I've been participating in Portable Magic's discussion, which is tangentially related to reading ebooks vs. physical books, and at the same time tidying up some author records (which I found needed attention while reading URL Phantomhive's review). One of the authors has a blog about bookshelves, which of course, I need in my life, and I stumbled on his post here, which seemed worth sharing with all of you, out of general interest. The original study is here. But the TL;DR takeaways were:
- Participants across all age groups reported feeling a constricted sense of ownership of digital books versus physical books, based on the fact that they don't have full control over the products. For example, they expressed frustration that they often could not copy a digital file to multiple devices. Along similar lines, many study participants lamented restrictions on sharing e-books with friends, or gifting or selling the books, saying this made e-books feel less valuable as possessions than physical books.
- Participants described being more emotionally attached to physical books, and said they use physical books to establish a sense of self and belonging. Participants across age groups frequently spoke about their nostalgia for certain childhood books. They also talked about experiencing physical books through multiple senses — describing, for example, the sound, smell and tactile experience of opening a new book, and the ability to highlight or write notes on paper pages. Participants also said they use their physical book collections to express their identity to others who might be perusing their shelves. E-books did not have these associations.
- Minimalists expressed a preference for digital books because they take up less physical space.
- Many participants said the e-book experience feels more like renting than buying.
- While almost everyone expressed strong attachment to physical books, and no one embraced a fully digital reading experience, older consumers, contrary to what one might expect, saw more advantages than younger consumers to reading with an e-reader. They referenced physical benefits that might not be as relevant to younger consumers, such as the lightweight nature of e-readers and the ability to zoom in on text.
- "Helm emphasized that both physical and digital books have their place. "There are just really different values or benefits that we get out of them," she said."
(Emphasis belongs to the article - not mine.)
My skepticism always goes on high alert whenever a study is done via focus groups; to my mind a study should rigidly adhere to the scientific method, even when I know it's impossible. Still, the takeaways verbalised a lot of why I prefer physical books over ebooks.