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Study shows printed books are still the most popular option among U.S. readers

A Pew Research Center study showed 39% of readers choose the physical book only, while only 7% only read digital books in 2018.
Credit: Brandon Bates

In a time when technology is almost unavoidable there's just something about a physical book that people love.  

"I love picking up a book in a bookstore. There is nothing like it," Chandler Padgett said while shopping at Union Ave. Books.

Book store employees in downtown Knoxville said there was a brief moment when the future of books may have been in the air. 

"There was a big fear with e-books coming out, what people would think of book stores," Davis Shoulders, with Union Ave. Books, said. 

Union Ave. Books recently expanded their building to accommodate their customers -- most of whom prefer a physical book over the alternatives. 

"Compared to reading something on your Kindle, iPad or computer, there is just something so romantic about an actual book that's been lost that is so amazing," Chandler Padgett said. 

According to the Pew Research Center, Print books remain the most popular format for reading, with 67 percent of Americans having read a print book in the past year.

Aside from reading a physical book, other options include listen to audio books or reading from a screen. A study from last year shows that 39 percent of readers choose the physical book only, while only 7 percent only read digital books.

That same study shows growth in audio book popularity from 2016 to 2018 up from 14 percent to 18 percent -- well below the popularity of books. 

WBIR 10News also polled viewers about what format they preferred. People overwhelmingly chose printed books at 68 percent, with e-books coming in second at 18 percent, and audio books garnering 9 percent of the vote. The remaining votes said they would "wait for the movie to come out." 

"I think reading is more than just processing information, It's about the experience. People want to come into the book store and select the exact copy that they want," Davis Shoulders said. 

Davis said he's noticed the popularity in buying books go up and down like a wave, but he's confident that books will forever be a timeless tradition.