Some research by a marketing agency in the UK made a small amount of news last week due to the apparently startling news that a majority of 16-to-24-year-olds prefer print books to e-books.
This is interesting but I don’t think it’s really all that surprising. Previous studies show that e-reader devices are still kind of a luxury item, and most high school and college students don’t have them. Yeah, you can read books on your phone or your computer, but this research suggests these kids aren’t doing that, either, even if they’re using those devices for most other kinds of media.
I think we’re seeing the continuing development of a hybrid environment that’s going to persist for some time. When academic publishers started offering print or e-books, I was having a hard time choosing one or the other, though some disciplines made their preferences clear (nursing wanted e-books) and some didn’t care because they don’t really use monographs for research (most natural sciences).
Now I think that publishers should adopt the hybrid model themselves. Bundle your print and e-books together, and attach them to the same library catalog record. What I’m seeing is that patrons prefer the electronic form for browsing—to figure out whether something is useful for their needs.
But when they sit down to read? They still want it on the printed page.