The Unexpected Comeback of Actual Books
Print strikes back.
Image via Flickr user Ian Collins
It’s back, baby! After an extended, decade-long funeral for print, actual paper-and-ink books bounced back this year, according to a report from Quartz. Nielsen BookScan, which collects data on 85 percent of the print market, says 571 million paper books were sold in the U.S. this year, up from 559 million in 2014 and 501 million in 2013.
It’s not a huge increase (about 2.1 percent over the year, if we’re getting specific), but publishing insiders say the change could mark a mini backlash against e-readers like the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook.
“A lot of people a few years ago got new devices, so like anything that’s new and exciting you lean toward that for a period of time,” Brent Lewis, the executive vice president for North American marketing at the romance publisher Harlequin, told the Associated Press. “And that shine has worn off a little bit. Some people have reverted back a bit to paper.”
The year was also marked by a number of major book releases, which may have also helped boost print sales as Americans scrambled to collect soon-to-be classics. The AP notes that Harper Lee’s much-anticipated Go Set a Watchman, the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, sold much more briskly in paper than digital copies. In fact, the hardcover version of the book outsold the e-book 4-to-1.
Coloring books and books by YouTube stars also did well, said Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy, proving that even print books can’t escape the internet.
A Pew Research report published in the fall found that fewer Americans own an e-reader this year than two years ago. Just 19 percent said they owned an e-book reader in 2015, compared to 32 percent in early 2014 and 24 percent in late 2013. That delicious old-book smell may live yet.