Is there a correlation between screen fatigue and printed books?

Looking at the e-books sales last year, it showed an increase by 3% while printed books increased by 5% during the same period. This has fuelled several reports, assuming that the growth of e-books has stalled and attributing the trend to ‘digital fatigue’ or ‘screen fatigue’.

However, it’s not a conclusion which is easy to verify, primarily because there’s no exact data on the numbers of e-books sold. Especially considering that the sales of self-published e-books can’t be tracked in the same way as the traditional e-book sales.

The data is not new, or even surprising. Already in 2015, the Publishers Association found that growth in digital content sales were starting to decline. London-based market research firm, Mintel, made the same prediction. For example, their senior media analyst, Rebecca McGrath, said in July last year (according to a report in The Telegraph) that “the print book revival continues as consumers, young and old, appear to have established a new appreciation for this traditional format”.

There are more factors to be taken into consideration, price for instance. It seems that the price is an important factor affecting the sales of e-books. According to a Books and Consumer study by Nielsen Book, price it is the top reason for customers choosing an e-book before a printed one.

Another factor is the reading habits of different demographics, revealing interesting insights. Many like to believe printed books are favoured by the older generation and screens are for millennials. But opposite to that notion, older people like to read e-books. One reason is the possibility to adjust the type size. At the other end of the demographic scope, only 10-20% of the young adult market is digital.

There are several other factors effecting the sales of books, often illogical and unpredictable reason such as a viral video that influences the purchase of a specific book, but also new forms of consuming a book such as the audiobook.

The only real conclusion is that we continue to enjoy reading, and the format and media continue to vary.

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