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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