and even smartphones has tripled since 2011.

But, some data in the book selling world over the year of 2016 suggests otherwise:

  • The year of 2016, according to Brian Walter of NPD BookScan, was the first year wherein hardcover print-book sales exceeded that of e-book sales.
  • CNN reported that, according to the Publishers Associations, sales of e-books in the UK decreased by a whopping 17% in the same period that sales of physical books went up by 7%. According to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales in the U.S. declined by 17%, while sales of hardback books increased by 4.1%.
  • Data from Pew Research suggests that the popularity of printed material continues to trump the trendier e-book formats as 2016 saw to 65% of Americans choosing to read books in printed format, while 28% had chosen to read a book in e-book format.
  • More recent data over the past year of 2017 also saw to a steady rise in print sales with a 3.3% increase in total units sold in comparison to 2016. All in all, there has been a 10.3% increase in sales since 2013.

It’s clear to see that digital hasn’t completely taken over our book-reading landscape – print is still the preferred method of reading. Paperbacks and hardbound books won’t be collecting dust in our attics any time soon as long as people continue to choose printed over digital as their primary ways of reading a novel.

So, if data concerning the world of the book selling market says anything at all, print can live alongside digital. It’s merely up to a consumer’s choice as to what appeals to them most at the moment.

As a student, I love being able to carry around one simple device that has the capability to hold a multitude of three-hundred page textbooks without the hassle of a heavy, back ache inducing backpack.

But when it comes to casual reading? I still believe reading a physical novel beats any Kindle-enhanced experience.

Yes, an e-reader enables you to hold an entire library in a device that could weigh less than the book you’re reading itself, but there’s something quaint and more intimate in feeling the paper between your fingers. I have books at home with binding that’s barely surviving, but I still like to carefully thumb through them and read through the tiny, handwritten notes I tend to write next to the text. You can’t quite compare a digitized book to a well-loved, earmarked novel. In fact, my favorite novels are books that barely intact with their pages starting to yellow, but they pack a hell of a lot of personality. I take pride in that.

Of course, you won’t find me toting around a backpack full of ten pound textbooks anymore, but I’ll never let go of my worn, paperback copy of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five no matter how much money you offer me. I’m sure many print-loving folks would echo the same sentiment: “old habits die hard!”