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Along the Journey  |  

Reading: Options, Options, and Options

Ebooks, Kindle, Audible, paperbacks, PDFs, hardbacks–there are so many options to choose from!   

When electronic books arrived on the scene, calls for the end of libraries and print books abounded.   

Yet today, both are still with us and their options remain wide open and keep expanding, allowing readers to choose what suits their needs best.   

As we celebrate National Book Lover’s Day (this Sunday, August 9th), let’s explore some facts about what and how people are reading.   


Print vs digital reading 

According to the largest and most reliable survey on this topic, done by PEW Research in 2018, paperbacks are still the most popular way to read, with ebooks coming in second and audiobooks third. 

Sources estimate that as of January 31, 2020, ebook sales accounted for 19% of total book sales globally by revenue, and they made up a whopping 35% of unit sales (number of books sold) (i) that number is B.C. (before COVID-19). 

(ii) Digital book sales are increasing across the board due to the viral pandemic, as thousands of physical bookstores and libraries have closed all over the world and companies like Amazon are taking weeks to ship out the latest bestseller in hardcover or paperback.  

Compared to traditional printed books, digital books can be instantly purchased and are available via apps, tablet, or ereader allowing (iii) the global ebook market to run at USD 18.13 billion in 2019 with an expectancy to reach USD 23.12 billion by 2025. 

As we dig a little deeper, let’s see what other studies show about the reading choices people are making. 

What are we reading? 

(ii). Wcan see that most readers seek fiction and literature as their top subject choice for ebooks.   

Throughout various studies, ebooks are and have remained the preferred format for pleasure reading. In the ten subject areas listed below, religion and spirituality are in the bottom half.   

Part of the rationale for this ranking might be related to the fact that religious and spirituality publishers and readers have been slow to accept the ebook format.   

Even ten years ago, ebooks in religion were scarce, especially at the academic level.    

So what are students reading? 

In 2018, the Library Journal found that college students prefer print books for pleasure but are increasing using ebooks for their research needs. 

When completing assigned narrative reading for class assignments, (iv.) 68% of students preferred print books noting that print books as easier to read but ebooks are easier to obtain.   

(iv.) While ebooks are easy to obtain, students expressed frustration with DRM (Digital Rights Management), which impacts printing portions of the content, appearance on various screens and or downloading chapters or entire ebooks for offline reading.  

What have we learned?   


Celebrate National Booklovers Day by selecting an old favorite to re-read or try a new format of reading material altogether. Happy reading!

Dr. Kelly Campbell is the Associate Dean of Information Services and Director of the John Bulow Campbell Library, Columbia Theological Seminary and can be reached at campbellk@ctsnet.edu.



i . Ebook Industry News Feed: The latest updates on digital booksabout.ebooks.com › ebook-industry-news-feed

ii.  https://publishingwithlove.com/ebook-publishing-industry-market-analysis-kindle/

iii. https://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/ebook-sales-are-undergoing-a-revival-in-2020

iv. https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=college-students-prefer-print-long-form-reading-ebooks-researchlj-survey

Along the Journey