The prominent influence the Internet of Things has had on various industries over the past decade is hard to ignore, especially within the paper market. And although digital devices provide a way for businesses to consolidate materials and increase the efficiency of operations, there are a number of sectors that still heavily reliant on print items and arguably just as many that prefer them.
One of the biggest segments impacted by the recent electronic revolution was publishing. Authors began focusing on digital publications for e-readers such as Kindle, a trend that has expanded as more smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices have offered e-book applications. However, recent research has indicated that some business owners may want to think twice before going "paperless."
Back in 2011, when bookstore giant Borders filed for bankruptcy, it created a widespread assumption that it paperback books were endangered. In an article for New Republic, Alice Robb recently reported that according to a recent study conducted by Naomi Baron at American University, nearly all, or 92 percent, of students would rather read a paper book than an electronic version. This kind of statistic is important and relevant to a wide range of companies and organizations, considering this is the generation that grew up with the Internet and, therefore, would likely be assumed to be the demographic to most prefer digital content.
It should also be noted that this doesn't just apply to novels or personal reading material, but electronic textbooks as well. Robb said that, following President Obama's announcement of wanting to implement the use of e-textbooks by next year, Florida has already passed a law that will enforce the conversion of print to digital textbooks in public schools. Of course, this legislation seems to contradict what might be in the best interests of students.
Stagnation in e-book sales
Robb reported pointed out that, although they may be convenient, e-readers are not without fault. For example, the devices have limited battery life and reading on a screen for an extended period of time can bother some people's eyes. Perhaps this is why, according to the source, e-book sales are beginning to plateau. Robb reported that between 2012 and 2014, the number of children aged 6 to 17 years old who prefer to read print books rose by 5 percent.
In addition, in November 2015, Publishers Weekly reported that both HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster suffered from a decline in e-book purchases. In the third quarter of that year, Simon and Schuster's digital sales dropped from 28.3 percent for 24.8 percent, with e-book sales slipping approximately 17 percent.
"Digital sales, which include both e-book and digital audio sales, accounted for 20 percent of revenue in the most recent quarter (about $82 million), down from 23 percent of sales ($93 million) in the comparable period a year ago," the source explained. "With digital audio sales generally performing well across the industry, the 11.8 percent decline in digital sales is most likely due to a drop in e-book sales."
Advantages of print books
The choice between digital and paper materials might be subjective, but data is hard to ignore. Robb revealed that Baron, who recently wrote a book titled "Word Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World," surveyed more than 300 students across a number of countries, including the United States, Germany and Japan. One of the most noteworthy findings of this study, Robb indicated, is that the majority of participants had strong preferences for reading hard copies over electronic ones, especially when it was for "serious" material that requires concentration.
In an interview with Robb, Baron explained that there are a number of reasons why students even ones who grew up in the age of the Internet would rather read from paper than screens. Not only do digital devices present a myriad of distractions that make it all too easy to focus without interruption, but they can also cause physical ailments, such as head and eye aches.
The case for print books is further fueled by the feeling of accomplishment this type of reading can give readers. The professor said that seeing the percentage of material read at the bottom of a screen does not illicit the same feeling of achievement as being able to hold the physical pages in ones' hands. When asked why, then, so many students opt for e-book purchases, Baron explained that they are often more affordable than their traditional counterparts.
Baron also admitted that one of her top concerns is that people are falsely assuming they are doing the right thing by trying to make the delivery of education materials more convenient, easier to access and better for the environment. However, it seems industry leaders have failed to consider the opinions of students.
The findings of Baron's study are important for printing service providers to take note of, especially when dealing with clients in the learning community. In addition, it is also essential information for organization leaders who have any kind of training and development program in place, since the delivery format of materials may influence how effective the experience is for the reader.