The Book is No Longer Doomed!

In case you didn’t see it, there was an article in The Daily Telegraph last month: ‘A New Chapter as Sales of Print Books Recover’, and it goes on to say:

“. . . Reports of the death of the traditional book have been greatly exaggerated, according to the definitive annual survey of the industry.  The Publishers Association study (UK) revealed sales of print books are rising while digital sales are down for the first time since the invention of the e-reader.  Experts say the claim the ‘physical book is doomed’ can ‘finally be refuted’.

“Stephen Lotinga, the Publishers Association chief executive said: ‘Those who made predictions about the death of the book may have underestimated just how much people love paper’.

“This year’s annual report shows physical book sales of £2.76 billion in 2015, up from £2.75 billion in 2014.  Digital sales dropped from £563 million to £554 million, the first year-on-year fall since 2011 when the association started measuring e-book sales.  The change has been attributed to readers realising the pleasure to be taken in a physical book, as well as the popularity of lifestyle non-fiction that does not translate well to digital.  Among those are adult colouring books, which have seen a boom in the last year, along with cookery books and retro humour such as the spoof How to . . . Ladybird series, which proved popular at Christmas.

“Hardback versions of much-hyped new works such as Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman also proved best sellers, along with cult novels such as The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

“Joanna Prior, managing director of Penguin General Books, said: ‘Both the increase (in physical book sales)and decrease (in digital sales) are too small . . . for us to make any claims for big shifts in consumer behaviour or make predictions for what lies ahead.  But I do think any suggestion that the physical book is doomed can now be definitively refuted.’

I, for one, am pleased to see these results.  In the first place, I have never been able to convince myself to read a digital book.  For me, having real book in my hands and being able to turn the pages is the essence of comfort in reading.  When I was doing a lot of driving, I found that audio books were a much better form of entertainment on a long drive than listening to the radio, so I was a regular user of the audio books section of the local library.  In fact, when I stopped taking long trips by car, I wanted to read the Qur’an.  I downloaded a copy to my iPod and listened to in when I was in the gym.  (Now, when I’m in the gym, I watch BBC News, and, occasionally, listen to country music.  I find the activity in the gym too distracting to concentrate on a good, new novel.)

Secondly, I get a sense of personal satisfaction from producing a physical book: one that I can hold in my hands of give to a friend.  And, finally, author royalties tend to be better – per unit sold – for physical rather than electronic books.

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