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E-books or print books: which will win?

by Catarina Rivera

As I ride the subway downtown, I see more e-readers than ever before. The Kindles, Nooks, and iPads seem to be taking over. Yet, I still see a lot of riders pull out print books. I am curious about the future of reading. Will print die and electronic versions take over? What’s the carbon footprint of e-readers vs. printed books? Will we lose the satisfaction of holding a book in our hands?

Let’s look at some trends. A Mashable poll asked readers what they preferred: e-books or print books. Print books garnered 41.9% of the votes, while e-books received 23.24% of the votes. Another 34.86% of voters felt both had their advantages and chose a tie. Mashable readers are known to be tech-savvy, so it’s interesting that the majority preferred print books. Another interesting statistic to note is that only 15% of e-reader owners say that they stop buying print books. This means that many consumers are mixing media and engaging in both print and e-book forms. Indeed, the publishing industry still receives a much larger percentage of its revenue from hardcover book sales compared to e-book sales. Digital downloads only represent 3-5 percent of total sales for publishers.

Libraries are getting into the e-book market as well, offering downloads of e-books using a library card. It’s exciting to see them keep up with advances in technology and serve their patrons in new ways. It would be a shame for libraries to lose more funding than they already have in these difficult times, and finding new ways to meet their users’ needs is important and strategic. Libraries are also still the most environmentally friendly way to read, since the carbon footprint is much smaller than printing books or making an e-reader. Newsweek reports that the carbon emissions needed to make one e-reader is the same as the carbon emissions needed to print 40-50 hardcover books.

There are some advantages to using an e-reader. They are searchable and automatically save your spot. Many classic titles are available to download for free. They provide their own lighting and allow you to carry multiple books without weighing you down. However, there are also advantages to reading print books. You don’t have to worry about battery or power issues and if you lose or damage the book, it’s only a small financial hit whereas damaging an e-reader is expensive. Print books are easy to share with others and provide visual experiences by showcasing quality art and photographs that e-books cannot. Print books also are easier on the eyes.

Which will win? Only time will tell if e-books grow to dominate the marketplace. Print books and e-books are currently co-existing, and there is a lot of consumer choice. My choice and personal preference is to enjoy books in print. Reading a book is an experience and is tied to memories and places in time. When I look at my bookshelf, I feel like I’m looking back on my life.

To learn more about Catarina, visit her website.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of
the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


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About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. NYVixen says:

    While these new e-readers are nice and have benefits I’d rather still read a regular book one less electronic for me to maintain or buy accessories for

  2. Wow, really great article! And some of these statistics are jaw-dropping. I was particularly floored by the carbon emissions stat, especially since I simply assumed that e-books were actually helping the environment. The usage stats are also very interesting and suggest books aren’t leaving us anytime soon. Still, given the relative newness of e-reader technology, and its rapid proliferation already, I would venture to guess those stats are going to start swinging toward digital books. Anyway, thanks for sharing!

  3. I really like my Nook Color, which I was so hesitant to use. However, my husband gave it to me as a gift, being that I love to read so much. What has happened is, I still read print books, I keep buying them, AND I read on my Nook! I enjoy both. I don’t believe I’ll ever stop loving the paper and ink form though!

  4. Lissette R. says:

    I’m addicted to my Nook. I like the e-book because it’s easy to walk around with and read on the subways in the morning. Also if I choose to read a really ridiculous book, like i dont know the Kardashian book, no one knows and i’m sparred weird looks on the train based on my book selection. Finally, I can be turned off by the size of a print book, but with my Nook, it’s a lot more enjoyable and a lot less intimidating.

  5. In my case, it was a matter of being practical. I bought a Sony e-reader because it had an expandable memory and I wanted a place to read my downloaded academic journal PDFs without the distractions inherent in reading them in my computer (like, say, the internet!). Given that I bought the model without internet access this has helped my productivity. Eventually I started seeing academic books coming out in electronic versions (much cheaper than the usual hardcovers) so I started buying those as well. Considering that after I moved in with my wife we ran out of book space given that she has her own huge academic library, e-books have been a welcome addition to the house. Now we both have e-readers though we still buy books, making some space in the library by getting rid of print journals that we mostly don’t read (save a few articles relevant to our fields) and already have PDFs in out computers. In short, I’ve been warming to e-books because they save space and I own way too many.

  6. Christina Nitschmann says:

    My vote goes to print. I look at a computer screen all day, and when I want to relax and read, I do not want to look at another digital screen. The tread in flying is all new airplanes are going glass, and all the mechanical equipment is being replaced my digital screens. The digital screens have way more info. and hence suppose to be safer, but I miss the plain old straight up steam gauges. I guess our whole world including flying is going digital. I will always love printed paper book over digital, any day!

  7. Great Article Catarina. I’m sure you know that Amazon E-books already outsell print books. My only question is: How long until E-Readers are given away for free? It is just a matter of time before these E-readers cost less than a book, or a piece of paper for that matter…. perhaps a bit forward looking, but fun to consider.

  8. Thanks for the comments! It is interesting to hear everyone’s personal take on this topic.

  9. I love my Kindle!!! I read the statistic a little different. I read that it takes about 40-50 books before your e-reader is officially called green. I am a voracious reader, so I met my 50 books within the first 6 months. :) I am sure I probably have save a few trees over the past 2 years of having my Kindle. :)

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