• 45% of people bought a printed book last year, compared to the 23% who bought an e-book.
  • This suggests that e-books have the potential to complement the publishing industry and function alongside it - rather than replace it.
  • This chart shows the preference for printed and e-books globally, with e-books being most popular in China.
  • More than half of Germans bought a printed book in 2020.

With smartphones, tablets and e-readers reaching mass adoption over the past few years, many have predicted that printed books would soon become a thing of the past. And while it’s true that people use their electronic devices to read, they still rely heavily on ink and paper when it comes to reading books.

According to data from Statista’s Advertising & Media Outlook, e-book penetration still trails that of printed books by a wide margin across the globe. In the United States for example, where e-books are very popular in comparison, 23 percent of the population are estimated to have purchased an e-book last year, compared to 45 percent who bought a printed book.

What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve digital intelligence in children?

The latest figures show that 56% of 8-12-year-olds across 29 countries are involved in at least one of the world's major cyber-risks: cyberbullying, video-game addiction, online sexual behaviour or meeting with strangers encountered on the web.

Using the Forum's platform to accelerate its work globally, #DQEveryChild, an initiative to increase the digital intelligence quotient (DQ) of children aged 8-12, has reduced cyber-risk exposure by 15%.

In March 2019, the DQ Global Standards Report 2019 was launched – the first attempt to define a global standard for digital literacy, skills and readiness across the education and technology sectors.

The 8 Digital Citizenship Skills every child needs
The 8 Digital Citizenship Skills every child needs
Image: DQ Institute

Our System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Media, Information and Entertainment has brought together key stakeholders to ensure better digital intelligence for children worldwide. Find our more about DQ Citizenship in our Impact Story.

These findings suggest that e-books will not be the final nail in the coffin of printed books but rather a complementary product that should ultimately benefit the publishing industry. People may grab an e-reader when they head to the beach or commute to work, but as far as actual books go, there’s nothing like the real thing.

a chart showing the estimated share of the population that purchased an e-book VS a printed book in 2020
Studies show that printed books are still the most popular.
Image: Statista