Paper pages or e-book reader?

What and how do Belarusians read? We look at the top-selling books in paper and e-book format
By Lyudmila Boiko

Belarus boasts 3.5-4 new editions published annually per capita: one of the highest numbers worldwide. During 2012, the Year of Books, 11,344 editions were published, with a total circulation over 33 million copies. However, are we reading paper editions or are e-books taking over? Does the trend differ for different genres? 

For those who doubt that modern Belarusians love reading, they should simply travel on public transport. These days, you may be more likely to see people using a tablet or ‘reader’ than a paperback but, clearly, reading remains as popular as ever.

The Subscription Editions bookshop tells us, “People are buying traditionally bound books in smaller numbers and fiction is less popular than handbooks and guidebooks but we do notice people coming in to browse, so that they can download books in electronic form later.”

Books are viewed as an expensive luxury: the perfect gift. Of course, it’s much cheaper to download them online, and the benefits of obvious: a ‘reader’ is lighter to carry, compact and can carry a huge number of editions (limited only by the size of your memory card). You can carry a whole library in one pocket! Their suitability for holidays and the daily commute is clear. However, fans of traditional page-turning can be hard to convert. They love the smell and feel of the pages, finding the tactile experience more comforting. Naturally, a growing number are ‘converted’ to e-books with each passing year but traditional hardback illustrated editions continue to lead the list of best-sellers.

It’s a personal choice and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t enjoy e-books and paper editions equally. Encyclopaedias are just as wonderful a gift in hardback form as ever. Our desire to read lives on, encouraging us to learn new facts and to improve our understanding of the world. This is at the heart of reading.
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