Are Books the New Tablet?

There's a reading technology that's really hot right now. It's called the book.

reading a book

The iPad 2 was unveiled yesterday, sending concussive waves throughout the Internet. Many in publishing have met tablets and e-readers with a certain ambivalence, lamenting what seems like an inevitable decline of the printed word. But a new survey in honor of World Book Day, a massive celebration of reading in the U.K., has an encouraging finding for the traditionalists: Adults and teenagers alike still prefer the printed book.

A few other interesting findings from the survey: Almost half of teenagers have read a book on a computer; 17% have done it on a mobile phone. Over 13% of teens have used tablets like the iPad to read a book, though only about 9% of teens had used e-readers to read one, surprisingly.

Today's World Book Day event, an annual affair now in its 14th year, is traditionally targeted at primary-school age children, with "book tokens" distributed that may be cashed in for books. This year is targeted more at teenagers, and has been updated to reflect the rise of e-reading, with a new website called Digi-tale, which offers what the Guardian very Britishly says is a new story from "bestselling author Louise Rennison, of Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging fame."

If it's indeed true that the kids are gravitating more to the printed book than the e-book, it's not hard to imagine why. The beleaguered book is still a hot, innovative technology. Even the largest tomes are cheaper than an e-reader. You'll never even think about their battery life. Many have sleek displays (though you shouldn't judge a book by its cover), plus full-color illustrations. Pages load instantaneously, may be dog-eared, and are fully enabled for in-margin annotation. Plus, a book, unlike an e-reader, can actually appreciate in value over time, rather than become obsolete. A first-edition Hemingway will fetch thousands of dollars. Who, now, wants a first-edition Kindle?

As kids grow up surrounded by tablets, we wonder whether their eyes, undazzled by technology simply for its newness, might decide that the most innovative, efficient, and delightful form of reading was under our noses all along.

Follow Fast Company on Twitter.

[Image by Casey David]

Add New Comment

3 Comments

  • Anita Nelam

    I don't see why it has to be either/or. One of my greatest pleasures in life remains browsing in bookstores. But I am thrilled that I can pick up from wherever I left off when reading on one of my Kindle apps on my iPhone, iPad or my computer. Whispersync is an amjazing technology. In fact, instead of buying an iPad 2, I am going to buy a Kindle because the pad can get a bit heavy not to mention not being able to read in the sunlight. It's also more enviromentally friendly to use an ereader.

    I will continue to buy books the old fashioned way but not to the degree I did previously. On the other hand, ebook pricing is so much more reasonable so I am buying more books. The bottom line for me is that I am reading more because I can afford $9.99 or less for a new book as opposed to $24.95 for a hardback which requires me to wait for the paperback or trade version.

  • Mak Chern

    Reading to children and engaging them before the age of five is crucial to their development. Today tools such as the iPad empowers parents to give their children a head start with early learning being so accessible.
    The iPad empowers parents to have a creative and stimulating engagement with their children. Early learning, under the age of 5, has been proven to be critical success factor in children's academic success. What was expensive and required several books or CDs are available small apps on a single portable device. Reading to your children when they are young is an amazing way to build their confidence and increase their intellectual curiosity. Modern research proves that parents who read to children are giving them a huge advantage even before they start schooling.

    We just released or new interactive series. Its called "An Amazing Day At The Zoo".
    It has full narration and videos. Its a virtual trip to the zoo every day.

    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app...

    More information available at http://LearningInfinity.com/

  • NegativeK

    I use both. I have a nook that I keep in my messenger bag so that I can read almost anywhere. I have a smartphone that I _always_ have with me so I really can read anywhere. I also have a stack of physical books in my apartment that I'm going through.

    Mobile devices provide conveniences that books don't, such as fitting in a messenger bag without being noticeable -- but I like the feel of a book too. It doesn't have to be one or the other.