Research from UOW and UNSW shows what people are reading

Electronic books versus hard-cover and paperback. Picture: Fairfax File
Electronic books versus hard-cover and paperback. Picture: Fairfax File

The art of thumbing through paperback titles at the book store is not dying, according to two academics.

Research and data may show online news may big pipping traditional media like reading newspapers and listening to radio bulletins, but not so for enjoying a good read.

University of Wollongong Associate Professor Shahriar Akter and Associate Professor John d’Ambra from the University of NSW have released two research papers looking at whether electronic books (e-books) were taking precedence over its hard-copy counterpart.

“I personally love books so I had an interest in finding out what are peoples attitudes and perceptions of e-books,” Ass Prof d’Ambra said, adding he was also interested in looking at how information technology changed people’s behaviour.

People were not in a hurry to pick up e-books to the detriment of hard-copy books, according to the findings published in Personal & Ubiquitous Computing and the Journal of the Computer Information Systems.

Picture: Fairfax File

Picture: Fairfax File

“E-books are not being adapted at a rate we predicted,” Ass Prof Akter said.

“Because people still have got a love for the printed books.”

Their findings revealed many people loved the physical smell of the pages of a book, while finishing the last page of a novel gave some a sense of accomplishment.

Other influences for people to prefer paper over electronics were eyes became tired from staring at screens, people liked browsing bookstore shelves, and the “distraction” caused from apps and social media open on a device used to read an e-book.

Factors as to why people liked reading e-books was the convenienc (being able to read anywhere at any time with a library of titles on one device); and accessibility for those with a disability (reading in hospital, changing a font to suit eye-sight issues, the weight of an e-reader/tablet was lighter than a large novel).

Generation Z (those born after the year 2000) have been brought up in a world surrounded by technology so would be assumed to be picking up the e-books first, but Ass Prof d’Ambra said the “jury was out” on that one.

“I think we need to be able to wait a bit longer to explore their experience on reading,” he said.

“But there is some [research] that suggests parents prefer reading hard-copy books to their children.”

Ass Prof d’Ambra said anyone aged down to 18 to 24 still preferred reading a good book on paper as opposed to on an e-reader, smartphone or tablet.

As for the “digital natives” of Generation Z – where e-books are often prescribed in classrooms – their behaviour could change the agenda in the future.