By Erin Caine
Elm Staff Writer
Though we live in an era of technological innovation designed to make everyday activities easier, cheaper, and more efficient, new research suggests that the sale of e-books (i.e. literature that is electronically downloaded onto devices such as a Kindle or Nook) have, in fact, plummeted all over the world. According to a data report from The Association of American Publishers, e-book sales in 2015 have fallen 7.5 percent from around the same time last year, while paper book sales have actually risen by 8.9 percent. Clearly, the issue here isn’t merely a decline in overall interest in literature. “Bookstores all over the world are seeing a resurgence of hardcover and paperback sales, as the novelty of e-books have clearly waned,” said Michael Kozlowski of Good eReader in his explanation of this emerging trend. “The mass market…experimented with e-books for awhile and decided that print is far more affordable and carries a true sense of ownership.”
Despite this notion that the public considers paper books to be more affordable, Kozlowski said in another article entitled “eBooks vs. Print: The Reasons Why Digital is Better” that e-books are, in fact, less expensive. The average e-book is about $10, while the average hardback is around twice that amount. Granted, e-readers such as Nook and Kindle can cost anywhere between $60 and $150, if not more. Therefore, you would have to purchase between seven and 16 books before the e-reader became a less expensive option. Even so, this is not a challenge for the avid booklover, who in turn gives e-books the financial advantage.
Of course, there are some negative consequences of forgoing the page for the screen. New research from the University of Gothenburg suggests that repeated use of electronic devices is linked to higher levels of stress, fatigue, and depression. Conversely, reading paper books has been proven to reduce stress. A 2014 study also found that Kindle users had a harder time recalling the plot and events of a novel than those who read paperbacks. This is due to the fact that you can physically and visually track your progress in a book, coupled with the small stimulation to the brain whenever you turn the page. An additional drawback of e-books can be a lack of what Kozlowski said was a “true sense of ownership.” You can’t derive any material satisfaction from e-books, nor can you pride yourself on an over-flowing bookshelf or have your e-book signed by the author who wrote it.
Still, it’s hard to argue with Kozlowski’s other points concerning the benefits of e-books. Such as cloud-syncing books to multiple devices and using Amazon’s new feature called X-Ray when reading. Not only can you download a novel onto various platforms such as a smartphone or tablet, but you can also use the X-Ray feature to refresh your memory about the characters, plot points, and locations for those times when you’re trying to plunge back into a story after a brief reading hiatus. Many readers know the struggle of desperately trying to remember details about a book that has been sitting on the coffee table for months, and Amazon—in its attempt to combat falling e-book sales, no doubt—has come up with the remedy for that dilemma.
Of course, deciding which option is better is largely based on where your priorities lie. For those who want an affordable and compact collection that enables features such as a dictionary and table of contents, an e-reader would be the best option. For those who love the feel of paper in their hands, enjoy ordering and re-ordering their bookshelves, and want to feel as if they are a part of the story, the classic route of well-worn paperbacks seems infinitely best.