Survey of Kids: Physical Books Here to Stay, In Parallel to Rise of E-Readers

Kindle Harry PotterAmerican publisher Scholastic has just surveyed youngsters thoughts about books, and it's good news for traditional publishing: E-readers haven't dominated the world, and two thirds of kids still say they'd keep printed matter books.

Scholastic surveyed over 2,000 children aged 6 to 17, along with their parents, earlier this year, and today revealed the stats that sprang from the data. Around 25% of the kids said they'd already read a book on an e-reader or computer, and 57% of those in the 9 to 17 age group said they'd like to.

That sews up the kids' interest in things digital-bookish, but the parents information displays a different trend: Just 6% of parents owned an e-reader, and only 16% said it was a planned purchase in the next year. Despite their seeming reticence to adopt the new tech, parents are very happy for their kids to use e-readers and 83% said their kids were allowed or encouraged to do so.

Not all parents were approving of new tech, and many worried it was denuding their children's abilities to pay attention—the usual sort of worry that gets trotted out by concerned individuals whenever a new tech (be it cell phones or games consoles) begins to impact society in a big way. There are a couple of causes for concern though. One was that 39% of the kids from 9 to 17 in question thought that information online was "always correct." There's certainly another survey that could investigate this, and determine if reading e-books contributes to an illusion that all digital text is as official as a published book. Another statistic that may well get educators worried was that 25% of the kids thought SMS conversations with friends constituted reading (only 8% of parents agree). And then there's the fact that 28% of kids thought reading posts or comments on social networking sites was reading, and just 15% of parents see it the same way. Certainly Net comms are changing reading habits, and there's a whole list of "new" material to read online, so the definition of "reading" is going to evolve—it's just a question of whether it's desirable or happening too fast.

Now, this last argument may well raise your hackles when you remember that Scholastic is a book seller, with a big youth market. It's easy to dismiss the data from a book seller that seems to imply books are good, and e-reading or online reading is bad. But, the Scholastic survey backs up data from a recent Harris poll that investigated e-book use and reading habits among adults, and revealed that 20% of survey respondees without e-readers said they'd not purchased a physical book in the previous year, compared to just 8% of e-reader owners. It also showed that over 50% of e-reader owners read more after buying one than they did before. According to Harris' data, then, e-reading isn't actually damaging the book business too much, nor is it decreasing the affinity for reading books in the general population—quite the opposite. This shines a more forgiving light on Scholastic's survey methods.

In summary, while the younger generation (as with many new technologies) are more likely to push ahead with adopting new electronic reading technology—which is good news for Amazon with its expansive Kindle plans—the physical book isn't going anywhere yet. Unless, and this is a curve-ball, you can blame the million-selling Harry Potter books for the trends: J.K. Rowling isn't allowing them to be made into e-books yet.

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