The Books and Arts program on Radio National recently explored reports that ebook sales are declining. Michael Cathcart interviewed Australian novelist Nick Earls, who says we shouldn’t discount ebooks yet.
Earls has also written an article for The Conversation this month, titled ‘Has the print book trumped digital? Beware of glib conclusions’ in which he argues:
“From the practical perspective of writers wishing to connect their work with readers, it is prudent to see both paper and eBooks as significant for any book-publishing project in the present and near future, and to develop strategies to meet both of them. It is also prudent to look beyond both platforms to another, one that had long been regarded as a peripheral player: audiobooks.”
The longitudinal study Growing Up in Ireland found that cultural participation – which includes reading for pleasure – increases both academic performance and socio-emotional well-being for participating young people.
I recently came across Nick Earls’ article on The Conversation, ‘Has the print book trumped digital? Beware of glib conclusions.’ This article raises some important points about the data behind the statistics on ebook and paper book sales. Traditional sources of these statistics often fail to take into account works published by smaller publishers, or those that are self-published. These are becoming increasingly popular. Whilst it is easy to interpret statistics to find that ebook reading has peaked, Earls reminds us to look beyond the numbers to consider trends such as the recent popularity of adult colouring books which sell almost exclusively in paper form.
This article shows that there is much more research to be done in the area of digital reading. This research needs to go beyond figures to unpack the trends and rationales beneath it.
Interesting article from ChanLin Lih-Juan who compared university students’ use of e-book features for both academic and leisure reading, and found that e-book features were most valued for academic reading. See Lih-Juan, ChanLin (2013) “Reading strategy and the need of e‐book features”, The Electronic Library, Vol. 31 Issue: 3, pp.329-344, doi: 10.1108/EL-08-2011-0127.
The Teen Reading pilot survey found that a higher proportion of students rated the provision of good books by their school library as a better motivator of more reading than local public or community libraries. While browsing the informative website of the Australian Association of School Libraries we were interested to find a recent study which investigated the differences in learning outcomes for schools with or without trained librarians. It found that:
Students are more likely to succeed when they have library programs that are well staffed, well funded, technologically well equipped, well stocked, and more accessible. And, the neediest learners may benefit the most from trained librarians and quality library programs.
Recent British Publishers Association’s figures show that consumer e-book sales have fallen by 17% while print book sales have risen by 8%. The Guardian attributes this to a changing trend, arguing that when the Kindle was first launched it was new and exciting, but now it looks ‘clunky’ and ‘unhip’. The problem with this argument is that it risks overlooking some more substantial issues in the reading experience with e-books. The Australian teens we interviewed were far less concerned with how they appeared when reading on devices than they were with the actual quality of that experience. They often mentioned that for a range of reasons, reading in print was more fulfilling than reading on screen. Rarely were they concerned with the appearance of their e-book reader.