Education Week - November 9, 2016 - 21
Digital Generation Eschews
E-Books for Pleasure Reading
> By Kate Stoltzfus
s 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 ebook-61 percent in 2014 compared with 25 percent in
2010, according to Scholastic's 2015 Kids and Family
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-yearolds 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."
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-book
industry, reported overall growth in e-book sales in 2015,
according to The Wall Street 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?"
E-books by the Numbers
Share of U.S. school libraries
that reported they had e-book
Percentage of school librarians
annual budgets dedicated
to e-book purchases
Increase in e-book circulation
school librarians predicted
Proportion of librarians who
reported high interest in
e-books from students
SOURCE: School Library Journal
The Changing Face of Literacy / www.edweek.org/go/changing-literacy