It’s odd to see it published in Digital Book World, but this article by Dana Beth Weinberg offers some fascinating insights into why authors and readers still want printed books.
According to Weinberg, the latest study from Pew Internet Research makes one thing clear: more Americans are reading ebooks, but they still vastly prefer their books in prints. And that preference makes itself known in authors’ income checks.
“The percentage of American adults who read an ebook was 28% in 2014, up 11% since 2011,” Weinberg writes. “Still, that figure is small compared to the percentage who read a print book, 69% in 2014, only slightly fewer than the 71% who reported doing so in the 2011 sample. In other words, Americans are far more likely to read print than to read ebooks.”
Ebooks are more popular among younger readers who have been raised in the digital world than among older readers, but that doesn’t translate into an overall preference for ebooks over print. Younger readers still prefer print, as we’ve seen before.
“In fact, among the adults surveyed, the youngest cohort, age 18–29, was most likely to read a print book, with 79% reporting reading a print book in the past year,” Weinberg notes.
For many would-be authors, the world of self-publishing and ebooks has opened up opportunities where none existed just a few years ago. The rise of the indie publishing platform has certainly made it possible for many authors to earn money selling digital books.
Yet, as Weinberg notes, “traditionally published books with print runs far out-earned those distributed only in digital formats, with median earnings of $3,000–$4,999 for printed books and just $1–$499 for digital-only books.”
For authors, having a book distributed to physical retailers boosts income even higher. Being placed on bookstore shelves ratchets up the median income by several thousand dollars.
The numbers all make sense, and Weinstein notes “the trends in reading demographics that Pew uncovered indicate that print will continue to have a correspondingly strong readership, despite the growth of ebooks.”