Despite their digital prowess, teens still prefer print over ebooks

With my own YA novel coming out in 2016, I’ve been doing some research into what format teens prefer to read books.  Overwhelmingly, the surveys and the polls show teens still prefer to read print books over their digital counterparts by nearly 73%.  That’s  a huge number.

Voxburner recently conducted research for The Bookseller surveying 900 young people in the UK on their prefered method of reading. Overwhelmingly, nearly three-quarters of the young people surveyed said they prefer the print form. This is not the first survey to show these results.

Despite their digital prowess, the research continues to show time and time again that people in the 16 – 24 year old age group prefer the feel of a real book. They want to touch it, hold it, see the creases in the spine. It’s holistic. It’s real.

There are also two other determining factors:

  • Price; and
  • Ownership

Most young people do not have tablets or ereaders. They still get the majority of their reading material in paper from either schools, bookstores or libraries. They don’t have a lot of cash for the most part, and when they do, they aren’t going to fork out their money on a digital book that costs almost as much as their paper counterparts. They’d prefer to plunk down their cash for something they can share, and let’s face it, you can’t share an e-book unless you have a compatible device and a license that says you can do so. Paperbooks make their rounds. Trust me. As a teen, my friends and I swapped books all the time. It was great!

Ownership is huge with teens. They like to feel what they have is theirs. Even teens know that when you purchase the digital variant of a book, you are merely licensing the title and it is not actually yours to keep. The printed version, however, can be yours forever, for relatively the same price, so why not own instead of lease?

I spoke with a few YA authors over the weekend to get their feelings on this newest survey. Some have their books only releasing in eb0ok while others have the best of both worlds with ebook and print.  Four of the authors I spoke to weren’t aware of the surveys and are a little worried that their books will not reach their target audience. Two of those four said they might have signed too soon with their publishers who only print in digital format. Two other authors aren’t worried at all. Their books are getting published by a real publisher so it doesn’t matter what format it’s in.

Personally, I want to see my YA novels in print. Always have. Always will. The feeling is seeded way down deep in my gut. But whether print or digital, there is still a lot of hard work that goes into promoting a book, and unfortunately, authors are having to bear the majority of the marketing.

This also terrifies me. I’m not a marketing guru. The thought of what to do and how to do it paralyzes me.  I need to reach my market, which might be kind of hard to do seeing my trilogy is YA epic fantasy with the romance factor being about almost nil of the storyline. Girls like the romance, but I didn’t want to write another teen romance. I wanted to give them something different. Something epic. Something that wasn’t filled with page after page of sappy.  I think I have succeeded in that. In fact, I think I’ve written something teen boys can sink their teeth into. Think Narnia meets Harry Potter meets Lord of the Rings.  Sort of. I can only hope that I can create the buzz early with my novels so they will reach their intended audience no matter what format kids read. I really do think they’ll enjoy the adventure.  After all, it has dragons, and who doesn’t like reading about dragons, right?




22 thoughts on “Despite their digital prowess, teens still prefer print over ebooks

  1. Good luck with the book!
    The stats make sense to me. Personally, I get very distracted on e-readers and can’t focus on reading. So good, old fashioned printed books are my medium of choice when it comes to literature. Besides, e-readers can’t quite create the same effect as a age-old well-read book that you’ve fingered through for years. 🙂
    p.s.- Dragons are AMAZING.


    1. Thank you for your well wishes. It’s all so nerve-wracking. Personally, I’d rather read a good old-fashioned book, too. they don’t need batteries, you can share them and you can stick goodies between the pages.

      As for dragons, I have to agree with you. They rock, even the bad ones.


  2. I’ve found that about 25% of may sales are in print. That’s a pretty nice chunk. It seems like most of my sales outside the USA are in print though. Even though it is available in print outside the USA, the foreign outlets were slow to adopt it… bringing in small quantities even though they were selling out over and over. It seems like things have still evened out, though.

    What I’ve found the most interesting is how many people that read print only do not buy their books on-line. Many are afraid to. So having a book available on Amazon does not make it as easy as most people would think.


    1. I’m not following. Are you saying 25% of your sales in the US are in print, which means the other 75% are in digital format, however, the opposite is true in the UK? You know, I have to wonder if J.K. Rowling would have made it so big with the Harry Potter series if it had only been published in digital format. I know it took her until the Prisoner of Azkaban before her sales started going through the roof, but still, if the publisher had only done ebook, I wonder if anyone would have known about the books and if they would have had the popularity they have. I think by publishers not simultaneoulsy publishing print along with e-book, they are chopping out a huge market that they could be tapping into. I know it’s expensive, but geez. Think if that publisher has ‘THE” book and they don’t put it out there for everyone to find and read, then they are cutting off their noses to spite their face, don’t you think? How will the book ever reach its full potential if not given every avenue to make it shine?


      1. Yes, 75 percent of US sales are in ebook format. And it appears to be the opposite in the UK but I don’t have visibility to the foreign book sellers to be sure, and Amazon international only started carrying paperbacks a few weeks ago


        1. Wow, that’s interesting. I wonder if there is a difference in the market here. Like, are the majority of the readers of your particular book, older readers, whereas the readers in the UK are younger? That would be interesting to find out. I mean, I’m a huge fan of YA. It’s almost all I read, (though I do have Stephen King’s latest on my radar), but I’m far from being a teen. Can you tell from your chats with your audience, Jenn, if your audience is mostly older or younger?


          1. It seems to be a good mix. Quite a few are very young rwadunf above their level. Most it seems are in their teens or in college. A few are married. These are also the people interacting on social media, which woukd make them younger. If older people are reading they would be less apt to engage online (statistically speaking of course) so it is really hard to judge


  3. It is a concern to all of us. I think as the print option becomes less of a normal thing in contracts, however, teens will turn to digital for their reading. Not that I think print books will ever die. I, too, hope to see my books in print.


  4. I love reading about dragons😃
    I am not really surprised by the stats in your post. It’s just another reminder of my reasons for seeking traditional publishing. I want a print book to be on library and bookstore shelves. Is this wierd considering 95% of my book-buying is done on Amazon? Maybe. But I’m an author so does anyone expect my logic to make sense?
    Oh, and I eagerly anticipate buying and reading and reviewing your epic non-romance.


  5. The other thing about new writers starting out is we have to build our fan base literally one person at a time. I go to book stores and sell by hand. If the book is electronic only, I can’t do that. It’s an issue I raise with my small press publisher, and generally I do get trade paper after a year.

    By the way, your book sounds fascinating! What is the title and who is publishing? As an author, you should always at least mention the title — within your personal bounds of taste, of course.


    1. Ah, yes, the title of my book is IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING. It is the first in the Chronicles of Fallhollow trilogy and will be published by #Month9Books. I’m super stoked about the publishing. If only I could market with the same creativity as I write. I had someone tell me long ago I wouldn’t know how to sell swampland to an alligator. Me thinks he was right. 🙂


  6. Finding our audience can be tricky, no doubt, and even those traditionally published must shoulder the burden of marketing (unless they’re Stephen King or something). I think it helps the more books we have out, but of course, creating more product takes time. As does everything with publishing…


    1. Very true, Carrie. We all have to start somewhere. I need a marketing whiz. My imagination doesn’t stray to that sort of ingenuity. Well it does, but it requires money for skywriting, banners pulled by planes over the beaches, billboards and talk shows. LOL!!! 🙂 If only I had $30,000. Come on, Florida Lotto!!


        1. so true. and in order to do that, I’ll need a subliminal messaging gun that I can fire into space, then the words “Buy In the Shadow of the Dragon King. It’s awesome” will rain down upon the masses. Like the Borg, the unsuspecting public will be assimilated. They will flock to Amazon and B&N and buy multiple copies for friends and family. Movie deals will roll in. Peter Jackson will beg on his knees to let him make the film. Yes, the world will be ensnared by my awesome writing. (Why do I suddenly sound like Marvin the Martian in my head?) 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  7. You are doing it right and staying one step ahead by surveying your audience. The authors who truly understand their audience are bound to be successful. After reading the description, I’m interested in reading your new epic trilogy, too. I think the e-readers are more popular among the white collar, 30+ generation.


Please join in

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.