Is the future of printed books written in disappearing ink?

Considering the spread of digitization into seemingly every nook and cranny of our lives, how are book-reading practices changing?  The Pew Research Center looked into this question recently, and it found that those behaviors are definitely changing.

First, what hasn’t happened is a wholesale flight from printed books.  According to Pew’s January 2018 survey of ~2,000 American adults age 18 and older, fewer than one in ten respondents reported that they’ve pulled the plug completely on reading printed books.

But it turns out that ~30% are reading both digital and printed books.

As for the rest, nearly a quarter of the respondents reported that they don’t read books at all – in any format.

That leaves around 40% who report that they read books in printed form only.

It seems that we’re in the midst of a technologically driven change in behavior. A few short years ago the percentage of Americans reading any books in digital format would have likely been in the single digits.  But now just about half the population of book readers are doing so at least in part using digital technology.

I suspect that we’ll see continue to see a shift towards digital books – and likely at an accelerating pace.  Even though speaking personally, I tend to read “better” when I’m not in front of a screen because I find it easier to absorb the more extensive paragraphs that are more typical to long-form writing.

But that’s just me.  What about you? Are you still reading printed books exclusively, or have you gravitated to digital?  And do you see yourself going 100% digital eventually?  Please leave a comment for the benefit of other readers.

3 thoughts on “Is the future of printed books written in disappearing ink?

  1. Just as this column is published, I find myself giving away my Kindle.

    It drove me crazy! There is something about touching these devices by accident and having the unexpected happen which is counter-intuitive and not connected to our expectation about physical objects. I’d be reading a book one moment, shift my hand and suddenly find I was in the footnotes. Then, because KIndle renumbered the pages, I’d have no idea where I had been moments before and would spend five minutes trying various screens until I found my place again!

    A physical book may be heavy compared to a Kindle (though not in paperback), but you can riffle through the pages in a split second — and see two of them at once. Books are high tech!

    And who likes squinting at a phone screen or computer screen in the sun? Even on a large screen at home, we are dealing with something illuminated from behind. That’s tiring for the eyes in itself. I greatly prefer reading in hard copy.

    Of course, like most of us, I’m stuck reading a lot onscreen anyway … just not big books anymore.

  2. Have spent a lifetime building my library and have come to digitized books very slowly. Kindle with a light changed me and now I’m about 50-50. Will never abandon print. Gotta make up for the loss in Alexandria.

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