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The rise of ebooks. Are ebooks replacing printed books?

by Jeannie Brown

What are the most popular ebooks on Amazon right now?

To my surprise the seven most popular children’s ebooks on Amazon is from a little series you may not have heard of called: Harry Potter. The books were written by an author who is still desperately trying to make it big in the publishing world: J.K Rowling. Good luck to her, maybe one day she’ll have an entire world at Disney Land dedicated solely to these books which sell stuffed toys and Ravenclaw scarves that I wouldn’t buy as an adult…ok fine maybe I’d just get a wand if I was walking past, Hedwig keyring and lightening bolt socks, Sorting Hat…two boxes of Bertie Botts every flavour beans (one box for me the other so I don’t have to share with my family) and a time turner necklace but THAT’S IT. I just wouldn’t be interested if Harry Potter was a well known brand, it’s not my thing. Blistering sarcasm aside, let’s discuss the positive aspects of ebooks, what other children’s ebooks are popular online right now and why this might be!

Gone are the days where children would have to make a decision on whether to have good posture or slowly drag around a HUGE book like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on their back. It’s too late for me now, the nickname ‘shrimp posture Jeannie’ has truly stuck. However, nowadays a huge advantage of buying ebooks is that you can have an entire library at your fingertips. A kindle, practically weightless in comparison to carrying around all those heavy books!

With COVID restrictions easing and many people now feeling safe enough to book a holiday, your children may want to take some books with them to relax with near the pool. With ebooks you don’t have to worry about cramming several books into your luggage and all the potential weight restrictions that may apply, you can take as many ebooks as you want to!

Another advantage of having an ebook is that they may be a good way to encourage reluctant readers to develop an interest in literature. Placing a great big, thick book in front of a child who may not enjoy reading could make them feel disheartened if they attempt to read it and feel that there is just ‘TOO MUCH’ to get through. Using ebooks may help to take away this daunting feeling of starting a long and challenging new book.

It isn’t just the magical world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that are popular ebooks amongst children on Amazon at the moment though. Other popular ebooks on Amazon include David Walliams’ fiction novels such as: The Ice Monster and Demon Dentist. Another best seller is: Why Do Kittens Do That?: Real Things Kids Love to Know by Seymour Simon. This is an engaging and informative book which teaches children about kittens.

Similarly, two of the most popular ebooks at Salariya are ones which aim to teach children something new: You Wouldn’t Want to Live Without Bees! by Alex Woolf, illustrated by David Antram and How to Draw Caricatures by David Antram. These books give an informative insight into nature and drawing! Ok so, we’ve seen that educational ebooks tend to be popular as well as fiction novels. However, there seems to be less of a demand for ebooks for babies and toddlers. Why is this, you may ask?

Who is reading ebooks?

Through my research on the popularity of ebooks I found an article on from 2020 which gave an interesting insight into the development of ebook sales on publishing websites. The article states:

‘At BookLocker, we have published numerous color-interior picture books for children. And, a few of those are available as ebooks as well. However, we have never seen impressive sales of children’s picture ebooks. The print editions FAR outsell the ebook editions. Most people (around 80%) still prefer print books over ebooks and, from my analysis, the divide is far wider where children’s picture books are concerned.

However, children’s chapter books, and those for young adults, sell well as ebooks because older children and young adults often have their own electronic devices for reading ebooks. In other words, they’re not sitting on an adult’s lap while having a book read to them.’

The ebooks which are popular on Amazon right now as well as the other ebooks which are popular sellers at Salariya, such as: You’d Wouldn’t Want to Be in the Great Fire of London, You Wouldn’t Want to Live Without Books and You Wouldn’t Want to Live Without Writing, are aimed at children of a higher age group, such as 7+. These findings support the statement published on the website. It seems logical that in an era where a lot of young people have their own electronic devices and are on these devices a lot, ebooks are becoming more popular.

The list of the most popular printed children’s books on Amazon was very different to the ebook one. The two books listed above rely on different soft materials and touch to engage young readers e.g the rabbit finger puppets or the softness of the bird’s wing. Not only does it help to bring the book to life but it allows younger children to really engage and interact with the book. Books which use touch help to show infants that reading is fun and helps to develop their sense of imagination. Other types of physical touch and interaction, such as books that use flaps, isn’t as easily available with an ebook. Yes, interactive elements such as games or noises can be added to ebooks but research published in 2016 on the Journal of Developmental & Behavioural Pediatrics website states that:

‘When eBooks are designed well, preschool-aged children learn equally well and sometimes more than from print books. However, enhanced eBooks with sounds, animations, and games can distract children and reduce learning. When book-sharing with an adult, conversations during eBook reading are often about the platform while print book conversations are more often about the book content.’

It seems that there are some positive and negative reasons for using both printed books and ebooks. Older children may be more inclined to read from a tablet which they are already using frequently and using their tablet may encourage them to read more often. Younger children may feel more engaged by reading a physical book which uses touch rather than an ebook which has interactive elements which may distract them from the actual story. Using ebooks is a great way to take a range of books with you wherever you go but sometimes the feel and smell of a book in your hands is a way of reading that some people prefer. What do you think? Do your children prefer printed books or ebooks? Let us know your thoughts about this topic on our social media channels!





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Journal of Developmental & Behavioural Pediatrics

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