Thursday, September 24, 2015

Demand for print remains strong while interest in e-books wanes

The New York Times reports that despite initial predictions traditional books are a dying medium, demand has remained strong, even increased, while sales of e-books have slipped. I've got an article on SSRN that compiles a lot of research supporting the superiority of print as a medium when it comes to reading challenging material as well as data from numerous student surveys debunking the myth that so-called "digital natives" prefer screens to print (indeed reading habits among teens and college students are far more nuanced than the facile stereotypes would have you believe). You can check out my article here while below is an excerpt from the NYT story:

The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead

Five years ago, the book world was seized by collective panic over the uncertain future of print.


As readers migrated to new digital devices, e-book sales soared, up 1,260 percent between 2008 and 2010, alarming booksellers that watched consumers use their stores to find titles they would later buy online. Print sales dwindled, bookstores struggled to stay open, and publishers and authors feared that cheaper e-books would cannibalize their business.


Then in 2011, the industry’s fears were realized when Borders declared bankruptcy.


. . . .


Now, there are signs that some e-book adopters are returning to print, or becoming hybrid readers, who juggle devices and paper. E-book sales fell by 10 percent in the first five months of this year, according to the Association of American Publishers, which collects data from nearly 1,200 publishers. Digital books accounted last year for around 20 percent of the market, roughly the same as they did a few years ago.


E-books’ declining popularity may signal that publishing, while not immune to technological upheaval, will weather the tidal wave of digital technology better than other forms of media, like music and television.


. . . .


“The fact that the digital side of the business has leveled off has worked to our advantage,” said Oren Teicher, chief executive of the American Booksellers Association. “It’s resulted in a far healthier independent bookstore market today than we have had in a long time.”


Publishers, seeking to capitalize on the shift, are pouring money into their print infrastructures and distribution. Hachette added 218,000 square feet to its Indiana warehouse late last year, and Simon & Schuster is expanding its New Jersey distribution facility by 200,000 square feet.


Penguin Random House has invested nearly $100 million in expanding and updating its warehouses and speeding up distribution of its books. It added 365,000 square feet last year to its warehouse in Crawfordsville, Ind., more than doubling the size of the warehouse.


“People talked about the demise of physical books as if it was only a matter of time, but even 50 to 100 years from now, print will be a big chunk of our business,” said Markus Dohle, the chief executive of Penguin Random House, which has nearly 250 imprints globally. Print books account for more than 70 percent of the company’s sales in the United States.


. . . . 

Continue reading the NYT story here.


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