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Why do teens prefer printed books to e-books? ‘We just do!’

31 May 2016

From Chris Meadows via TeleRead:

The Guardian has an interesting essay by a teen writer from the Guardian children’s books site entitled “Why teenagers are so resistant to e-readers.” (The writer posts under a handle and doesn’t give a gender, so I’m just going to assume she’s female so I can use a pronoun that looks less awkward than “they”.) It’s interesting enough, but when you read the thing, it’s actually kind of mistitled. It could better have been called “Why this teenager still loves paper books.”

She’s not even necessarily resistant to e-readers herself—she spends a paragraph singing the praises of the Kindle for being able to store so many books in such a small space. But then she calls attention to a recent survey showing that 16-24-year-olds prefer paper books—64% directly preferred print books, and 20% didn’t mind them.

People have their different reasons for this. For me personally, one of the many reasons I’m still more than happy to splurge most of my money in Waterstones is not only the smell of new books (intoxicating though that is), but also the feeling of actually holding a book, and being able to actually have a page turner. You can’t smell a Kindle – you’re holding plastic – and tapping an e-ink screen to turn a page isn’t really the same being able to turn a page.

Beyond that, she says, the assumption that everything modern teens do is filtered through digital media is precisely that—an assumption. It doesn’t necessarily hold true for everyone, and there’s still plenty of room for respecting tradition.

. . . .

Why does the kid who wrote this article prefer printed books? She just does. (Well, she cites the smell of books, but I still have a hard time imagining we’ve raised an entire younger generation who goes around huffing books the way they used to sniff tubes of model glue.) I could make sweeping generalizations, such as a rebellion against the preferences of the older generation who’ve taken to Kindles like ducks to water, or perhaps after staring at screens all day at school and for social networking they want to take a break and stare at words that are fixed in place on their pages.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Ebooks, Non-US, YA

26 Comments to “Why do teens prefer printed books to e-books? ‘We just do!’”

  1. “Why do teens prefer printed books to e-books? ‘We just do!’”

    Because we don’t have to squint to read small print — yet.

    Because it’s important to us that our friends can see what we’re reading.

    Because if you cherry-pick, you can find someone who loves the smell of dirty socks or burnt popcorn and stale coffee.

    • Reality Observer

      They don’t have to deal with a dust allergy.

      They haven’t had a mold infestation hit their library.

      They consume books that really don’t work as well electronically. Mine do read most books electronically – but they purchase hard copy when it comes to their manga interest. To them, it’s just not the same (besides most of them not even being published in ebook).

  2. As I’ve said before, if the smell and feel of the book is that important to you, I want to know what you’re actually DOING with the book.

  3. Anecdote is not evidence, but my two teenage kids read books on their phones and tablets every day. They aren’t alone in their group of friends.

  4. I think it’s because their parents read them paper books when they were little kids. An unconscious romantic feeling about paper. Give it ten or fifteen years, teens won’t care about paper anymore.

  5. The essay cited in this article reads like a debate class assignment.

  6. Smart Debut Author

    I once met a teen who preferred 8-track tapes. Maybe they, too, can write for the Guardian. 😀

  7. I did a survey on Wattpad. It wasn’t scientific, and of course only a small percentage of the writers there responded.

    Although they read free books on Wattpad, all but one responder said they read “real” books in print exclusively. Kids don’t have credit cards, and they don’t want their parents buying their books on Kindle.

  8. Books are fantastic pieces of technology optimized for reading. Their continued success should come as no surprise. Amazon gets this, and that’s why they put so much money into their dedicated Kindle ereaders. You need to match the experience if ebooks are to be a true success.

  9. Good point on Credit cards. That said, my kids are always getting gift cards to amazon or for the dozens of play to pay video games out there.

    I monitor what they do, but once I credit their account $25 or whatever, they can buy without bugging me.

    (I get notifications of what they buy btw. Superman outfits for their characters in Minecraft or whatever they are playing, popping up on my computer at work is always fun when someone walks by….)

  10. The whole print vs ebook preference surveys are largely about manufacturing preferences. They never ask questions like “How often to you choose between a print and ebook version of the same book?” or “What types of books to you prefer to read in ebook form? Listen to as audio books? read in physical printed form?”

    In this case, the survey was done by a market research firm, basically as an ad for their services. If you look at the rest of the data they publicized, it’s not hard to figure out why they preferred print books. Those surveyed thought ebooks were overpriced.

  11. It seems to me in my experience as a librarian that there are three issues here:
    1. As already mentioned the credit card issue
    2. Some kids feel ignored by their parents and an outing to the bookstore or library is time spent with the parent
    3. Since kids don’t have much/any money of their own they feel empowered by owning a tangible object such as a book

    Or I could be wrong and it’s the whole huffing the pages thing.

  12. Kids haven’t themselves had to move their enormous collection of paper books in boxes from place to place every few years. Its the last several moves of my own that convinced me, if I wanted to keep books to reread, which I do, digital was far easier and cheaper to schlep. Plus, if you pay for your reading with your own labor, reading as much as I do gets awfully expensive with paper.

  13. Because they don’t have to ask a teacher for permission to read a print book in class, but do have to show me their e-book? Because the teachers at the school have a print-novel lending library with a lot of pretty neat titles, but no e-lending library? Because the teen book club will provide print books since a number of students can’t afford e-readers and are not allowed to have smart-phones?

  14. I think teenagers pass paper around, and that may not be easily done with ebooks. I lost track of how many times my niece lent her copy of Twilight and then Hunger Games.
    Also, obviously the credit card issue exists as does the approval/privacy issue. A friend can lend a paperback and teens can read without getting any parental approval or having to discuss sensitive subjects.

    But these are transitory issues. Check back with teens in four or five years. I’ll bet pleasure reading is electronic almost exclusively.

  15. My eight-year-old is not a teen yet, and she probably does (slightly) prefer paper books because she can carry them to school and I don’t let her take her Kindle.

    That said, she just comes and asks me if she can buy books on her Kindle, and I buy whatever looks interesting from Bookbub or that I happen across. As she gets older, I might tell her she can spend $X/month on books and let her decide what she buys. I read everything in my parents’ library (although I do remember my mother taking Peyton Place away from me, which, in retrospect, seems less scandalous than some other things I read), so I’m not too worried.

  16. A quick survey of my 13 year old twins reveals that my son has no preference between ebook and print, but my daughter prefers print. Why? – She says she likes to multi-task, and reading print keeps her phone or tablet free for messaging with her friends while she reads.

    Regarding the lack of credit cards, my son is a heavy reader, and is signed up for the Freebooksy email, so he can download books that interest him for free via our Amazon account.

    • Reality Observer

      Multitasking! I think you hit at least one of the nails right on the head there, sir. One of mine has a TV hooked up – watching NetFlix. Computer has games on one monitor, email and messaging on the other. Skype on audio. And the cell phone for “regular” texting.

      It would drive me absolutely mad, but she seems to handle it just fine. There’s been a massive mutation in the gene pool, I think…

  17. That teenager should try to read “Six Frigates” in hard print. I got it from the library after PG’s recommendation. That book must weigh about 850 lbs.

    But seriously…while reading on the sofa I slowly became aware of the awkward experience of reading a large, hard print book. So much so that I even mentioned it to my wife.


    • Reality Observer

      A properly bound large hard back is actually easier for me – I don’t have to hold the darn thing open. (One reason I do like ebooks is the same thing.)

  18. My 10-year-old son can’t stand to read paper books and adores our shared kindle voyage. Reads like a maniac on it, too.

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