The Extinction of Books [Table]

Extinction of Books
Image by

In last week’s article I wrote about how books evolved over time, from inscriptions on clay tablets to the electronic and printed books we know today. What this time line had shown very clearly was that certain variants of the book vanished (almost) completely today.


What does that mean for the printed books we came to love so much? Are they about to get extinct as well? Killed by the e-book like The Buggles sang about video killing the radio star back in the late 70’s? has gathered some thoughts, facts and numbers that will show you that the extinction of the printed book is nowhere near!


Is The Book In Danger Of Extinction?

We say: No!

And to back up our words, lets have a look at some hard to beat numbers first.


Book Price and Sales Comparison

The Launch of of the first Amazon Kindle in 2007 had caused an uproar among bibliophiles. Many saw the end of the printed book in the immediate future with the release of books in an electronic form. Sure, e-books have quite some advantages over the “ordinary” printed book, yet the trend over the past years since the Kindle saw the light of the day paints a more optimistic picture.


A research about the behavior of the book and e-book market in 2013 conducted by PwC showed that:

  • while the average price for e-books decreased between 2009 and 2013,
  • the percentage of e-book sales compared to all book sales in 2013 is still fairly low, namely 23% in the US.

cf. graphs at Forbes


What about book sales this year? Maybe this example from the UK can answer this question best:

According to an article from The Telegraph, book sales have gone up 5% in December 2015 for physical books—at the Amazon Kindle’s expense!


E-Book vs. Printed Book

The question of what’s better, the e-book or printed book, comes down to personal preferences though. Following, you will find two short lists of some major advantages and disadvantages of both, the physical and electronic book.

advantages disadvantages
  • immediate purchase/download
  • easier to keep up-to-date
  • contain links to other sources/information
  • space-saving
  • save trees
  • carry several e-books around with ease
  • can be read on several devices
  • technology will develop even more
  • reading is more private (cover doesn’t give title of the book away)
  • reading at night with no additional light on
  • publishing your own book is easier/faster
  • can become unreadable in a few years
  • DRM protection prevents sharing
  • can not be “prettily” displayed
  • page-hopping is rather difficult
  • not all e-readers allow marking/noting
  • authors earn less by e-book sales
  • electronic devices get stolen more often
  • reading using background light strains the eyes
Printed Books
advantages disadvantages
  • long life-span
  • sharing is easy
  • physical collection of information
  • easier to browse when in need of information
  • marking & noting is easier
  • authors earn more by physical book sales
  • know what everyone’s reading thanks to the book cover/sleeve
  • less likely to be stolen
  • better for the eyes than light-emitting e-book readers
  • browsing shelves at stores or of friends
  • store-visit needed to purchase
  • can become outdated, information is not updated
  • take up much space
  • use up resources (trees for paper, ink), etc.
  • impractical to carry more than one book
  • everyone knows what you are reading thanks to the book cover/sleeve
  • additional light needed to read at night
  • Publisher needed to publish your own book, complex and long process


Both lists show that there is almost an equal number of advantages and disadvantages of both types. There are still some features of the book that couldn’t be adopted by the e-book and that casual readers and bibliophiles alike cherish and look for in a good read.


No matter what you prefer though, it is safe to say that the extinction of the “real”, printed book is far away! We don’t have to fear that our favorite past-time medium will share the fate of the Dodo.