Special Report
Reading & Literacy

Do ‘Digital Natives’ Prefer Paper Books to E-Books?

By Kate Stoltzfus — November 09, 2016 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

As digital devices and access to e-books proliferated in schools and homes over the past several years, some ed-tech experts expected that print books would soon become relics—or at least fall out of favor with a generation growing up in an electronic world.

But, in a wrinkle in the digital revolution, that hasn’t transpired—at least not yet.

More children now know what it’s like to read an e-book—61 percent in 2014 compared with 25 percent in 2010, according to Scholastic’s 2015 Kids and Family Reading report.

But most students still opt to turn actual pages. In the Scholastic survey, 65 percent of children ages 6 to 17 agreed they would always want to read in print, up from 60 percent in 2012. And 77 percent who had tried e-reading said that the majority of the books they read were in print. That was especially true for younger readers when reading for pleasure: 84 percent of 6- to 8-year-olds read mostly on paper, compared with 62 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds.

Meanwhile, e-books haven’t markedly altered the collections of school libraries. According to a 2015 School Library Journal survey, some 56 percent of school librarians responded that they now make e-books available to students—but that number was down from the previous year. And the librarians surveyed observed that while students use e-books for school projects and research, many still prefer print books, especially for pleasure reading. Only 6 percent of librarians reported a high interest in e-books from students, while 37 percent called it “moderate,” and 50 percent said it was “low.”

‘Tactile Experience’

Those responses appear to be reflected in e-book sales in children’s and young-adult categories. E-book sales for publishers have steadily dropped since 2012, according to the Association of American Publishers’ annual survey of 1,800 publishers in the United States, including the five largest traditional ones. Digital books made up 6.4 percent of annual children’s and young-adult revenue sales for book publishers in 2015 (around $271.8 million), compared with 13.1 percent in 2012.

However, it is worth noting that Amazon.com, the maker of the Kindle and the leading seller in the e-bookindustry, reported overall growth in e-book sales in 2015, according to The Wall Street Journal.

E-books by the Numbers

BRIC ARCHIVE

Source: School Library Journal

Studies point to a number of reasons why young people may prefer print to e-books, including early familiarity with print books, the “tactile experience” of reading on paper, and possible advantages in comprehension, particularly for longer texts.

Indeed, the ability to “toggle” between print and digital for different types of information consumption might be a key aspect of effective literacy today.

“Our teachers are using digital books more than ever before,” said Susie Harkey, the media coordinator at Park View Elementary School in Mooresville, N.C. “Students are very familiar with digital content, but I don’t think they equate reading with their iPads. They like to have something in hand.”

But, as the School Library Journal points out, the next generation of students may add a whole new dimension to reading trends. “The first ‘smartphone natives’ (born since 2007 when the iPhone was introduced) are now just entering elementary school,” the group says in its survey. “Will they have a greater affinity for e-books?”

A version of this article appeared in the November 09, 2016 edition of Education Week as Digital Generation Eschews E-Books for Pleasure Reading

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Stronger Together: Integrating Social and Emotional Supports in an Equity-Based MTSS
Decades of research have shown that when schools implement evidence-based social and emotional supports and programming, academic achievement increases. The impact of these supports – particularly for students of color, students from low-income communities, English
Content provided by Illuminate Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Spotlight Spotlight on K-3 Literacy
This Spotlight will help take a closer look at the ‘Wonders’ curriculum and updated state policies on literacy plus more.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
Multisensory Literacy: An Approach that Benefits all Learners
The ability to comprehend the written word is an essential part of the foundation of every child’s educational journey, both inside and o...
Content provided by Hand2Mind
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
Focusing Literacy Instruction with a Comprehensive View of the Striving Learner
A "whole child approach" to education is familiar to most educators. We recognize that students' social well-being and life outside of th...
Content provided by Learning Ally
Reading & Literacy How to Nurture Lifelong Readers in a Digital Age
Research suggests fewer students read longer texts for pleasure, particularly digitally. Teachers can help to create better reading habits.
5 min read
17 literacy sr 01 05 22 shafer 4
Stephanie Shafer for Education Week