What’s the latest word on print versus digital books?
April 16, 2016
I came across an article this week about the current status of print versus digital in the publishing industry. It’s from David Wexler and appears in the April 2016 edition of the IBPA magazine Independent. Wexler says the “industry average for digital sales is roughly 25 percent of all US book purchases.”
When you couple that with the fact that 50 new independent bookstores opened nationwide last year and that Amazon itself is venturing into its own physical bookstores, you realize plain old physical books are alive and well, even thriving.
This situation doesn’t surprise any book lover. I mean a book in any form is a thing of beauty, something far more than the sum of its parts. If a person loves to read, she will do so on her phone while on the El-Train, or sitting in a chair with a dog-eared mass market paperback.
In one of my lives, I sell physical used books on Amazon. As a result of that experience I have learned a lot about how bookselling works, and I long ago jettisoned the notion that the end of the physical book is near. Used physical books give us a real insight to the state of publishing and the availability of content. The big box stores operate on razor thin margins and hawk bestsellers. Books that don’t rise to the heights of bestsellerdom, if they ever make it on a shelf in the big stores at all, don’t last long. Soon they disappear into the book ether. But the used book market lives and breathes these beautiful cast off nuggets.
People can’t get enough physical books. For many of us who have become somewhat chronologically gifted the deal is that we don’t have enough living space in our houses because our collection of books threatens to evict us.
Again this is a beautiful thing for all readers. Because as people turn their books into store credit at used bookstores, or send them for sale on Amazon, their recycling efforts preserve those books for the next readers in line.
And what about the new book side of the equation? I buy probably half digital and half paper books. The digital I purchase often because I find a book I want to read and I don’t want to wait a few days for it to come in the mail. The physical ones I buy are ones I believe I will refer to over and over again, and I want to have the book where I can put my hands on it.
So the good news is physical books are alive and kicking, and digital books are alive and kicking.
What a wonderful thing for readers.