Despite the arm-flailing panic of traditionalists, U.S. youth prefer print to e-books. Statistics show that readers in the U.S. aged 18 to 34 are nearly twice as likely to read a print book than an e-book on any device. But, wait, you might say: Another study found that e-book popularity is at its highest in the 18-to-29 age group, with 37 percent of readers saying they had read an e-book in 2014. Well there's a simple explanation of that. This age group is also more likely to read a print book, meaning they're the one doing more reading than any age group at all. So much for worrying about the youth of the nation.
Seeing these numbers you might think to yourself, as I did, "Hey, these readers are perfectly content with a traditional book, but they'll read an e-book once in a while for convenience." Cool, nothing to panic about here. This, however, is not the viewpoint of Benjamin Alfonsi, the creative director of Metabook, a digital publishing start-up.
Alfonsi, on the other hand, believes that we're letting readers in this age group down. And what we need to do is step up our game in e-books, offering readers more because "they're expecting more." Alfonsi advocates for e-books that "jump out at you" and gives what he calls "an all-out-assault-on-the-senses approach." And maybe I'm getting old, but that just sounds scary.
Metabook offers enhanced, enhanced e-books, if you will. It wants to jack up enhanced e-books to a thousand, offering audio interviews, music, and even 3-D interactive elements.
"It's visceral, it's sexy, it's imaginative ... it's immersive, it's visual, it's sensory," Alfonsi says. "It has to be everything."
Put aside the marketing speak for a moment ("sexy"? really?) and focus in on why he's saying we need this: Alfonsi believes that traditional print and e-books are losing this generation's media-obsessed people because reading by itself is "unengaging."
First of all, I could not disagree more. Second of all, REALLY?
Luckily, the data shows and many experts believe the opposite. Stats have shown that millenials don't want apps and other distractions on their e-reader, if they even have one. They have smartphones for that, and those aren't going away. Derrick Schultz, a director at Atavist, points out that actually most e-reader companies that "show off" new technologies end up removing the "bells and whistles," responding to customer desires. Instead, as Amazon has shown with its Kindle Paperwhite, the e-reader focus has shifted away from the tablet mentality and into building an experience much like a print book.
So it doesn't seem like the reading public wants this sensory assault mega book, which actually shows how happy people are to disappear into a book, without the constant noisy disruptions.