To “e” Or Not To “e…” That Is The Question.

by | May 17, 2021 | Libraries

Thanks to Mr. Shakespeare for the original “To be or not to be” quote, but, seriously, the question above is one that I have been thinking about for some time. Do people use more online books today? Is technology “doing in” our friend—the book with real paper pages?

I wanted to know what fellow book readers’ thoughts were on this topic, so I decided to ask my Facebook friends for their opinions. They didn’t let me down! I reached out to them and the responses just flowed in by the minute. A total of 91 people commented. My post asked everyone to respond to two things:

“When reading a book, which format do you prefer: ebook or hard copy? And then, after stating your preference, please add a brief reason why?”

I was happy to see so many of my friends take the time to answer! There was a true mix of age in the group of respondents—it probably leaned a bit older, but most all age groups were represented.

I must admit (like most all survey-givers, I’m sure) that I had my own preconceived idea of what the results would show. My prediction? I thought hard copies would win, but ebooks would be fast approaching. I pictured a sixty/forty-ish percentage in the end. I was wrong. There were 90 opinions counted in my final tally. Of those 90, 68 preferred paper and 13 preferred ebooks. There were also a number of people (8) who said they were split evenly in their choices and one person who said she mainly preferred audiobooks over all other formats. So–out of the 81 people who chose only one or the other, 84% preferred paper and 16% preferred ebooks.

All of the comments left on my FB page were fascinating to read. Here are a few comments representing both opinions.

Books’ comments:

“I like turning pages and buying something tangible, never online.”

“I like to buy the book and put it on my shelf or pass it on to friends. I’m on a computer all day and don’t enjoy reading an ebook.”

“Hard copy definitely! Books are some of our most precious possessions.”

Ebooks’ comments:

” I exclusively use my e-reader (Kindle on iPad). I am spoiled by the lighting, font, and ease of use.”

“ebook because I am able to take my Kindle anywhere for on the go reading without taking up space in my bag.”

“ebook as it is easy to travel with and easy to upload a new book when on vacation. Also easy to keep, as there are only so many bookcases you can have.”

So, what does the current online research say about our posed question? All articles I read claimed that print books are here to stay, not only because people of all ages still prefer them, but because the publishing companies are making huge profits in selling them. Total book sales revenue from 2019 totaled 26 billion dollars. Print books generated 74.7% of that total and ebooks accounted for only 7.4% of the total.  The remaining difference was from other formats such as audiobooks. AND from several sources, an interesting fact was noted: America can say for sure that media predictions from a decade ago regarding the death of physical books and the switch to total ebooks were way overstated.

Well. I haven’t shared by own opinion yet—because it was so fun to read everyone else’s! I have some definite observations about my own reading journey and felt it would be easier to share some of them in list form. Which do I prefer? Both! Really! I have found myself reading more and more on my iPad, but I cannot ever see myself totally abandoning a physical book.

Reasons I love ebooks:

  • There are many amazing ways to get an electronic book instantly and free of charge. Our public libraries support all kinds of reading. They support several apps where finding a book is amazingly easy. Try out Hoopla, Overdrive, Libby, Wowbrary, and FIREreads. Many will immediately download a book to your Kindle or Nook app on your iPad or phone if you have a current library card. The “check-out” time period lasts as long as one for a hard copy, and books can be renewed.
  • Convenience. I can be reading a book mainly on my iPad, but if I find myself trapped while waiting for an appointment —voila!—it’s on my phone on the same page where I left off.
  • Immediate access to new titles. Reading a series and dying to access the next one? Get it. For free or for a charge less than a paper copy. This year I am trying to reread some of the classics from our past—they are usually free of charge.
  • I read a lot. I have a lot of books. I’m running out of room!
  • And while traveling—books are heavy. I still bring some, but it is SO easy to download multiple books before you leave and just bring the tablet you were going to bring anyway!

Reasons I love books with real pages:

  • They are books with real pages.
  • I am in several book clubs and love putting sticky notes all over the pages. SO easy to refer back to your thoughts, as compared to the highlighting in an ebook.
  • I love sharing and exchanging books with others. My friends are book-lovers who gravitate to the same genres or challenge me to another that they have thoroughly enjoyed.

In closing—I am sending a very special thank you to everyone who helped me in learning about our own current reading trends. Their response was amazing. I had a smile on my face for days–well, actually, I still do. I heard from family; friends from Iowa, Missouri, Texas, California, Arizona, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, Arkansas, Nebraska, and Florida; teachers I taught with; former students (!); parents of former students; special ISU friends; and long-time Hoover buddies (loved the Fahrenheit 451 reference, Fred!). Thank you all!

Happy reading, everyone—however you do it!


About New Chapters Libraries

At New Chapters, our collective passion is to inspire a love of books among at-risk youth. We believe that strong reading skills are essential for every child and that a good book can be very therapeutic and offer a ‘vacation’ from the hardships of everyday life.

New Chapters is committed to making a wide variety of current and high-interest books readily available by creating and refurbishing libraries in residential facilities catering to at-risk children. We also conduct programs aimed at fostering a love of books and increasing reading skills.

To learn more, contact us at [email protected]. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram!


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