Curling Up with a Good … Screen?

They are largely digital natives, relying on their electronic devices for a large part of the day. So you might be surprised to learn that when it comes to leisure reading, the millennial generation prefers a good print book.

“Young people still prefer curling up with a paper book over e-readers – even more so than their older counterparts – according to a study which dispels the stereotype that millennials are always hooked to technology,” notes this article in the Deccan Chronicle. 

“The study, published in the journal Electronic Markets, found that adult consumers across all age groups perceive ownership of e-books very differently than ownership of physical books, and this could have important implications for those in the business of selling digital texts,” the article continues.

We’ve talked about this idea before; there are proven psychological reasons why we value real books over e-books. The EM study seems to reinforce this idea and pointed out some key reasons why.

“Participants across all age groups reported feeling a constricted sense of ownership of digital books versus physical books, based on the fact that they do not have full control over the products,” the article continues. “For example, they expressed frustration that they often could not copy a digital file to multiple devices.”

“Along similar lines, many study participants lamented restrictions on sharing e-books with friends, or gifting or selling the books, saying this made e-books feel less valuable as possessions than physical books,” the author notes.

I’ve experienced this myself many times. After reading a great book, I love to pass it along to someone I know will appreciate it, usually with a note. It makes the person you are sharing with feel appreciated.

There’s also the emotional element to this preference, with study participants saying they feel more connected to their physical books. They also spoke of the multi-sensory experience of reading in print – the sounds, smells and tactile experience of turning pages, as well as the joys of marginalia.

“Participants also said they use their physical book collections to express their identity to others who might be perusing their shelves. E-books did not have these associations,” the article continues. 

There were two notable exceptions to the preference for print – minimalists lean toward digital books simply because they take up less space. And some older readers like the ability to zoom in on text and the ease of carrying an e-reader. Understandable, of course, from that point of view. But for the rest of us, e-books feel more like renting than buying, the researchers found. And the slump in e-book sales bears this out.

Reading print books really can make us more human, impacting the way our brain processes information thanks to the long focus necessary.  It’s not surprising, then, that real books are trumping e-books, given how much the modern consumer craves something real. 

E-books have their place and aren’t going away. But for so many of, the sheer joy of the print book experience is real.