Are Paper Books Making a Comeback?
In an age where everything is digitized, it might surprise you to hear that print paper books gaining popularity. People are now trying to limit their screen time and this trend is reflected in book sales. E-book sales in the UK has seen nearly a 20 per cent plunge in 2016 alone. During that same year in the USA, paperback sales rose 7.5 per cent and children’s book sales were up over 15 per cent. This tells us that digital technology has not had the same effect on publishing that it has in other industries like music and media.
The rise of print book sales
There are so many reasons why people prefer physical books over their digital counterparts, including the tactile experience that comes with turning each page.As well, independent and discount bookstores as well as online retailers are making buying books convenient, particularly when customers already know what they want. They don’t have to browse through the rest of the collection in order to find the one they want. This streamlines the process and can be done from the comfort of their own home.
Independently owned bookstores, on the other hand, have become community cornerstones. Since they exist within a neighbourhood, they are able to curate their collections to better suit the environment in which they are in. This makes the content more engaging and interesting to potential customers. People also tend to find that the stores themselves are more inviting and feel free to just browse more than they do in larger chain bookstores.
Finally, many people are looking to spend less time in front of their screens. We’re all aware that many of us now look at screens at work, for entertainment, and to communicate. This along with new methods of purchasing print books, has led to their increase in sales.
Is this just a trend?
Many people are happy to hear about the resurgence of print books. It appeals to our nostalgia and reminds us of an era that existed before the pervasiveness of digital technology. However, some people speculate that the spike in print sales we’re experiencing is just a trend that won’t last.
For instance, Jane Friedman cites Amazon as the main reason we’re seeing a rise in print books. Due to print books’ declining sales throughout the past decade, often the physical version of the book is offered at a discounted rate which undercuts the ebook price. If Amazon adjusts its prices to reflect the surge in print purchases and removes the discount, Friedman argues that print sales will once again plummet.
Friedman also cites traditional book retailers as an indication that this is just a trend. The well-known book retailer Barnes and Noble are famously experiencing hard times and closing locations everywhere. During the surge in print book sales, Barnes and Nobles’ sales declined by 6 percent (as did the book sales of other department stores like Walmart). She also argues that while independent bookstores are in fact surviving, they’re not excelling. This could mean big trouble for the independent movement if attitudes change even slightly.
Print books in the future
While it might be true that time is the only way to know what will become of print books, and despite words of caution from critics, the future of print paper books is bright. According to a 2016 New York Times article, Amazon is so confident in its book sales that the online retailer is even planning on opening more physical bookstores. The Amazon bookstore will operate in conjunction with the online store; customers will be able to look at books all they want at the physical location and can purchase it later at the online bookstore. They will also be able to easily order any book on the website that is not in stock.
The extent of the success of independent and discount bookstores might be up for debate, but there is no denying that print books are seeing a resurgence. While it was once a dying industry, these bookstores are experiencing growth while established large book retailers are on the decline. The power of these independent shops lie in the connection they have with their communities.
Given that independent bookstores are on the rise, perhaps the reason for the decline of large chain bookstores is their business model is outdated. People want more options when it comes to purchasing books. And Amazon and independent bookstores are providing these options, allowing people to purchase from the comfort of their home or visit a local bookstore where they can see and feel the books before buying.
Books are forever
The popularity of print books are an anomaly in this digital age. However, for many bookworms, this is no surprise. Many would that it is more satisfying having the physical paper books to read rather than an ebook. For anyone who feels this way, the best thing they can do is support a local independent bookstore.