Okay, disclaimer right up front. I love printed books – I mean I am probably more passionate about an actual book than about almost anything else in the world!
As my regular readers will know, I started out at the age of 18 as a trainee sales rep for a mainstream book publisher and worked my way up to being a divisional head of Random House and subsequently managing director of a publishing house. I own more books than clothes, or cd’s or anything else combined – and that is in spite of when I moved to Canada 25 years ago, selling or giving away more than a thousand books.
So, why am I telling you all of this? Because I predicted back in 2011 (and perhaps even earlier) eBooks would never take over from physically printed books. I always saw it as a fad and that’s what it was. That’s not to say that eReaders and eBooks aren’t still selling – they are but they’ve seen a drop of 40% since 2011 and almost 19% in the last year in the U.S. and just a little less in the U.K. In Canada, 2016 saw eBook sales drop by 19% over 2015.
On the other hand, sales of books in the U.S. are up some 3.3% over last year. A survey by the Pew Research Center states, “Fully 65% of Americans have read a print book in the last year, more than double the share that has read an e-book (28%) and more than four times the share that has consumed book content via audio book (14%).”
To me, there is nothing better than the feel of a brand-new book; the thrill of anticipation of starting to read a new work of art. I’m not a total purist, I did try eBooks when they first came out. The first was by my favorite author John Irving. It was his new book and I was on my way to Mexico for a relaxing beach vacation. I read the book on my wife’s eReader, but found the whole experience unsatisfying. So much so that on my return to Canada, I promptly purchased the hardcover and read it again.
I tried again on a business trip to Las Vegas, but when I came to boot-up my eReader as I settled into my airplane seat I found it was dead. That was it, I’ve never read an eBook again.
Of course, statistics such as those above can be made to support any case and there are dozens of factors that influence eBook and print book sales. But even if we don’t give the stats too much credence, the trend is clear – the physical book is back and I for one am celebrating!