Ever since the snowballing computer revolution brought quick-and-easy onscreen reading, prognosticators have predicted that writing on paper will fade to a remote fringe. However, while it may be true that instantaneous email has decimated postal letters, electronic progress is occurring much slower with books.
A new Pew Research Center survey of America's regular adult readers found that 89 percent of them read at least one paper book in the past year -- but only 30 percent read an electronic book. Although e-reading is rising, it has a long way to go to reach parity.
Meanwhile, Bowker Market Research says only 16 percent of Americans ever purchased an e-book -- and a remarkable 59 percent say they have "no interest" in buying one.
A Wall Street Journal commentary blazoned: "Print is here to stay... Readers still want to turn those crisp, bound pages." It predicted that paper books never will disappear, but will exist side-by-side with digital ones.
The essay speculated that "real books -- the kind you can set on a shelf --" are best suited for serious literature and in-depth nonfiction, while e-books are better for cheap, quick, disposable, read-it-and-toss-it, paperback-style fiction. "The 'Fifty Shades of Grey' phenomenon probably wouldn't have happened if e-books didn't exist," it said.
Many publishers reported a holiday upsurge in e-book sales, and say year-to-year sales keep rising. But predictions of a total takeover evidently were overblown.
Print on paper has been the foundation of human knowledge ever since Gutenberg, and it apparently will continue far into the future.