When e-readers and e-books first came out, much of the discourse about them focused on one simple idea: “Will e-books kill print books?” According to the Book Industry Study Group, e-book sales have increased by 45 percent since 2011. Four hundred and fifty-seven million e-books were sold in 2012, only 100 million fewer than print books, and that number continues to rise every year. However, studies show that e-books are not killing print books but are instead complementing them. People read e-books to supplement the print books they read.
According to a Pew internet poll called “The Rise of E-Reading,” 54 percent of people who own e-book reading devices are reading on any given day, in comparison to 45 percent of the print book-reading public. Sixty-three percent of the former are reading a print book while only 42 percent are reading e-books. Even the people who own e-book reading devices (which does not take into account that many people can read e-books on devices not intended for them) are reading print books more often than e-books. When comparing the two, people prefer e-books for speedy access and for portability. After all, e-book reading devices make it easier for people to carry multiple books with them when they travel. Using e-books has really streamlined reading, and has also made it more accessible.
E-books’ accessibility is what makes them so desirable. Seventy percent of e-book readers state that they are usually able to find the information or books that they are seeking. Eighty-eight percent use e-books to keep up with current events, and 89 percent use them to research various topics that interest them. In comparison, only 78 percent of the general population reads to keep up with current events and only 74 percent read to research. E-books and other reading devices make it easier for people to access this information, and people who own these devices are more likely to do their own research and keep up with current events.
Do these statistics suggest correlation, or do they suggest causation? Does owning an e-book make it easier for their owners to read? If so, is that why e-book owners use them so frequently? Or is it just correlation that people who read more often are more likely to own a device designed for reading? Current studies are inconclusive, but it appears that e-books supplement print reading instead of replacing it. E-books may streamline reading and make it more portable, but print books are not dying out any time soon.