Digital Fatigue Causing Lower E-Book Sales?

E-book readers who said they are reading fewer e-books cited a preference for old-fashioned print books.

E-book readers who said they are reading fewer e-books cited a preference for old-fashioned print books.

A survey conducted by the American Association of Publishers (AAP) and another one by the Codex Group show a decline in sales of e-books, which the latter attributes to a phenomenon called “digital fatigue.”

Codex, which conducts research on book readers and book impact, surveyed 4,992 book buyers in April 2016. The study found that units of books bought as a share of total books purchased fell from 35.9 percent in April 2015 to 32.4 percent in 2016. The survey included traditionally published and self-published books across all channels and in all categories, according to a report by Publishers Weekly.

The AAP survey found that e-book sales for trade publishers went down 14 percent in 2015 compared to 2014 and accounted for 20 percent of overall trade book revenue, down from 23 percent in 2014.

Reasons for Downward Trend

Peter Hildick-Smith, Codex president, said the book industry’s experience with digital sales is different from the music and video industries because electronic devices are optional for reading books whereas you need devices to listen to music or watch videos. He says e-book reading devices (smartphones, tablets, and dedicated e-readers) have fallen short of the quality needed to replace print books, despite such advantages as low price and convenience of e-books.

Hildick-Smith also attributed the decline in sales of e-books to “digital fatigue.” Owners of e-readers said they want to spend less time with their devices and they indicated a preference to return to print books. Here are the highlights of the survey by Codex:

  • Nineteen percent of 18-24 year-olds said they are reading fewer e-books now than when they started reading the format; this is the biggest decline among all age groups.
  • Fifty-nine percent of those who are reading fewer e-books said they preferred to read physical books.
  • Only 34 percent of book-buyer households own e-readers.

Sales of e-readers have been stagnant, plus the devices are increasingly being retired, according to Hildick-Smith. He thinks unless the e-reader market comes up with cheaper and higher quality options, digital fatigue will increase.

Read the Publishers Weekly article:

As E-Book Sales Decline, Digital Fatigue Grows

You might want to read this story:

Sales of Print Books Grew Two Years in a Row

Leave a comment


  1. Interesting. And I’m not surprised – this business changes so rapidly! I think next year it will look different once again 🙂

  2. Hello Cindy, Just FYI: Here is an article by Jane Friedman that may be useful to you and interested readers – “The Myth About Print Coming Back and Bookstores on the Rise”. Cheers, Christine Sun.

  3. Very interesting. I am not surprised either (and secretly a little pleased)

  4. Must share! Very informative!

  1. Digital Fatigue Causing Lower E-Book Sales? — Cindy Fazzi (Shared Post) | JANUARY GRAY REVIEWS

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