As technology advances, there’s always been a smaller group within the larger consumer public that held on to the “old stuff” either for nostalgia or because they just liked them better. You can find classic cars with 8-tracks, and there are vintage record stores popping up everywhere. Hundreds of new ones opened in the past few years.
Now, according to the latest data, books are back. Real books. Sure, eReaders are still popular for some, because of the convenience of carrying many books on a small tablet, but that doesn’t mean people have abandoned their hardcover and paperback companions.
There was a time, though, that a lot of people seemed to think that books were on the way out. Kindles and other eReaders were all the rage. Millions of digital books were created, and people were leaving bookstores in droves. But that tide may be turning. Like vinyl records, books are making a strong comeback.
According to a recent report in CNN, sales of consumer eBooks fell nearly 19 percent in the United States and 17 percent in the United Kingdom, based on numbers from the Publishers Association. In the same period, paperback sales grew 7.5 percent, and hardbacks were up 4 percent.
Now, those latter two numbers aren’t exactly earth-shattering, but they do add a point to a trend line that appears to signal books are back. It appears, by the numbers, that genre books are driving this trend. While children’s books and recipe books have always been popular in print, fantasy, science fiction, and mysteries sell especially well in paperback.
Another reason people are giving for the resurgence in print books: escape from screen time. Upwards of 30 percent of people are intentionally stepping away from anything involving a screen, but they still want adventure and entertainment, so they’re turning back to books. There appears to be something cleansing, for many folks, in cutting off the power and just curling up with a favorite author’s latest work.
It’s a trend that seems likely to continue. Nearly six out of ten Americans read at least one printed book last year, while only three out of them read an eBook.
Another indicator that the tipping point for eReaders has come and gone? Sales of the devices declined more than 40 percent, a massive downturn that has many manufacturers looking for another income source. In the meantime, publishers have an opportunity here to promote and take advantage of this trend. They can get people reading again, and get those who already are reading more if they play this right.
Ronn Torossian is a PR maverick and the CEO of 5W PR in NYC.