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The Nook May Be New, But Paper Books Are Still Going Strong

Barnes & Noble introduced the latest version of its Nook e-reader today at its Union Square store in Manhattan, with a considerable amount of hoopla. (The New York Times drily noted, "Barnes & Noble did its best to heighten the theater of the event, surrounding the seated news media with dozens of employees dressed in black, who loudly applauded, hooted and whistled throughout the presentation by William Lynch, the chief executive of Barnes & Noble. Many of the employees headed for the exits immediately after the event.") Still, Barnes & Noble has plenty to be proud of: The Nook now commands over 25% of the e-reader market, and, with e-books outselling paper books on rival vendor Amazon, it looks as if the bookseller has carved out a solid portion of a fast-growing market. But are paper books going the way of horse-drawn carriages, cassettes, and AOL email accounts?

Not yet, at least according to a March survey of college students around the country by the National Association of College Stores. The percent of students owning an e-reader did nearly double from five months earlier, from 8% to 15%, and nearly 40% said they had used a "dedicated e-reader." However, even among a demographic that could reasonably expected to be "early adopters" of e-readers, 75% of students surveyed said "if the choice was entirely theirs, they would select a print textbook" rather than an e-book. NACS's release did not discuss the reasons for such a large majority, but it's likely that college students in this survey ran into the same problems that students in a pilot Kindle program did, such as the lack of easy-to-use notetaking software, and the difficulty in finding a previously-read passage. Take heart, then, senior citizens: "kids these days" aren't always obsessed with technology.