The paper has been around for over two thousand years. Ever since the Chinese first invented paper with linen and straw, it quickly outdated books made of bamboo, silk, skin, and papyrus. Today’s paper industry relies heavily on trees for its products. It was reported that primary forest area was reduced globally by 60,000 square kilometers per year, about the size of Ireland [greenfacts.org, 2009]. The paper industry and other non-lumber products consumed 1.6 billion trees, or 300 million tons of paper each year which equals to 43 percent of the total tree consumption globally [understory.ran.org, 2008]. The U.S., which contains only 5 percent of the world’s population, uses 30 percent of all paper, and the forest and paper products industry generates $200 billion dollars in sales every year, accounting for 7 percent of the total manufacturing output of the United States. About 28 percent of all wood cut in the U.S. is used for papermaking [ecology.com, 2011]. Deforestation due to paper and other industries’ needs has alarmingly endangered our environment and the nature [Parsons, 2012].
Ebooks that do not use paper are emerging from an almost zero ten years ago, to today’s total sales of $2,079 million US$ in 2012 and have grasped 31.85% of the total sales of books [mediabistro.com, 2013]. E-book sales are expected to surge to $2.7 billion by the end of 2013 with a compound annual growth rate of 72 percent, according to Yankee Group projections [Trachtenberg, 2011].
The emergence of ebooks [and all other digital forms of publishing, i.e. newspaper, magazines, etc] is challenging the traditional way of publishing and reading. The academic research in this area is still quite limited due to this emerging nature of ebooks. Newsweek, with its 80 year history, recently announced a complete seizure of its printed form, while retaining only its digital form [Hagey and Fitzgerald, 2012]. Plenty of other printed publications, i.e. PC Magazine, Gourmet, and SmartMoney, etc. have embraced digital-only strategies, encouraged by the proliferation of digital tablets and the growth in digital advertising over the past two years [Gillette, 2012].
This study, in an empirical setting, examines the users’ preferences, in order to provide some managerial insights on this digital publishing market: what consumers prefer and how they make purchasing decisions. The focus is mainly on the issues of the digital publishing and printed publishing. In addition, this study attempts through an empirical exploration to investigate if there were any differences resulted from the consumers’ viewpoints between ebooks and printed books, centering on product offerings and their qualities, price (including promotions), deliveries and usability. This study aims to explore the impact of the emerging ebooks on the publishing industry, on book readers and their reading behavior, on our society and on general global environment.
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(Author: Chiang-nan Chao, Leonora Fuxman, I. Hilmi Elifoglu