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The E-book vs. Print book debate in graphics

January 22, 2013

In case you missed it, there is a great debate going on in authors circles. The debate centers around how long it will be before E-books send print books the way of the dinosaur. There is all sorts of crystal-balling and black magic being used to come up with the predictions, but most of it is apparently gut-feel.

That is, until now. Recently, Allison Morris wrote me about work she has been involved in. The research culminates in interesting graphics. Yes, E-books are wreaking havoc in some areas of print publishing, but all is not lost yet. Her graphics show what I’ve suspected right along, that there are still rays of hope for print books, and more importantly, libraries. The graphic below can be found at:

Libraries are forever: E-books and print books can co-exist.

E-books Infographic

Anyone that has ever sat down and read a book to a child will appreciate that kid’s books are still in demand, and there may even be reason to believe that demand will increase with time. E-books for children can have whirling figures and icons, as well as sound, but at some point, it is no longer a book, it is an animated amusement. Reading is a more solitary activity and involves the reader and the child and the animation and noise can detract from that relationship. Print books offer that solitude and enhance that reading experience. Of course that same experience can be had with an E-book, but one has to pick the material carefully.

E-books solve a serious problem for schools: backpack weights have been escalating over the years, an E-book can replace many pounds (Kilos) of books. However, a workbook, as opposed to a textbook, one where the student can write on the pages, scribble notes and drawings and create a permanent record of what they were thinking as they did exercises, is invaluable. Here is an area where print and E-books can improve the learning experience. A creative workbook could be saved in digital format (scan, photo, etc.) and be carried on the E-book, once the exercise is finished.

I have a number of my books from college and often refer to them. I won’t part with them; I can see future students having the same sentiments. Perhaps the print version workbook will eventually end up in the recycle, but the work can be preserved in the E-book. I can see the day where a workbook/textbook will display on an electronic “Etch-A-Sketch,” and the student will scribble notes, drawings etc. right on the screen, to be saved at the end of the session. The work could be reopened later, for further editing.

I disagree with Allison on one thing: I think eventually almost all of the paper books will disappear. She waxes philosophical about the sensory feedback of a print book, “There’s plenty to love about the weight and feel of a physical book in your hands…,” even my own adult kids feel that way, but I think those days are numbered. However, for the time being, print books are still here. It will be interesting to look at Allison’s data in, say, five years? These days, five years is a long time! My guess is, the debate will still be going on, but there will be far fewer print books.

Check out Allison’s work, there is some pretty interesting stuff there. If you’re a teacher, or want to be one, she has a plethora of valuable links on the page as well.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 22, 2013 23:36

    I totally agree with Allison. To many people love the printed book for so many reasons and they will always exist. There may not be as many published every year and the cost may have to be adjusted. The large publishing houses are hurting too and if they are smart they will find a way to co-exist with the digital age too.

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