Readers have been dreading the rise of e-books since before the technology even existed. A 1991 New York Times piece predicting the imminent invention of the personal e-reader spurred angry and impassioned letters to the editor. One reader wrote in to express his worry that the new electronic books wouldn’t work in the bath.
Twenty-three years later, half of American adults own an e-reading device. A few years ago, Obama set a goal of getting e-textbooks into every classroom by 2017. Florida lawmakers have passed legislation requiring public schools to convert their textbooks to digital versions.
Despite the embrace of e-books in certain contexts, they remain controversial. Many people just don’t like them: They run out of battery, they hurt your eyes, they don’t work in the bath. After years of growth, sales are stagnating. In 2014, 65 percent of 6 to 17-year-old children said they would always want to read books in print—up from 60 percent two years earlier.