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Screen fatigue? Millenials' abandonment of e-books in favour of 'real reading'

The so called ‘e-book revolution’ was, until recently hailed as the death of traditional print books as they were supplanted by digital reading. Some experts in the publishing industry were ready to render the ‘p-book’* obsolete. However, the once ravenous appetite for electronic reading is showing clear signs of faltering, with millennials siding with old-fashioned print, over digital reading.

Consumer e-book sales in the UK plunged by 17% last year, falling for the second consecutive year. E-book sales figures are at their lowest since 2011, the launch year of the Amazon Kindle. At the same time, sales of print books are at a five-year high and account for 87% of all consumer book sales**. It seems commuters, holidaymakers, and leisure readers are shelving their digital editions in favour of the feel, touch, and smell of a real paper or hardback.

However, what is perhaps most surprising about this market shift is that it seems to be driven by the young.


In Naomi Brown’s pioneering study of 429 university students***, 92% of those surveyed said they found it easier to concentrate when reading print and almost half said that reading digitally had caused them considerable discomfort due to eyestrain. Furthermore, when Dr. Brown measured the recollection of texts, she found that print yielded much more detailed reconstructions of plot sequences and narratives.

What is most revealing though, was the fierce defence of the aesthetic experience of reading in print offered by the students in Brown’s study. Comments made included that; reading on paper was "real reading", that they "liked the smell of the paper", and that they enjoyed "seeing and feeling" where they were in the text.

This insight is crucial to understanding why many people seem to be flocking back to paperbacks and hardbacks for their recreational reading, despite the comparative inconvenience compared to e-books. Consumers-especially computer native millennials- seem to want to escape the screens and electronic devices when they get lost in a good book. 

By Andrew Field

Andrew recently joined us for two weeks as part of our Market Research Work Placement. If you'd like to find out more about our work placement or any other roles, find more information here.





This entry was posted in Technology, tagged Millenials, Consumer Behaviour and posted on July 5, 2017

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