7 minutes reading time
SEP 2 2021

Why Printed Books and eBooks Are No Longer Enemies in 2021

When personal computers and the internet first became popular, only about 25 years ago, many feared that this would be the end of the print industry. Perhaps nobody would ever want to buy and read printed books again, let alone use paper to publish information. It could be that digital media was to dethrone the printed book after its 500 years of reign.

Well, here we are today, still waiting for that to happen! In 2019, American publishers raked in a revenue of $26 billion: 74.7% of that came from paper books and a mere 7.48% from eBooks. The rest, some 17.8%, came from other sources, like audiobooks.

The pandemic, however, changed this scenario a bit. According to a Nielsen Book Research Survey, print book sales dropped 17% in the UK during the first half of 2020. While eBooks sales rose 17% in the same period. A remarkable achievement, since eBook sales had been on the decline ever since 2014. Audiobook sales did even better, seeing a whopping 42% increase in sales in the first six months of 2020.

Why Paper Books Won’t Die

The truth is, that the printed book is still a great medium, willfully embraced by the new generations. A 2019 survey made by the Pew Research Center in the US showed that 62% of 16 to 24-year-olds preferred reading printed books over electronic books. This figure rose to 74% among readers between 18 and 29 years old.

With so much competition from other media, the publishing industry still had to routinely reinvent their business. And reinvent, they have. This is evident in the creation of beautiful collector’s editions in high-quality print and elaborate bookbinding. Or the mesmerizing covers accompanying co-productions of highly consumable books that retell the content of the popular film and VoD streaming series. Readers want to collect these beautiful books to proudly present them on their bookshelves - even if only as a popular background for video calls during the pandemic.

Apart from the aesthetic aspect, modern readers also want to consume the books behind their most favorite films and series, which were actually based on a book - like Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tales or Normal People. One way or another, books provide readers with a strong connection to their favorite movie & series characters. They are now just as much memorabilia as they are a good read.

Comparing eBooks vs. Printed Books and Audiobooks

Have physical books, eBooks and audiobooks ever truly been enemies? In reality, these formats aren’t mutually exclusive, they are rather complementary. Readers choose which format is best for every occasion or even genre! For instance, did you know that most readers still prefer to read cookbooks in print? So is revealed by data from Nielsen Book International. These data, along with other insights into the book industry, show that the following topics are more popular in a specific format:

Popular Genres per Format:

  • Print Book | Cookery, Children books
  • eBooks | Crime, Romance, Thriller
  • Audiobooks | Business, Self-help

Stack of books in paper, ebook and audiobook formats

Now let's take a look at the benefits of each format:

Advantages of Reading eBooks

  1. Downloadable in seconds.
  2. Apps and e-reader devices can hold thousands of titles and are very portable.
  3. Prices tend to be cheaper.
  4. Digital features: make notes, highlight, search, share and dictionaries.
  5. Adjustable fonts and sizes are handy for people with visual impairment.
  6. They are never out of stock

Excellent for: Public transport, traveling, longer reads (less weight), reading in foreign languages.

Advantages of Print Books

  1. They are sentimental objects and inanimate memories.
  2. A multisensory experience: you can hold a real book, turn the pages and feel the paper.
  3. Illustrations have better quality.
  4. Some unique and beautiful design projects are only possible in paper and print.
  5. No batteries or charger required, just open and read.
  6. Very collectible.

Excellent for: Unwinding before bed, quality leisure time, making a memorable gift.

Advantages of Audiobooks

  1. Downloadable in seconds.
  2. Streamable, even without downloading them.
  3. No extra device needed -Your phone is all it takes.
  4. Save time by listening to them at a higher speed.
  5. It’s a good alternative for the visually impaired.
  6. Get an enhanced experience by listening to a title read by the author themselves or a renowned actor, for instance.

Excellent for: Background noise while driving, jogging, cooking or any routine activity that leaves your ears free.

audiobooks 2021.jpg

How to Read eBooks in 2021

So what is the best way to consume a digital book? For many book lovers, especially the older ones, digital forms can feel a little daunting. One that can easily be overcome though! Getting an ebook reader is easy and inexpensive, and some avid readers even prefer this type of reading experience.

Amazon Kindle

Let’s start with one of the most popular devices, the Amazon Kindle, which you can buy in any country where Amazon operates. The most simple model costs U$ 89.99 in the US while the price of the fancy Oasis amounts to U$ 249.99. There are also models in between, like the popular Paperwhite, which can all be compared in one single table. Regardless of your choice, you will have to register your Amazon account on your device. After doing so, just browse on the Amazon website or in the store from your Kindle, buy a title, and it will be available in seconds on your device. Remember that you don’t need wifi to read on a Kindle, but you do need it in order to buy the books.

Mobile App eReaders

There are also free apps that you can use on your electronic devices, phone, tablet or computer, such as Google Play Books & Audiobooks for Android or Apple Books for iOS devices. Both work as a digital bookshop, as well as an eReader. With just a few clicks, you can have an entire library at your fingertips.

How to get free eBooks

If you are looking for free eBooks, Amazon has many classics downloadable at no cost. With a Kindle Unlimited subscription, you can read thousands of eBooks per month for only a small fee. Another great asset is Project Gutenberg. This digital library is accessible to everyone with access to the internet and holds many public domain titles that have been digitized into an ebook format. You can download and read them for free -and absolutely legal- from their website!

How to Buy and Use Audiobooks

Audiobooks have been the big promise of recent years, and the pandemic has only given them one more massive boost. As mentioned before, the audiobooks sales rose 42% during the first six months of the year 2020 in the UK.

Fans like to listen to books while driving, traveling, cooking, doing the dishes... you name it! Some even swear to save time with audiobooks, because they can be played at a higher speed. What is more, some researchers suggest it can be beneficial for your brain.

There are many ways to get and use audiobooks. Amazon offers Audible, an app to listen to Amazon titles that you can buy per title individually or binge-listen to with an Audible subscription. Google Play and Apple libraries also offer a wide range of titles. Many people don’t know that it’s also possible to listen to audiobooks on Spotify, it takes a little more effort, but they are already included in your Premium subscription.

ebook reading by the swimming pool.png

The Invincible Gift: How to Give the Right Book Format in 2021

With the pandemic, the act of gift-giving also went through a huge change. Celebrating birthdays and special days was an important way to keep our bonds strong, even from a distance. Gifting books is a great way to share a great experience with a colleague, friend or a loved one because reading a good book is like taking a journey - even when you can’t leave the house! Nothing beats offering a great title or bestseller that you have read and loved yourself, hoping that the other person will love it too. A connection over a beloved story is a wonderful thing.

But what if the person lives far away? Consider a gift card. You avoid shipping and your bookworm friend can get that obscure title they will surely convince you to read too later on. For a safe bet, get them credits for the Amazon Store of their country, so the person can buy traditional books, eBooks and audiobooks online. Or perhaps support their local bookstore if they have gift cards. Take the iconic Gandhi bookstore in Mexico, Bol.com in The Netherlands or Empik in Poland for example. Thousands of private booksellers can share their collections with the masses, a perfect gift for your reader.

Camila Werner
Written by Camila Werner