Although there was a time when everyone thought print was dying and that ebooks were going to take over, we have seen for several years now that this is not the case. Multiple studies have extolled the benefits of print books: they lead to better comprehension, they provide a greater sense of progress for the reader, and they don’t have any of the potentially negative effects that come from staring at a screen for too long. However, a new study has found one more reason why people might prefer print over digital.
The study, which was conducted by the University of Arizona, claims that one of the reasons why many people prefer print books instead of ebooks is because print gives them a greater sense of ownership. In an interview with Science Daily, lead study author Sabrina Helm said, “In the context of digital products, we thought it would be appropriate to look at how people take ownership of something that’s not really there — it’s just a file on your computer or device or in the Cloud; it’s more of a concept than an actual thing.”
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The study included four groups across three generations, and all age groups agreed that they felt a loss of control with ebooks when compared to print. Of course, this feeling is not unwarranted. You can’t share an ebook the way you would a print book, and you can’t resell it when you’re done reading it. Often, you can only download it to a limited number of devices.
Ebooks also don’t provide a sense of identity in the way that print books do. People are often nostalgic about certain books from their youth and have emotional attachments to the physical copies of them. Also, the ability to organize print books on shelves where everybody else can see and peruse them acts as a form of self expression for the books’ owners.
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While no age group was enamored with ebooks, the study did find that millennials, the generation stereotyped for always being attached to technology, are even more likely to prefer print that older generations. This is mostly because the benefits of ebooks and ereaders are largely irrelevant to younger generations, such as the ability to enlarge text or the lightweight quality of ereaders.
Basically, a majority of readers don’t feel that digital books provide enough value to make them worth the cost, especially when it’s impossible to own them in the same way you can own print books. Until publishers figure out a way to add value to ebooks and differentiate them from their physical counterparts, print will continue to rule.
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