I stumbled across an article on The Guardian‘s website this morning reporting that young adults aged 16 to 24 still prefer print books over ebooks. The two reasons that dominate this preference are the high price of ebooks (apparently, only 8% of young adults surveyed think ebooks are reasonably priced) and the value of a physical, shareable product.
The results were gathered by Voxburner, which surveyed 1420 UK youths -30% of whom had purchased or read an ebook in the last month. The survey caught my eye because I fit into this age group, and I do prefer printed books over e, but my reasons don’t reflect those of the study.
The price of ebooks never bothered me. They are cheaper than print, and they have the added convenience of being sent instantaneously to my seldom-used Kindle. This was a huge help in college when I realized the night before class that I had forgotten to purchase the assigned reading. The only hiccup was I did once purchase an ebook that had an identical title to the assigned reading but was a different work. But that’s a metadata issue, right Thad?
Unlike my peers, I don’t value the physicality of my books either, though that may be because they are mostly cheap soft covers. I’m rough with my books, and after one read, the pages are dog-eared, the cover is worn, and sadly, food stains are prevalent. Glorifiers of book smells and leather bindings would be shocked, but as my Grandmother always said, “Things are things.”
So why do I fall on the print side with my fellow youths? Simply put, I can’t lose myself in ebooks. My engagement is prevented by a number of hurdles, the first being the small number of words on a page. The brief pages segment the story, and force me to turn the page more frequently. Yes, a page-turn is instantaneous, but the fact that I have to press a button every few moments to continue removes me from the content. I find myself distracted in ways I never am when reading print, and the urge to scroll down my Facebook feed quickly becomes unbearable.
Tied to page length, I loathe the infinite feel of the ebook. Where exactly am I in the story? 10% completed doesn’t tell me much when every page looks the same and 25-page turns equals 1% of progress. I can’t visualize where I am in the book, which oddly enough makes me even more distracted. Instead of investing in the characters, I can’t help but thinking, “When will this be over?”
The main reason that print is my platform of choice, however, is that I love completely devoting myself to a book and losing myself in it for hours. Ebooks, especially those living on tablets, aren’t made for that type of single-mindedness. Because of how they segment the book, these platforms pull me out of the moment and prevent the deep reading I need to enjoy a good book.
In fact, a few months ago, I came across an article that suggested ebooks are ideal for individuals with attention deficit disorder, because content is displayed in manageable bite-sized portions. Reading a book, one ADD-diagnosed woman claimed, was simply too overwhelming, but reading became manageable on a segmented ebook. No official studies have been conducted on this yet, but the story’s eerie contrast to my own situation has me convinced.
Perhaps if I had read an ebook of very short stories in college, I’d be singing my Kindle’s praises. But, more likely, I’d just read those very short stories online, using my laptop. That’s my platform of choice for brief, interrupted reading-not my Kindle.