An article in The Sunday Times claims the explosion in ebook sales that seemed to herald the end of print is slowing. ‘People are returning to books’ it claims. But is this true?
In 2011, says the piece, ebook sales went up to 366% and many stories appeared in newspapers headlined, ‘Is this the death of the printed book?’. But apparently the rise in ebook sales during the past year in Britain and America has begun to flatten out. Last year in the ten months from January to October the increase is just 16%.
Thus, the author surmises – particularly as he himself noted as he sat on The Tube recently – that only one person had an ereader, there is a return to print books. This was because only one person had an ereader, whereas there was one person with an iPad, two reading books and three people reading free newspapers – enough evidence, presumably, to convince him to write this two page epic to try to convince us all that people are returning to print books.
So is he correct? Are we all going to continue reading print books in future – actually return to print books and the ebook will just die away?
Firstly, print books have never gone away and I don’t believe they ever will do. After all, some books – aspirational travel, lifestyle and cookery to name a few – will always be best read in print, mostly due to the fact they need to be illustrated with glossy photos. Plus they are the sort of books that double up as a home decoration – you sit them on a coffee table in your lounge.
Meanwhile, libraries will still exist (although a huge number have already closed down) but otherwise I believe that 16% increase will continue to erode the print book industry until eventually – a little like having a mobile phone – if you want to read a paperback novel, you will read it on a Kindle or ereader.
The author gives a ridiculous story at the beginning of the article about some chap (him?) called Joe who went on holiday with friends. To cut a very long-winded story much shorter, he had an ereader and so did some of his friends – but two of them dropped their ereaders and broke them. So they read books from the villa where they were staying – and their ‘mates’ with ereaders also switched to reading these print books too. This is proof, he says, that reading a printed book is more preferable to an ereader.
Firstly, I am amazed that any group of 26 year-old lads has nothing better to do than read on their holiday anyway. Secondly, perhaps I’ve been unfortunate, but in the holiday homes I’ve stayed in I’ve been lucky to find one dog-eared Jackie Collins novel (not my thing) let alone shelves of books with enough choice that the whole family has ample reading matter… And then ebooks are not that easy to break – they are actually pretty robust even when dropped.
Actually I am a fan of print books but the fact is as ereaders come down in price (which they will do) and you can pick one up for a tenner – or books are even sold in an ereader (so you can pay £5 perhaps for a novel already loaded onto an ereader) something I believe we will see in a few years, then they will soar.
Finally, I will give a good – sensible – example of why ebooks are not only here to stay but set to increase in popularity. My own mother, aged 76, is a life-long book worm. Last year I gave her a kindle for Christmas. I have to say it was more a gift given out of desperation that I couldn’t think of anything else to give her, because I didn’t honestly expect her to use it – but I was wrong. She chooses to buy books and read them on that. Why? Well, as she will tell you, you can take 20 books with you on your Kindle on holiday but 20 paperbacks in your luggage on a plane is hard to sort. If she runs out, she can be anywhere and as long as there’s a wifi connection, simply buy some more (have you tried finding a decent book abroad to read if you run out?) Because the print is adjustable, she can read without glasses, it is lighter than a fat paperback to hold, easier for arthritic hands to turn pages, you can read a chapter first for free to check you like the book before purchase, she falls asleep and it never loses her page, it gives her recommendations for other books .. there are no old paperbacks cluttering up your home, you don’t have to drive to the charity shop with old books. There are many other reasons she gives as to why she loves her Kindle… Need I go on.
The fact is ebooks are here to stay. After all, once hardly anyone had computers and now iPads are incredibly common. Habits don’t change overnight. People do not abandon one way of doing something for another straightaway – but like it or not, reading a book on an ereader or an iPad will eventually become the norm.
Back to the article and while the author first quotes his lad’s holiday case study Joe saying he won’t be buying an ereader again – in an about turn, Joe is then quoted saying: “I won’t get another til I go on holiday again.” I rest my case. Even Joe chooses to read his paperback on the beach on an ereader…
What do you think? Will we all reading books on an ereader become the norm? Or will we forget ebooks and return to print books?