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In 2015, over 2.6 billion physical books were sold according to the Publisher's Association. This amount means that there has been a 7% increase in the total amount of physical book sales than the year before. This is the key evidence to support the idea that more and more people are reading physical books even though we are in the midst of a digital age.
When the Publisher's Association released the data for physical books they also released data which shows a 4% decrease in e-book sales. This is unusual as, since we are in the 'digital age', it is expected that people would be reading more on their technological devices rather than going out to bookstores to purchase their books of choice.
However, whilst all of the data shows patterns of sales, what isn't being spoken about are the reasons why people are choosing to read physical copies of books despite the apparent convenience of digital alternatives.
Within this article, I will be looking at the facts and statistics in depth and seeing what it means for the future of books and whether we can see a decline coming in the future. I will also try to see if there is a reason why people prefer physical copies of books over e-books and see if this correlates with the data provided.
The Decrease in Ebook Sales
The Publishers Association found that digital content sales had fallen by £11m in 2014. The Bookseller also discovered a similar result and found, in its own report, that the five biggest general trade publishers in the UK had their eBook sales fall collectively by 2.4% in 2015.
It is believed that this fall may be due to the sudden popularity of adult colouring books and so people are using their free time to colour these rather than reading on their various devices.
Another reason as to why there has been a fall in the past two years is due to the lack of marketing and distribution. In 2010, the need to consume eBooks surged and drove sales upwards but once people had experienced then maybe preferred physical copies and reverted back to the traditional format of reading. Today, in 2017, it is very rare that you see advertisements for eBooks and so they have fallen off people's radar and this may be a contributor also.
This may be disputed, however, as a lot of popular YouTubers and online personalities are sponsored by Audible.com and as a result, a lot of sales are expected to come from this due to the sheer amount of advertisements and endorsements. On the other hand, the constant pushing of Audible may make people unsure about visiting the site and the app and, instead, they opt for a printed copy.
The Increase in Printed Sales
As mentioned earlier, the sudden emergence and popularity of adult colouring books are believed to be one of the main causes for more and more people purchasing printed copies of books.
Another reason why people are going out to purchase books in person may be due to the sheer amount of movies, television series, and video games that are based on best-selling novels. The most recent example of this is 'The Girl On The Train' by Paula Hawkins. The biggest hardback seller was The Girl on The Train, selling more than 546,000 copies – the newly released paperback version has sold 60,000 copies in just three days. This data was for 2016- which was the same year in which the movie was released.
A major reason why more people may be reading physical copies of books is due to the immersive nature of reading fiction as it allows you to transport yourself into a world where your problems do not exist. With mental health issues increasing, people may be turning to literature in order to distance themselves from the thoughts that are wandering in their heads.
“Digital continues to be an incredibly important part of the industry, but it would appear there remains a special place in the consumer’s heart for aesthetic pleasure that printed books can bring,” said Publishers Association chief executive Stephen Lotinga. This thoroughly suggests that the materialistic nature of people means that they would like a product to 'show off' and to display so that other people can admire their books. This ties in well with the fact that many book lovers say they prefer to hold a book and let the smell and feel consume them as it creates an entire experience for them.
Overall, it seems that people are choosing to purchase books that they can hold and place on their bookshelves rather than ones in which they can read on their phones (or other devices), and this can be due to quite a few reasons. Some of these are;
- The aesthetic that comes along with purchasing the book
- The immersive nature that acts as a form of escapism
- People are wanting to take time away from their devices due to using them almost all day in their personal, and professional lives.
There are many more reasons and there is simply no way in which I could list them all due to each person having a different opinion and then many different reasons as to why they hold this opinion. If you would like more information on this subject there are many sites with facts and statistics and you can even ask people around you to see which they prefer... you will start to see certain patterns with different groups of people.