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Rising eReader Use Does Not Mean Books Are Dead

Holiday sales figures are in, and not surprisingly tablets and eReaders were popular gifts this year. Amazon is reporting that Cyber Monday was the best-ever sales day for their Kindle line. A new Pew Research poll shows more people are reading books electronically than ever before, and fewer people are reading physical books now than last year. People reading books electronically doesn’t mean printed books are dead. Kindles don’t come with the stipulation that, if you own one, you have to burn all your books and vow to never buy one again. You can have both, and, if you’re an avid reader, you probably should.

My wife is probably the most voracious consumer of books I know. I think the bathroom is the only room in our house without at least one bookshelf. Every year when her birthday or Christmas roll around, I consider buying her a Kindle, but I know she doesn’t want one. She prefers physical books. I know this because we own hundreds of them.

For Christmas this year, I tried finding her a specific book, but it happened to be out of print and proved to be too hard to find in time for the holiday. Searching online, I kept coming across the Nook or Kindle versions of the book. It’s even available for free through Project Gutenberg, but giving someone a downloaded file really doesn’t have the same weight as giving them a book.

Although I wouldn’t have given the downloaded version of the book as a gift, if it was something I really wanted to read then I would have been glad to find the digital version after learning the book was out of print. Digitizing books means more of them are available to more people, and even if a slightly smaller number of people are reading physical books, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

eBooks are on the rise with 33% of respondents to the Pew Research poll saying they own an eReader, tablet, or both, but the number of respondents who read a physical book in the last year fell by 3%. Physical media is becoming less important across the board. Music, photographs, and movies are all moving quickly to the digital world, but physical versions of those things are still around. The same will likely be true of books even as “eReadership” goes up.

It could become more of a niche market in the future, but as long as people like my wife prefer turning the pages of a book to pressing a button on an eReader, books will have a place. Unfortunately for those of us buying presents for our bibliophile spouses, those books might be a little harder to find.

(via Pew Internet, image via jamjar)

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