Does Digital Publishing Really Encourage More Reading?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

Visitors test e-reading devices at the Frankfurt Book Fair (Photo © Frankfurt Book Fair)

In today’s feature story about Russia’s digital publishing market, Vladimir Kharitonov says that while Russians are reading less print books than before, they are in truth, actually reading more:

“Now there is the Internet, social networks, YouTube, messaging, mp3s, video, and so on. We in fact read more, but we read more posts, articles, and comments — not books. A book as a vessel of condensed thought and knowledge must now compete with Wikipedia and articles on popular blogs. Really, Russians read less: now 35% of adult Russians don’t read books at all. In 1996 only 20% of adult Russians didn’t read books. But digital books can and do reverse this trend: 48% of readers of digital books do not read less, and 42% of them actually read more than before. It’s not very strange: if you’ve bought a book reader or iPad for reading you’ll read more.”

Statistically speaking, it makes sense. Anecdotally, readers reiterate that owning an e-reader means they buy more books, a theory supported by e-booksellers. And last year, the Oren Michaels, CEO of Mashery, asserted in these pages:

“In fact, the average American reads over 35,000 words a day (the equivalent of roughly one third of an average novel). As a whole, our consumption of the written word has increased from 26% of our daily dose of information in 1960 to over 36% in 2008 — the increase largely accounted for by digital reading.”

What do you think? Does digital publishing really encourage more reading? Fact or fiction?

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.