It turns out that Kindles are far less the market interruption than previously thought. According to CNN, the Publisher’s Association posted e-books at a 17 percent drop in the U.K. in 2016. On the opposite end sales of physical books increased by 7 percent, with children’s books in particular soaring by 16 percent. Long live the bookstore.
This isn’t just about the book culture across the pond, either. In the US, e-book sales saw a sharp decline with a decrease of 18.7 percent over nine months of 2016 according to the Association of American Publishers. And it wasn’t just Penguin paperbacks of 1984 seeing an increase in sales this year: Hardback books in general saw an uptick of 4.1 percent and paperbacks up by 7.5 percent.
Kids seem to be one of the driving forces behind the return to print interest, likely due to the desire for something tactile to hold. Phil Stokes, head of PwC’s entertainment and media division in the U.K, pointed to children’s books specifically.
There is also a symbolism to how these sorts of things are gifted, as Stokes claims “giving a book as a gift is far less impressive if you are giving a digital version.”
Another consequence is a growing cultural suspicion that constant technological exposure is hurting our brains, leading people to have nostalgia for a good old book. Sales of digital book reader devices declined by over 40 percent from 2011 to 2016, according to Euromonitor. On the American end, 65 percent of Americans reported reading an actual book last year, compared to only 28 percent who read a digital one.
But as this all seems fairly positive, the findings that only 25 percent of the American population hadn’t read anything at all last year is slightly depressing. As the e-reader declines, it is that bit of data that perhaps hurts the most.