Published Monday, October 15, 2012 10:55AM CST
Last Updated Sunday, November 24, 2013 5:03PM CST
E-readers and tablets are providing readers with more options to access books, but some local retailers say those options come at a cost.
Twelve-year-old Matthew Murphy is familiar with tablets. The Grade 7 student uses one to find and read ebooks often.
“I type in any book I want and usually they’re there,” said Murphy.
Murphy said the benefits of ebooks make them a great option for his studying. Not only does he have thousands of titles at his fingertips, but he also likes the device’s other perks. “You can make it brighter, make the font bigger. You can add notes and bookmarks without having to write in your book or fold the pages,” Murphy explained.
He’s one of many students at Henry G. Izatt School who use the digital counterpart to a traditional paperback or hardcover. The school’s library recently introduced a database of more than 80 ebooks that students can download for free.
Brandi Nicolauson, the school’s librarian, said the service means students don’t have to wait for the library to open to get reading or researching.
“Students expect access -- to have access to books 24 hours a day,” said Nicolauson. “We’re really excited we can offer them that.”
And students aren’t the only people using the electronic books. Ebooks are gaining ground on traditional paper books. A recent study found ebooks now make up 16 per cent of the Canadian publishing market. In the United States, ebooks are almost on par with traditional paperbacks.
But the transition comes at a cost to traditional book retailers.
Chris Hall, the co-owner of McNally Robinson, said his bookstore has felt the bite from ebooks.
Last year, the business was forced to begin selling its own collection through Google.
“It started to feel like a necessity,” said Hall. “Customers were asking us do we sell ebooks and we’d say, ‘No. Not yet.’ And they’d say, ‘Are you crazy?’ “
But ebooks don’t bring in the same profits for booksellers as traditional paperbacks do. BookNet Canada pegs the average cost of an ebook at about $7.44 while paperbacks are $12 on average. Hardcovers are on average about $19.
With the dip in revenue, McNally Robinson is now looking at other ways of making more money. They’re selling housewares and offering community programs like history and craft classes.
Still, others remain unsure that there is a real risk to the traditional book market.
“Maybe far, far off into the future ebooks will become the most popular thing or paperbacks will go by the wayside,” said Nicolauson. “But I don’t see that happening.”
And Murphy agrees, saying people will always want to curl up with a real book. A good sign for retailers from the future generation of book readers.