While e-books continue to take up between 20 and 25 percent of the market in countries such as the USA, the UK, Australia and India, in other countries the proportions are much lower, for example, in France they accounted for only 4.1% of the market in 2013; so, globally, the average is rather meaningless. The sectoral differences are also significant: in countries where the proportion is around the 25% level, the focus is on what we might call the ‘consumer’ market, i.e., sales of the novels and popular non-fiction such as biographies; but around the world the e-textbook market seems to be the growing part of the business, with national and regional governments and school districts implementing policies on the introduction of e-textbooks.

It is, perhaps, this development that makes studies of e-book reading somewhat premature. Various investigations have found that students prefer print books to e-books and that learning from print books is more effective. However, if e-textbooks are widely introduced into the school systems, world wide, the probability is that learning from such tools will become the norm, without the competition from the printed word. When 5- to 8-year olds are ‘digital natives’ in this respect, is it not likely that they will happily learn from e-textbooks when they enter secondary and, later, higher education? At present, we have no way to check this hypothesis: the study can only be done when present 5- to 8-year olds who have used e-books throughout their school career are aged 15 or 16. And, as the number of primary school children using only e-textbooks is not known, we have no idea when that might be.

However, an article in the Australian Daily Telegraph noted, regarding the introduction of e-books at St Pius X College in Chatswood, near Sydney:

e-learning co-ordinator Justin Hodges said the vast majority of older students from Years 9 to 12 preferred paper versions while younger students in Years 7 and 8 preferred digital formats.

We know that the human mind is an incredibly flexible thing, capable of adapting to almost any situation, and the probability that it will remain resolutely opposed to learning from e-books seems to me to be extraordinarily unlikely.

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