A recent survey conducted in France, Germany, the UK, and the US among 2,400 book lovers across all age groups found that people still prefer physical books.
65% of the respondents said they preferred physical books as against 21% who prefer e-books and 14% audiobooks, as per the study conducted by Finnish pulp and paper producer Stora Enso. Also the strongest preference for physical books was shown by the French with an inclination to read or listen to fiction.
The results also threw up a few surprises. 70% of those in the age group, between 16 and 24 years, polled in favour of physical books over e-books. This enthusiasm amongst the younger readers seems partially fuelled by romantic bestsellers and the Japanese manga book craze driven by the hugely popular Netflix anime series. Books on wellbeing, health, and human potential were the top read categories among the older readers, particularly during the pandemic as the crisis triggered a genuine need for introspection. Since reading habits and genre preferences can change during periods of stress, many found comfort in even the least predictable subjects like whodunnits and thrillers. “The results have confirmed our expectations that the market for physical books is set to stay strong, which is good news for our printer and publishing customers,” says Jonathan Bakewell, Stora Enso’s Vice President, Head of Segment Office and Book Papers.
With many glued to their computer, mobile, and television screens for hours each day in work, studies, or leisure during the COVID-19 pandemic, people in general found an alternate route to relaxation from the everyday mundane by rediscovering reading as a habit. Around 70% of respondents in the UK and the US said that they read more during the pandemic, and among the younger readers, 73% in the UK and 76% in the US echoed the same. This was more evident during the global lockdowns where people were confined to their homes. Many respondents also said that they very much enjoyed the feel of the physical book and some even the smell of it, evoking fond memories.
With topics relating to environment gaining paramount significance during the height of the COVID-19 global crisis, the subject of carbon neutrality was high on the agenda, with 61% of all respondents and 70% of youth saying that they were willing to pay more on the retail price for buying carbon neutral books. A majority also said that they would make their purchase from outlets that sold carbon neutral or carbon offset books. Books do emit carbon during production and distribution, but once placed on the book shelf, they become their own carbon storage units.
While 42% said that they would add the books to their collection after reading, 26% were for donating, and another 26% said that they would sell them off.