Happy bookAs we just reported, Warner Bros. is getting rid of its magazine division like it was a shirt covered with rotten fish guts, but if this recent survey of 1400 people ages 16-24 revealed the shocking fact that 62% of them preferred printed books to e-books.

Voxburner spokesman Luke Mitchell told the Guardian that the agency’s researchers heard all sorts of reasons why young people prefer physical books to e-books, including: ‘I collect,’ ‘I like the smell’ and ‘I want full bookshelves.’

‘Books are status symbols; you can’t really see what someone has read on their Kindle,’ Mitchell said.

In an earlier report, Voxburner found that a substantial plurality of young people surveyed also said they believe that e-books were too expensive.

Although younger users like to text and snapchat, they still like holding things in their hands—and only 55% of them own an e-reader as opposed to the 85% that own a smart phone.

Printed matter—mostly books that are esthetically pleasing—have proven surprisingly tenacious in the digital revolution. In addition to the tactile sensation of holding one, they are highly interactive—you can flip back and forth—and they don’t run out of power during blackouts and hurricanes and on long camping trips.

While I’ve seen several surveys of this kind that show printed books remain popular, a bigger question is how many people under 21 are reading at all. General literacy may include print, but digital literacy and communication are their own thing. Either way, comics are well positioned to be in the mix of both.

SEE ALSO, this interview with Neil Cohn, whose new book, The Visual Language of Comics: Introduction to the Structure and Cognition of Sequential Imagesinvestigates how comics are read on a behavioral level:

“Human beings only have three ways to convey our thoughts,” he explains. “We create sounds using our mouths; we can move our bodies with hands and faces; and we can draw things… My idea is that whenever these meaning-making channels get structured in a coherent sequence, then you end up with a type of language.” If he is right, the hidden logic of cartoon panels could provide new vistas on art, language and creative development.


  1. Makes sense to me. I’ve always felt comics have an added benefit of the format. You can read a wall of text, be it from page to page or continuously scrolling, but comics have to be in that page format to work in most cases.

    And yes, if there’s a book I’m really into, prose or comics, I will buy it in real life. If there’s one I only kind of care about reading or cannot find in print, then I’ll get it on Kindle. Like a baws. An old baws.

  2. Hi Heidi,

    Long time reader, rare commenter.
    I’ve worked in market research my entire career. Writing surveys, and dealing with big data and trends has been my job for a long time. Thus, every time I see a survey stat, I start looking for outright bulls**t and/or extremely misleading information.

    What I’m saying is, this data is not saying what it sounds like it’s saying.

    Right off the bat – these are 16-24 year olds from the UK. So you must limit this stat to the UK. Furthermore as the entire full report is behind a very pricey paywall, I’m not clear on how they got their sample of 16-24 year olds. Based on my experience with companies that create these reports-for-no-one (in the hopes that someone will buy them AFTER the fact) – this was not a random sample of young adults but people who were actively recruited by the survey writer. Meaning the stats represent not all 16-24 year olds in the UK – but JUST the people they talked to. Reasoning for this? Example- if they recruited online only, their sample represents only 16-24 years in the UK who are ONLINE, and who are actively looking to join (be compensated for) such survey taking. Food for thought.

    But the BIG THING I wanted to get to.
    This stat is 100% absolutely NOT saying these Young Adults YA’s buy books.
    Three links deep I find where the stat came from (http://www.voxburner.com/publications/347-62-of-16-24s-prefer-books-as-physical-products) – in their own words

    “When asked which products currently available for download were preferred as physical objects, 62% agreed with books. Magazines and newspapers collectively had 47% prefer the physical form.”

    So the question asked was something along the lines of “If you had to choose between E-book and Physical book- which would you choose?” – Right?
    And then 62% said “Physical.”

    However, this question does NOT speak toward purchasing habits.
    It is in fact conceivable that a follow up question such as “How often do you buy physical books? – Never, sometimes, often, all-the-time” – 100% of the survey respondents could say “Never” and it would not invalidate the 62% would choose physical if they had to deal-with a book.

    Because the stat you’re referencing in this article doesn’t refer to purchasing habits it refers to preference-if-forced-to-choose.

    Sadly, print could still very much be dead amongst YA’s in teh UK. IN america? Who knows. No data.

    Just something to think about.

  3. Furthermore as the entire full report is behind a very pricey paywall, I’m not clear on how they got their sample of 16-24 year olds.

    That information is in a Guardian article:

    “It is surprising because we think of 16-24s as being attached to their smartphones and digital devices, so it does shout out,” said Luke Mitchell of agency Voxburner, which researched questions about buying and using content with 1,420 young adults. [. . .]

    Voxburner questioned 16-24 year olds online between 25 September and 18 October. Half of the respondents were sourced through student moneysaving website Studentbeans.com, and half through a broader youth research panel.

    The sample size seems adequate. BTW, a 2005 survey covers reasons why GB residents do and don’t read books.


  4. Print, much like renting videos, is still perfectly alive in the US. The success of The Walking Dead would seem to settle that question. Imagine how many more copies of that would be sold if people could pick it up at their local grocery/drug store they way folks used to buy comics? The question is only what size and scope of a print business will exist in the future and whether the current industry can segue into that model without killing itself.

    Blockbuster did not go out of business because people stopping renting videos. They just didn’t survive the change to a more competitive business model.


  5. On one hand, I’ve replaced a roomful of long boxes & two bookcases stuffed with cheesy paperbacks to a small black box containing 120+ discs. I don’t mind reading things on a screen & digital storage beats the hell out of an overwhelming fire-trap any day.

    On the other hand, whenever a new trade of FABLES or a Neil Gaiman hardcover comes out (for just two examples), there’s still no feeling like purchasing it off the shelf, taking it home to hold & read – and then proudly displaying it in your own library – alongside many other treasures of memory.

    In short: Digital is great for fluff. But for the good stuff, I still want hardcopy.

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