Will e-books ever replace printed books?

There has been much research in recent years into how people prefer to read and how effective and efficient reading from printed paper text compares with digital text vehicles such as e-books, laptops, tablets and such – and the findings are not, perhaps, what you might have expected!

Rate of change has been steep

It was expected, or assumed, with the advent and rapid development of digital reading devices, that e-book printing might well have consigned the traditional printed book to history by now.

For decades researchers have been conducting thorough investigations into people’s reading habits and how they use and understand the different reading material options, both printed and digital – here are some of their observations and conclusions:

Changing reading variations

One of the basic discoveries is that our brains are not fundamentally designed for reading as we know it – whereas humans have pre-designed genes for language and vision, it is not the same for reading! Our brains have adapted over the centuries through the development of ‘visual language’ such as Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Phoenician alphabet and later developments through printing, to create new ‘circuits’ in the brain to be able to process texts and letters.

This development took the form of linear reading – one page at a time before progressing through the pages of text in an orderly fashion whilst distractions were minimal. This has changed in recent years with the advent of the digital reading vehicles like computers, phones and e-books which require the brain to juggle multiple distractions. Even the actions to progress through the text – swiping a finger, moving a mouse – create distractions that break the concentration on the text we are reading.

Whilst these distractions may appear minor on the surface, they adversely affect the speed at which we read and the accuracy and retention of the text.

Research shows that reading from paper produces greater comprehension of the material than reading from digital platforms. This is especially important in environments such as school and work. Whilst the modern generation are extremely comfortable with computers and digital items, it is proven that the majority of children still prefer printed versions of their texts over those from e-books!   

Differences between printed books and e-books

There are no discernible differences between printed texts and e-books when reading short passages of text, but studies show that students retain more knowledge form the printed versions than the digital.

Printed texts allow for annotations, such as writing in margins, underlining words or passages and marking of pages – e-books do not offer these options which are often important for readers studying these texts. One other important difference in studying is that the printed version usually comes in pairs of pages – an e-book representation will usually display text pages individually that are re-written repeatedly, limiting spatial representation which affects the retention of the content.

In summary

Of course, people’s preferences may come down to just that – personal preference – some like to read from a computer or other digital screen whilst many prefer the more tactile experience and presentation of the printed word. If you are a book manufacturer, time will tell whether the digital age will eventually overcome the traditional printed book – but at this point the digital ‘revolution’ people were anticipating has yet to take hold – in the world of commercial book printing only 20-30% of all books sold are in e-book form!


We are an all round UK book manufacturing and printing service. We work closely with publishers, self publishers and authors. We have a state of the art factory, complemented by our sales and marketing office in Westoning, Bedfordshire. We have invested in the very latest digital and litho printing technology, to integrate with a fully equipped craftsman bindery.  The conclusion of which means we are offering both softback and hardback books, to a very high standard of quality.

Order your book printing online or contact our team for more information.