Young people are reading more and more books in print, driving sales and shaping the industry
In the continued tussle between print books and e-readers, it seems print books are winning, especially in the eyes of the young. A new report by Pew Research has shown that Generation Z (Gen Z) – those born between 1997 and 2015 – overwhelmingly prefer reading books in print rather than using an electronic device, disproving the common assumption that this generation are digital-first.
According to the report, almost 70% of US respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 said they read print books, while just 42% said they read e-books. Overall, more than 80% of Gen Z said they read a book in any format — the highest percentage out of all age groups surveyed.
In the UK, the story is the same. A report from Nielsen BookData found that print books were the most popular way to read for UK book buyers aged between 13 and 24, accounting for 80% of purchases. In comparison, e-books made up just 14% of sales for the same age group.
Personal, Practical And Easier To Read
There are a few reasons why Gen Z is driving the print book market, with many citing the fact that having a print book is more personal and practical, as well as being easy to pick up and put down. “There is nothing like opening up a real book on a couch or beach,” said a 23-year-old reader to Business Insider magazine. “They have a great smell too.”
Other reasons include being easier to read, with an increased ability to enable the reader to truly concentrate and switch off from the world. “I don’t feel as much eye strain when reading print books,” said a 21-year-old student. “I also find myself focusing more when reading from a print book with my computer off.”
TikTok remains a key influence on the book market, with its BookTok channel promoting certain titles and authors to millions of young readers. In 2022, Nielsen surveyed a number of readers in 2022 and found that one in four had used BookTok, with these consumers accounting for nearly 90 million book purchases. Publishers now avidly watch BookTok as closely as the weekly sales charts for information on which authors and genres are gaining the most attention, and adjusting their marketing accordingly.
A Compelling Case For Print
What’s really interesting about Gen Z’s preference for print books is that they have grown up with digital media, so turning their back on electronic devices makes a compelling case for print. The common assumption with the young is that they cannot be parted from their phones, so making the conscious choice to put them down in favour of a format that’s centuries old makes a real statement.
Whether it’s the opportunity to get lost in a story without digital interruption, the tactile nature of paper, the lack of eye strain, or simply the chance to disconnect from technology for a while, it’s clear that young people appreciate a good print book. “There’s pleasure in treating myself to a new novel,” said a 23-year-old from London. “It feels like a treat, and you can’t replicate this experience by simply downloading it onto a digital device.”