What are the differences between ebook content and physical book content in terms of readability and/or sales? For example, are there any studies regarding the differences between the content that is considered readable on e-readers and content that is considered readable in printed form? Is there anything on the mass appeal of ebooks versus physical books based on their contents? In other words, what do we know about the differences between ebook readers and readers of physical book?

Note: I am not asking about the obvious, like proper file conversion, making sure that chapter/section headings are not separated from the following text, etc.

1 Answer 1


They are actually two different questions :-)

In Europe, for example, sales are affected by the fact that (paper) books have a very low VAT on them (in Italy it's at 4%) while ebooks are taxed like most goods (in Italy it's 22%), so it may even happen that an ebook is more expensive than a book.

As for readability, my impression is that it heavily depends from the type of book. A novel, or in general a text with few if any pictures and which is read sequentially, is equally readable; for non-fiction books, where people tend to skim content, to return on a previous section, or to peruse the notes at the end of the book, a physical book is easier to read but an ebook is easier to search in; mathematics on an ebook is a complete mess, at least until epub3 will be deployed in full.

I read on Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think that Amazon actually collects statistics on how people read on their Kindles, but I don't think the results are public ;-)

  • 1
    I also find that programming books are more difficult to read on an ereader if they have a lot of code examples. There are usually line breaks in unusual spots, or in the case of a pdf, you are forced to read at a smaller font size.
    – Jason Down
    Jan 1, 2014 at 20:12
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    To add to @Jason Down's comment: programming books are a striking example of the circumstances when PDF excels a flowable format like ePub.
    – Roger_S
    Jan 2, 2014 at 17:57

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