Since the introduction of eBooks, it has long been predicted that a paperless future is doomed to hit the book world sooner or later. It has had a big impact but the tide has appeared to have turned. You may have seen or heard about the figures from the Publishers Association recently, stating that:
“2016 was a record breaking year for book sales in the UK, as they are up by 8%, with eBook sales dropping by 17%.” – the Publishers Association 
The same trend was also seen in the U.S. too, where paperback book sales were up by 7.5% over the same period and eBook sales fell by 18.7% in the first nine months of 2016. While these figures are specifically looking at eBooks rather than overall digital sales, it is really interesting to see why people are moving away from the kindle trend and are rekindling their love affair with print.
Reasons Why the Physical Book is Making a Comeback
When the eBook was released it, it was an exciting new piece of trendy tech and almost everyone wanted one. In fact, in the first 5 hours following its release, it sold out despite its hefty price tag! The idea that you could carry hundreds of books in one tiny slip of plastic sold itself. However, like most new technology, just a decade later this trendy tech became old-fashioned. Followed by the iBooks app that you can access on your iPhone or tablet, the kindle now looked bulky and became less convenient.
While the digital reading experience will continue to develop and maintain a loyal audience, many e-readers tend to consume physical books as well. Why? For the same reasons we all love print:
1) Print is Tangible
“Part of the positive pressure that digital has exerted on the industry is that publishers have rediscovered their love of the physical,” – James Daunt, Managing Director of Waterstones.
When you think of thrillers, part of the pleasure of the tension building is turning each page to reveal the next part of the story. It slows you down and makes you think. This element is lost in eBooks, from the tap of a screen to turn each page to the percentage read function, and people are starting to miss this physical aspect of the reading experience.
2) Print Gives You a Sensory Experience
One of the reasons for the rise of physical books is children’s books. In fact, this audience (from children to young adults) has always been more popular in print and it actually saw the most significant growth last year with sales surging by 16%! Why? Because you simply cannot replicate the sensory and stimulatory experience that children need on digital platforms. Many children’s books offer pop out experiences, ‘lift the flap’ storylines and touch and feel elements, even puzzle pages! Whether in play group, school or at home, children can stick their noses in a book and get lost in it.
3) Print is a Sociable Experience
Another reason why children books have surged is because they are a sharing experience. Parents love to teach their children and cherish the act of reading it together. Again, this is an experience that cannot be replicated digitally and most parents wouldn’t like their children to be fixed to a screen anyway.
As well as children’s books, print overall is very sociable. Whether in a book club, colouring club, sharing a newspaper or scrutinising a magazine, print gets people together and it gets people talking.
4) Print is More Robust
Another trend in the physical book rise was hardback cook books. Although you can easily whip up a recipe online with a click of a button, many people prefer to have their recipes in book form for many reasons, the main two being that it keeps the feel of cooking traditional and we’d rather have sauce splashes on our books rather than our expensive iPads! There’s something about battered old books that gives them charm, a characteristic we don’t get from our tablets.
5) Print IS Unplugging
A study by Ofcom found that one-third of adults had attempted a “digital detox” in 2016, starting with limiting their use of smartphones, tablets, and other digital devices. This digital detox has become very common among all audiences, especially as we become more aware of how digitally active we are. So what can we do to relax? Unwind with a good book! Reading has long been a form of relaxing, where we have chosen to switch off, sit down and escape, and it looks like it will continue to be.
6) Print is Beautiful
As surprising as it sounds, books are starting to become celebrated again as objects of beauty; they are coveted in their own right! Publishers are becoming more inventive with print, embossing hard book covers and opting for a higher quality paper. Nowadays, if you take a book cover off, you’ll be sure to find something interesting underneath. Hard books, in particular, feel very lavish, plus they look great on a book shelf!
This boom of ‘book appreciation’ has also hit social media, leading to trends such as #bookstagram where books feature in a wide range of landscapes in an almost ‘book fashion shoot’ kind of way. They have even been featured in Spring/Summer lines such as in Fantastic Man Magazine. It has long been recognised that people want sexy-looking books and often buy based on aesthetics. Now, with the recent rise in book sales, it seems we are drawing on this more and more.
7) Print is Sentimental
When you read a particularly good book, do you keep it? I’m sure all of us have cherished a favourite book at some point in our lives, but does a digital copy of a particularly amazing thriller have the same meaning? Many people agree that it isn’t as symbolic. In fact, many e-readers have said that they often read in bulk digitally and then buy their favourites in print to keep later.
Although digital books will continue to hold a substantial market, it seems that they are finding their natural level as print starts to creep back up. However, it is the younger generation that took us by surprise. This age group is assumed to opt for the most technological reading experience, yet the figures show that much like vinyl, young adults tend to be keen to get their hands on the more physical things.
Obviously, avid readers and publishers want people to read whatever their method. However, from various studies into reading platforms, it seems that people who do read, tend to buy books sooner or later.
What we can do for you:
As a printer of books supplying to publishers and self-publishers, we have seen a surge in the last 6 months of print quantities. So, if you have any book printing needs or even an idea that you’d like to get on the bookshelves, get in touch and we’ll help you make that a reality.