The Demise of Print Books – Much Ado About Nothing

posted on March 22, 2017 by Eve Panzer
Barefoot Books World Atlas

Being in the business of selling the printed version of children’s books, I am often asked if I am worried about my business “drying-up” due to the introduction of ebooks. I always answer “no,” but this was not based on statistics or studies. I backup my answer with my own personal story.

As a baby boomer, I was brought up with print books. Print books were a big part of my childhood (and every other stage of my life).  For an overweight, extremely shy young child, books provide a happy place for me. Between the pages of a book I could take on any role I wanted.  Eventually, my love affair with books led me to getting a master’s degree in library science and to working in a school library.  

So, I passed my love of print books to my children (there were no ebooks to compete at that time) by reading to them from an early age (in my womb) and by supporting their reading habit from day one. My kids were mesmerized by LeVar Burton on the TV program Reading Rainbow and I watched the episodes with them. I learned a lot about whatever subject was the theme for the day and also got great book ideas for my kids. (And I freely admit I had – and still have – a crush on LeVar Burton!) After the show aired, we would pile into the car and head to our neighborhood library, singing the Reading Rainbow theme. My kids caught on quickly that if we went to a toy store, chances were we would just be window shopping. But if we went to a bookstore, they would never go home empty handed! Books = Happy Place for the next generation.

My children are now adults and even though they both recently acquired ereaders (mostly for when they are traveling), they will tell you without hesitation that they love print books. And when/if my children become parents, their kids will also be raised with print books because my children have such fond book memories from their childhood too. I believe parents will continue to pass the tradition of sharing print books with their children generation after generation.

That is my unscientific, anecdotal evidence that print books will never go out of vogue. However, there is statistical data to backup my opinion. I am pleased to see that print books remain popular in all age ranges and beyond the shores of the U.S.

The Pew Research Center published a report about the reading of print books and ebooks in the United States on September 1, 2016 entitled Book Reading 2016. The report includes many statistics but several main trends were noted:

  • “A growing share of Americans are reading ebooks on tablets and smartphones rather than dedicated e-readers, but print books remain much more popular than books in digital formats.”
  • “The share of Americans who have read a book in the last year is largely unchanged since 2012; more Americans read print books than either read ebooks or listen to audio books.”

“Nearly four-in-ten Americans read print books exclusively; just 6% are digital-only book readers.” -Pew Research

In addition, “…findings by Nielsen in its annual books and consumer survey” in the U.K. also support the fact that print books remain more popular than ebooks. As reported by The Guardian on March 14, 2017, the Nielsen report found the following to be true:

  • “Younger generations are seeking a respite from their ‘digitally busy’ lives and finding it in physical books.”
  • “Nielsen survey finds U.K. ebook sales declined by 4% in 2016, the second consecutive year digital has shrunk.”
  • “More than 360m books were sold in 2016 – a 2% jump in a year that saw U.K. consumers spend an extra 6%, or £100m, on books in print and ebook formats.”
  • “Nielsen’s survey of 2016 attributed the increase in print sales to children’s fiction and to younger generations preferring physical books to e-readers.

A 2013 survey by the youth research agency Voxburner found that “62% of 16- to 24-year-olds preferred print books to ebooks.” The most popular reason given was: “I like to hold the product.”

While Nielsen found that “50% of all fiction sales were in ebook format, only 4% of children’s fiction was digital.”

So, I have numbers to back me up. I believe that I will not be forced to shut down my children’s’ books educational consulting and book-selling business anytime soon! So as the Reading Rainbow theme song says “..take a look, it’s in a book…” And I would be happy to offer my Barefoot Librarian services to you to find just the right book(s)! Happy Reading!


Raves & Praise from educators and readers about Eve Panzer, the Barefoot Librarian:

Eve Panzer has displayed her wonderful books at several of our Early Childhood events. Our teachers are always excited to see the age appropriate materials she provides.

-Jacquie Porter, Early Childhood Director, Austin ISD