About ten years ago, experts were still in agreement: the printed book will probably be replaced by digital media such as the ebook in the future. Ten years later, however, the conclusion looks sobering, because most people still read books in printed form. There are many reasons for this phenomenon.
The share of digital books is stagnating
The options for reading ebooks today are many and varied. Ebook readers are popular, but digital works are also read with pleasure on smartphones and tablets. But digitisation is stagnating. In the UK, the stagnation can be observed since 2014. At that time, the share of digital books was around 24 %. According to Statista, 79 % of UK still mainly read printed books.
The situation is no different in Switzerland, where the share of digital books in 2018 was still just under 10 %, according to the magazine Kassensturz, with a forecast of doubling to around 20 %. In terms of books borrowed from libraries, the share has actually increased, with 370,000 electronic books borrowed in 2013 and already 2 million in 2017.
Overall, however, the industry notes that a large proportion of readers still prefer printed books. There are fans of ebooks, but the share is growing only slowly or stagnating. This is all the more astonishing when one considers that the advantages of digital media actually speak for themselves.
Advantages of digital reading
For many users, the most important advantage is practicality. An ebook can be read comfortably anywhere on a smartphone or a special reader. The devices take up hardly any space; in the case of the smartphone, not even an additional device is needed. In contrast, a thick paper book is bulky and heavy.
When travelling, you can take almost any number of works with you in digital form, as long as the storage space allows.
Last but not least, environmental protection is another argument against printed books. Because a lot of paper is needed for a book. Paper is only made once from wood, for which trees have to be felled.
But there are also advantages to books
But books also have their advantages; users especially like the feel of a printed book.
Surprisingly, it is not only the elderly who prefer a printed book. The proportion of book readers is also large among younger people. Younger people often say that they use digital media all day long and find it very pleasant and relaxing to read something in print as a counterbalance.
Another advantage cannot be denied: Reading books is less straining on the eyes. It is true that modern readers with black-and-white displays can simulate the reading of printed text. For normal displays, smartphones and tablets, however, the backlighting and the amount of blue light strain the eyes much more than a printed book.
Reasons for the stagnating acceptance of ebooks
There are many reasons for the stagnating acceptance of digital reading. On the one hand, there are the preferences of some readers for the book, for example, for haptic reasons or because it is more pleasant for them to read.
But there are also reasons that lie in the developments of the market itself. Because the prices for ebooks are still far too high in comparison.
At the beginning, it was expected that digitisation would push down the prices of books, but the opposite has been the case. Today, electronic books often cost just as much as the print edition, sometimes even more. Many users are simply not willing to pay the same price for a non-material product as for a printed book.
Even if one decides to subscribe to one of the various providers, digital reading remains expensive. Printed books can be resold or given away later. Ebooks, on the other hand, cannot be passed on after reading for legal reasons. This alone makes them uninteresting for many users who are used to sharing their reading material with friends and family.
Which digital readers for ebooks are most popular?
About 77 % of digital book readers use the black and white ebook readers with special display. Thanks to high contrast and barely perceptible backlighting, the reading experience is roughly equivalent to reading on paper. In addition, the devices are power-saving.
About 50 % of users read electronic books on their smartphone. About 38 % use a tablet for this and 23 % read on a laptop.
Where can I borrow ebooks most cheaply in Switzerland?
The cheapest way to borrow digital books in Switzerland is “Onleihe”. Through Onleihe, you can borrow digital media virtually from various libraries in Switzerland. All you need is a library card from a library that participates in Onleihe.
Can I give away or resell an ebook after reading it?
Unfortunately, the usage rights of ebooks do not allow them to be given away or sold after reading. Strictly speaking, when you buy one, you are merely borrowing the rights of use for yourself. This is an important difference to the printed book and also a decisive disadvantage of electronic books.