Print is dead – long live print! This common war cry within the publishing industry reminds us of the persistence of printed publications. A recent Pew Research Center study on Americans’ reading habits is the latest piece of research to confirm that readers continue to prefer printed books to e-books.

The survey revealed that 73% of Americans have read a book in the last year, but just 28% have read an e-book. Per the study, “When people reach for a book, it is much more likely to be a traditional print book than a digital product.” The survey also revealed that many readers are hybrid readers – reading both print and digital.

A recent survey revealed that 73% of Americans have read a book in the last year, but just 28% have read an e-book.

Of course, print has a significant head-start on e-books and brings many advantages including a long distribution network and a simple (click-free) method of reading.

However, the digital book market can now be defined as well-established, so it would be interesting to discover what is making readers stick with print. Is it, for example, cost compared to perceived value of e-books that is putting them off? And then there’s the huge amount of digital content that is so readily available. Will e-book readership hold its own?

A short time ago, publishers placed a huge emphasis on digital, citing it as their main area of growth. However, all five of the big five publishers reported a drop in sales of e-books in the first half of 2016, a decline in e-book sales and e-readership that seems more than just a passing trend. Could it be a real cause for concern?

Perhaps readers will simply always love print. While e-book sales may be down, profits are up at the five big publishers. So perhaps it is time publishers reconsider their e-book strategies. Or perhaps they need to concentrate on a both-and approach, rather than either-or. Whether the solution lies in lower prices or better promotions is yet to be seen.


Author: Matt Pedersen

Matt Pedersen is the Director of Rightsholder Relations, where he runs the account management program for CCC’s publishing partners. Prior to CCC, Matt was Director of Corporate Sales for Elsevier’s Science and Technology Books. Matt majored in theatrical arts, and put his education to good use as a costumed museum interpreter at Plimoth Plantation. 
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