"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

Survey: Most people prefer reading paper books over digital books on tablets, phones


LONDON — Digital books on tablets, smartphones, and devices like Amazon’s Kindle are certainly convenient, but according to a new survey most people still prefer a good old fashioned paper book. There’s just something satisfying about turning the page and holding a physical book in one’s hands, as over two-thirds of adults say they always opt for a real book over digital reading.

Put together by Oxfam, researcher polled 2,000 respondents in the United Kingdom regarding their thoughts on paper books versus digital books. Close to half (46%) enjoy physically turning pages and 42 percent prefer the feel of a physical book in their hands. One in four say they love the smell of paper books. Meanwhile, another 32 percent feel like they become much more immersed in the story while reading a paper book and 16 percent go for traditional books because they remind them of libraries.

The look and feel of books is still special

Interestingly, over a third of respondents (35%) enjoy buying paper books because that allows them to proudly display them on their bookshelf as a background during Zoom meetings.

All in all, only 16 percent of adults prefer digital books and a meager eight percent who favor audio books. On average, the survey finds most adults own 49 books and read for three hours per week. 

"People prefer to read physical books because they offer something more tangible and grounded. There’s something that can feel more “permanent” about real books over digital formats,” says Dr. Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, in a statement. “Reading offers us a form of escapism. It provides us with a break from our everyday lives, and often also, an opportunity to learn something new and expand our minds.”

What’s old is new again

Over half the poll (58%) read to relax, while 46 percent usually read as a break from the real world. More than three in 10 like to read as a means of learning something new and 39 percent read to feel happier. Close to half (45%) have been reading more ever since COVID lockdowns began. Moving past the pandemic, 84 percent plan to take a few books with them on vacation this year.

Three-quarters say they’re considering donating books they’ve finished and 72 percent usually buy used books themselves. Moreover, this research suggests that books are the top item most adults are willing to buy used. Seventy-one percent say they buy used books because it is cheaper and 52 percent do it because it is better for the environment.

Nearly one in five (18%) just like the smell of used books, while another 18 percent like the texture of a second-hand book. Fifteen percent of respondents just love the idea that they might find a note or letter written inside a used book. Nearly one in two people (45%) like to ponder where their old books have been before landing in their hands. Generally speaking, 49 percent of adults often buy second-hand items, with goods such as books, clothes, CDs, DVDs, and cars topping the list. Six in 10 adults believe buying used items is just as good as buying new.

The survey was conducted by OnePoll.

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