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Literature Review: E-Books vs. Traditional Books and Influence on Public Library Systems Research Paper

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It is strongly believed that print books will be considered preferred medium for readers, but there is also a widely accepted assumption that technological change will touch upon the transition from transitional book production to digital one. A technologically driven society, therefore, will provide a favorable ground for reducing substantially the print material and engaging the development of technologically driven education.

The emergence of e-books has provided society with a number of advantages and has introduced alternatives of acquiring education. Expanding reading and learning possibilities, therefore, is an attractive option created by online technologies.

However, it is hard to predict whether e-book development can become an honorable substitution for traditional books which value is defined not by its content, but by its cultural and historical affiliations. In this respect, key question arises concerning the future trends in development of e-books, as well as how technologically developed society influence the preservation and perception of traditional book as part of history and culture.


The statistics shows significant increase in e-book sales during the period from 2002 to 2006. Thus, in 2002 the sales of e-books amounted to $ 5.8 million whereas this figure rose up to $ 20 million in 2006 (Nelson, 2008). The highlighted trends, therefore, provides many technology providers and publishers with substantial marketing grounds for triggering the adoption of virtual books in the future.

By 2012, it is expected that the sales will grow up to $ 5 billion and, therefore, scientific and professional publishing in libraries will be replaced with digitized variants of books (Nelson, 2008). Such a perspective will significantly influence reconstruction of existing libraries and will threaten the extermination of traditional books.

While exploring the demographics in correlation with the sales rates, it should be assumed that people under the age category of 30-44 years are the most frequent users of e-books (about 40 %) (Special Reports on E-Book Production and Digital Printing Technology, 2011). Other age categories are less interested in e-books technologies.

The prevalence of e-books over their hardcover versions is also evidence from the survey revealing augmentation from 38.1 % to 49.6 % of people who would rather wait to buy electronic version than buy the print book right away, where the percentage rates range from 18.9 % in September 2011 to 12.7 % in August 2011 (Special Reports on E-Book Production and Digital Printing Technology, 2011).

Aside from statistics, the popularity growth of e-books is evidence because of the increasing rates of adoption of electronic material in colleges and universities. According to Foasberg (2011), “…both e-reader owners and other e-book users were much more likely to identify as early adopters of technology in general” (p. 112). In this respect, the adoption rate of technological devices supporting e-books reading is likely to be promoted in future.

Despite the growing trends in adopting electronic reading materials, uncertainty remains in regard to the role of traditional books in education, as well as well the consequences e-book expansion can have for community library systems in particular and education in general.

This is of particular concern to the problem of cultural resistance (Nelson, 2008). This important aspect, therefore, can become the major obstacle preventing libraries from total transition from traditional reading to online reading. All these issues should be considered by means of examining the evidence presented in literature.

Rationale – Purpose of the Study

With regard to the above-presented considerations, the given research aims to define the basic trends in digital books prevalence over their print versions, as well as analyze what impact it will have on community library systems and education. The study is highly relevant given the fact that the technological advancement becomes the main aspects of social development.

Moreover, analysis of statistics and survey will also help to define the underpinnings of replacing traditional books by electronic ones. Finally, the given paper will contribute to understanding the attitude of various age categories toward digital expansion, as well as forecast further trends in traditional system of book reading in community libraries. The results of the study will also show negative impacts of traditional books reduced popularity on child development.

Literature Review

The development of digital space has given rise to the development of electronic books that are quite popular among teenagers and businesspeople. The technological progress contributed greatly to the prevailing nature of digital material over printed material, which introduced substantial changing to community library system that were previously engaged in traditional scheme of managing readers’ needs.

However, computer software development created opportunities for restructuring libraries and introducing computer classes. In this respect, it is purposeful to look through the literature that explores the origins of e-books development, individual perceptions and demographics of using electronic materials, understand the status of libraries and define in what way, digital transition influences the future of print books development. In such a manner, it is possible to predict the ratio traditional books and digital versions in various libraries.

Growing Trends in Reading Electronic Books

The emergence of electronic books and its conceptualization refers to 1960s. The value of microcomputers and their applications in terms of electronic materials became available in 1980s (Zucker et al., 2009). The next two decades after that were marked by significant expansion of electronic books use, most of which were affordable in many languages.

Today, the variety of e-books ranges from animated versions of books for children to much more sophisticated literature, including software allowing teachers and students to work out complicated learning and teaching strategies.

Along with the growing popularity of e-books and greater availability of technological devices, more and more teenagers prefer using digital version of their favorite books. In this respect, Springen (2011) has discovered that e-reading can become the future of all libraries because of much easier access and portability of online and electronic versions of books.

Such well-known publishers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and YA Publishes have expanded their market potential with the emergence of high demand for e-books. The popularity of digital reading is also explained by the increased use of virtual space for socializing. In this respect, integrating reading activities into the online surface will allow to increase the popularity of this activity in general (Springen, 2011; Zucker et al., 2009).

The point is that the current teen generation can be regarded as a transition generation which equally regards e-books and published versions. Growing popularity of e-books does not only change the style of reading, but also expand the actual definition of what a book is. In this respect, Valenza and Stephens (2012) refer to the Iconic Project Gutenberg containing a collection of about 36,000 books, favored the movement of electronic book portals.

These online portals are able to provide libraries and schools with collections of a variety of books. Despite the increased demand for electronic books, many teen readers consider a traditional book a talisman. Within this context, e-book titles serve as the precursors of the published version and, therefore, teenagers are inclined to use equally electronic readings and traditional books.

With regard to the above-regarded presented tendencies, e-book expansion is on the rise, but traditional reading will not be removed entirely because of a number of social and cultural factors. In addition, e-book overcomes traditional books due to the technological development and globalization process.

At the same time, gradual, sluggish transition to digital material is also explained by the age distinctions. Specifically, there is a significant percentage of the population (under age of 50) who are not technologically savvy. They are more fond of reading traditional books. Touching physical books, turning pages, and making notes on the margins is another exclusive opportunities for traditional readers to get pleasure from reading print books.

Library and E-books

As soon as iPhone was invented, many people are more likely to use it to read books online. The point is that the availability of e-books is much greater than presence of published versions. As a result, there is a threat of significant fall of visitors at traditional libraries because of considerably higher convenience of online bookstores. In this respect, “…digitization has made the removal of physical books easier for the library to contemplate” (Bell, 2012, p. 32).

Although the process of digitization has a mass character, the need to preserve traditional libraries remains because of the threat of cultural decline. What is more important is that many categories of American citizens fail to access online books because of Internet access limitations. The U.S. Census shows that more than 30 % of households do not have the Internet connection at home (Bell, 2012).

The emergence of electronic books in libraries has challenged the technological base of public establishments. As a result, spending on preserving and monitoring the electronic book database has also increased considerably. Gray and Copeland (2012) have examined and compared the costs necessary to use and maintain print books and the budget necessary for preserving the collection of electronic books.

The comparison is combined with a cost analysis and provides an alternative way to explore the effectiveness of funds spend on both electronic and print formats. The results of research have demonstrated that “…the highest circulating e-books circulated at the same rate as the first print copy” (Gray & Copeland, 2012, p. 339). More importantly, the study has indicated the obvious prevalence of e-book format use over the use of printed version.

Electronic book database creation has a number of benefits for public libraries. In particular, Polanka (2011) has defined that e-books increase circulation because of the 24/7 availability of online library. Digital books do not need additional shelves and specific conditions for maintenance.

Therefore, this type of book distribution is quite cost effective. Moreover, e-book purchase does not involve such procedures as books processing, or shipping. Despite the fact that audio books and e-books are offered in various genres, public libraries tend to introduce popular materials.

Transition from traditional book libraries to e-book libraries creates a number of issues and concerns because of economic and social underpinnings. Publishers also have a mixed opinion concerning the necessity of introducing digital dimension to all public and college library systems because of library specification. The question also concerns the need to preserving purely traditional libraries so as to preserve deep culture of traditional publishing.

Current State of Community Libraries

Today, public library system cannot exist without the access to e-book library. This fact cannot be ignored and, therefore, evidence shows that more and more people ask the librarians about the digital format of the book of interest and librarians cannot ignore this fact because it can undermine the reputation of their libraries.

What is more threatening is that library can lose their regular readers. However, not all publishers are satisfied with this new option in libraries because of unlimited access of users to authentic and copyright materials (Say, 2011).E-book emergence is closely associated with the current state of community and public libraries. In this respect, there is an assumption that e-books can become the future of libraries.

At the same time, it is suggested that “reading on a screen is an unpleasant experience that has, and will continue to, stymie the growth of e-books” (Buzzetto-More et al., 2007, p. 50). Encouraged by the benefits of digital books, many libraries, including Children’s Digital Library, approve the creation of e-books for children all over the world.

Digital revolution in the library introduces specific challenges to the library personnel because of insufficient competence and skillfulness in handling new technological devices and computer software. In this respect, the research conducted by the Primary Research Group (2008) has discovered that “more than 53 % of U. S. libraries surveyed felt that their patrons were less skillful in use of e-book collection than they were in the use of article databases” (p. 20).

More than half of librarians operating financial resources of no more than $ 1.5 million also express their insufficient experience and awareness of library transition to digital resources. In addition, the survey introduced by the Primary Research has discovered findings concerning the readers’ attitude to e-book reading in libraries and have found that location, library size, and origin of the establishment do not influence greatly on the trend in using e-book reading device.

The analysis of e-book vs. print book distributions imposes a serious problem on library systems because of inability to integrate a complex and consistent shift in terms of personnel training, equipment insurance, and e-book distribution. Few researchers indicate the exact number of readers that prefer using digital materials, as well as the percentage of those who support the traditional concept of reading.

Impact of Digital Expansion

Right after the emergence of e-book and e-content, much concern has been raised about the future of traditional books. Each stage in development predicted and assumed the disappearance of traditional print books, fall of text culture, and other changes where the concept of literacy would be altered. However, the actual process of e-book integration was gradual and sluggish and, as a result, many readers were disappointed with the trends at the e-market (Marshall, 2009).

The point is that reading on a computer screen was not satisfying enough; not all genres were available to online readers. At earlier stages, the hardware was too inconvenient and, therefore, readers were interested in e-reader device as a novelty that provokes attention for a short period of time. Further development of e-book material has introduced much more convenient hardware media and more and more readers prefer using those for reading books (Marshall, 2009).

The spread of electronic publishing has a created a new vision on learning, reading, and information exchange. Although electronic books received greater popularity, the role of traditional books remains unchanged.

The history of hypermedia and the Internet captures a much shorter period of time in comparison with that of print book development. Book publishing shapes part of a larger industry including the manufacturing and distributing a wide range of products. In this respect, electronic publishing is just one stage of book publishing history. Martin et al. (2010) marks, “…book publishing has frequently been at the forefront of social and technological change” (p. 14).

In this respect, the digitization of distribution channels, along with demographic and market change, has contributed to reconstitution and dissolution of book publishing chains, as well as liberation of authors and empowerment of reading audience. Consequently, experienced publishers with long book publishing history now encounter a rigid market competition that has been enhanced because of the emergence of digital dimension.

Globalization process is also among the key drivers that influenced the development of e-book publishing and developed new potential markets. According to Martin et al. (2010) “globalization…can be perceived as providing a technological platform for progress with wide ranging benefits to the global population” (p. 18).

At the same time, it can also been seen as a destructive power preventing the formation of culture of print. On the one hand, digitization is regarded as a new step in technological development introducing scientific progress and promoting social and economic development (Martin et al, 2010). One the other hand, e-book spread involves a number of challenges for print culture that is under the threat of extinction.

With the placement of e-books on the first place, public libraries might face the problem of copyright violation. In this respect, Feldman (2010) argues, “Copyright shouldn’t adjust to the digital revolution; the digital revolution should adjust to copyright” (p. 17).

However, most of the publishers declare that Google often outlaws the established norms of copyright and presents significant constrains to preserving authenticity of electronic books of printed versions. Similar concerns are represented in the article by Stoeppelwerth (2011) who discusses possible difficulties related to the emergence of Apple IPads and Apple’s iBookstores.

Specifically, the researcher concludes that U.S publishers “…desire to curtail the e-book discounting by Amazon and other online retailers permitted under the traditional wholesale distribution relationship” (Stoeppelwerth, 2011, p. 74). Shifts to market distribution, therefore, is also among tangible tendencies in e-book spread.

Buzzetto-More et al. (2007) argue that e-book development has changed the conception and purpose of reading and introduced changes to many academic and social spheres. Specifically, “e-books are just one example of e-content based learning object whose benefits include: hyperlinking, nonlinearity, data density, search ability, enhanced presentation, and multimedia features” (Buzzetto-More et al., 2007, p. 240).

Expanding the concept of text, reading, and learning by means of tradition from traditional books to the electronic one, is a controversial process which involves a number of economic, social, and cultural undercurrents. Complex dimensions are specifically connected with deep history of print industry development, inconsistency of e-book distribution, and influence of technological progress on the overall state of education and public library systems.

Traditional Books vs. E-Books

There is rigid debate over the emergence of electronic books and its potent impact on the traditional libraries development. The issue is specifically concerned with cultural, economic, and political issues, as well as shortcomings of digital expansion. Despite the constant expansion of electronic books, it is strongly suggested that the market will still be distributed equally between digitized and published versions of books. According to Milliot (2012), there are several underpinnings and trends.

In particular, “the number of readers who do not intend to buy a reading devices seems to be solidifying at around half of all readers, and even among digital device owners” (Milliot, 2012, p. 2). In this respect, the survey also proves that more than half of buyers state that they are reluctant to buy a reading devices and similar percentage supports that they possess a reading device and, therefore, they would prefer reading electronic books.

To understand the state of online books distribution in contrast to the traditional books selling, specific emphasis should be placed on statistics. In this respect, Primary Research Group (2008) has defined that “non-U.S. libraries were more likely than U.S. libraries to maintain a print copy of a book in the library’s e-book collection” (p. 23).

Public libraries with budgets over $ 4 million maintained printed versions of electronic books in a collection containing 43 % of all books. College libraries use up to 37 % of digital material for course resources (Primary Research Group, 2008). This percentage is relatively slow because of high prices established for the course reserves (Primary Research Group, 2008).

Scanty use of electronic books may also reveal the publisher decision to receive isolated revenues from course reserves. It can reflect librarians’ unawareness of the terms of using the course research, as well as their unfamiliarity with the instructions for using e-book collections.

Impact of Print Material Deficit on Education and Intellectual Development

The development of online bookstores and library websites has triggered new directions in education and learning. According to Larson (2010), there is an urgent necessity to integrate technological devices to practice e-reading activities because “E-books have the potential to unveil an array of new teaching and learning possibilities as traditional and new literacy skills are integrated in meaningful ways” (p. 15).

The first stage of integrating novelties into current reading programs includes redefinition of the text because teachers search for alternative text resources, including electronic books and digital texts. In traditional terms, the text is often perceived as a print passage of speech.

However, the modern definition of texts is confined to a much wider definition of written words. In this respect, Larson (2010) notes, “most children…have a keen awareness of the possibility of combining modes and media to create a message” (p. 15). The positive dimension of e-book integration in education is presented. However, there are still considerable shortcomings of technological intervention to books production.

This is of particular concern to parent-child interaction and negative influence of e-book expansion. In the studies by Moretz (n. d.), it has been discovered that “parents and pre-school children have a more positive interaction when sharing a reading experience with a traditional book as opposed to an electronic book” (n. p.). Therefore, the research focuses on children’s attitude toward both traditional books and e-books in the context of interaction and communication.

Despite lack of interaction between parents and children using e-books, they can still have a positive influence on children’s literacy. Zucker et al. (2009) explains “…to gain proficiency in reading, children must develop two major strands of skills: the ability to rapidly decode printed words and the ability to understand and construct meaning from the language of a text” (p. 50).

Taking into consideration the common features between electronic books and print books, the digital materials could contribute positively to acquisition of similar skills that could be achieved while reading traditional books.

However, e-format of books allows children to go beyond their opportunities that are afforded during traditional reading and encounter new vocabulary through new learning strategies. Another benefit of choosing e-book is presence of greater motivation, particularly for those children who are reluctant to read (Zucker et al., 2009).

Education experienced a significant shift with the appearance of digitized books and materials because of wider opportunities that e-books can proposed. Distant learning and online courses are among such opportunities that allow students all over the world access books from any location and at any time. Despite the fact that numerous researches highlight disadvantage of using electronic books, there are still ones that support e-book learning in terms of increased motivation in reading activities.

Summary of the Chapter

The tendencies in the development of e-book database in public libraries have a complex and multidimensional nature because of a number of factors. To begin with, trends in e-book expansion are closely associated with technological advancement and the globalization process introducing changing to the community library.

Much literature is dedicated to studying the origins of e-book development to define the reasons for introducing digital devices for reading books. As a result of changes, electronic materials have introduced new meaning and conceptualization of text, reading, and the purpose of books. The history shows that digital transition is explained by the need to introduce a new stage of library services.

The emergence of digitization is also presupposed by teenagers’ increased interest into virtual space allowing to socialize with each other via Internet. In this respect, electronic books allowed them to combine these activities and introduce new learning strategies.

Despite the growing popularity of unpublished books, the demand for traditional books remains because of the presence of age categories of people who prefer using print books to their electronic versions. Economic and social factors also contributed to the print book tradition because there are still layers of population that have a limited access to computer software and online bookstores.

A relatively equal distribution of financing between online and published books is also explained by identical cost-effectiveness of both markets. Hence, neither print books nor online books can be out circulation. Nevertheless, the benefits of using digital materials are obvious. In particular, libraries have a great opportunity to increase the book circulation without the necessity to cramp the library with additional shelves.

E-book purchase procedures are also much more beneficial in comparison with traditional book purchase because of absence of specific shipment and delivery terms. At the same time, traditional books can also take advantage over their digital versions in terms of greater variety of genres, as well as greater book availability. But this is just the matter of time.

The emergence of digital format of book distribution in the libraries has raised the problem of authenticity and copyright because many publishers are concerned with the terms of buying and selling books online.

Besides, reluctance of publishers to introduce electronic versions of books can also worsen the reputation of libraries encouraging e-book services. Besides, the rapid introduction of electronic databases requires courses and training programs for librarians who have problems with managing e-reading devices and software.

In the chapter, explanations are given in regard to the influence of e-book development on education and intellectual development of children. On the one hand, digital materials expand students’ opportunities in terms of learning strategies.

On the other hand, electronic books reading prevent them from sharing their experience with teachers. This is of particular concern to children who could have problems with reading because of limited interactions with their parents. Nevertheless, the emergence of distant learning and online courses has widened students’ educational opportunities.

Definition of terms

Electronic/digital/online e-books – books that are saved in electronic formats and can be read by means of electronic devices, including PCs, iPhone, etc.

Digital format – a form of preserving information by means of software. Books saved in digital formats can be saved on specific electronic devices. They change the conception of text and reading because it is possible to use passages in various ways.

Traditional/published/print books – physical books that are made of paper with hardcover and print words. They can be preserved in libraries on shelves.


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