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?