07 Jan 2013 10:38
by Nick Farrell in Rome
It is starting to look like the death of bound books has been much exaggerated. For the last few years, technology pundits have been declaring books were dead as a dodo and the world was going to read from tablets and ebooks in the future.
This has been confirmed by shedloads of statistics which show ebooks rushing past traditional book sales.
But the Wall Street Journal has been looking closely at a Pew study on the reading habits of Americans.
The report, with the catchy title, E-book Reading Jumps; Print Book Reading Declines, suggests the doom of Gutenberg’s dream, but there are a few stats which suggest that something else is happening.
For a start, print is still the preferred format for American book readers, with 89 percent of them reporting that they read at least one printed book over a year. While this statistic strikes us as shocking, apparently the fact that American’s have difficulty reading was not the point – which was that only 30 percent say they read at least one e-book.
While the percentage of American adults who read e-books increased over the past year, the percentage that read printed books fell, but the changes are not that great.
E-book readers rose from 16 percent to 23 percent, while printed book readers declined from 72 percent to 67 percent. The change is happening, but it is slowing down.
Other sales data suggests that print sales are holding their own against digital books and that ebook sales are slowing down.
The Association of American Publishers recently reported that annual growth in adult e-book sales dropped to 34 percent during the first half of 2012.
Ereader sales are dropping, partly because there is a shift from e-readers to tablets. Sales of e-readers fell 36 percent in 2012, according to estimates from IHS iSuppli, while tablet sales exploded.
The reading of ebooks on tablets is significantly less as readers have to compete with all sorts of distractions such as games, videos and Facebook. It is also harder to read a book on a tablet.
What looks to be happening is that the mass-market paperbacks are taking a kicking from ebooks, but the traditional books, which deliver information are holding their own.
In other words ebooks are fast becoming the way to deliver pulp fiction or for those moments when you are travelling and don’t want to lug a book around.
Children’s ebooks are growing too, but that appears to be part of a general increase in kids book sales. Printed kids books have also been doing rather well lately. In the UK, sales of printed books reached their highest level in three years during the week before Christmas.