Market Update: We’re all Bullish on Books

readingbooksU.S. consumers are feeling bookish; print book sales are up while e-books edge down.

As more consumers move from desktops and laptops to smartphones and mobile devices, e-book sales have fallen off and print books continue to rise. Because let’s be honest; nobody wants to read ‘War and Peace’ on their wrist.

Book sales figures from the last several years show clear signs that digital – however dire the predictions – has not killed the printed book industry, according to K. Lukovitz in IPDA.

“E-books’ market share grew from 0.5% in 2007 to 21.8% in 2013 (with most of that growth during 2009 to 2012), but has now plateaued, even declining a bit, to 22%, as of 2014, according to AAP data. That parallels a decline in sales of e-book readers and desktops and laptops, and rises in smartphones and tablets,” Lukovitz writes, citing a speech by Random House’s Tom Cox at a recent event.

“Print book unit sales rose 5% between 2013 and 2015, with increases in the fiction, nonfiction and juvenile subcategories,” he continues. “Adult nonfiction gains, recently driven by adult coloring books, have offset declines in adult fiction that reflect no current replacement for the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ phenomenon.”

(While some may argue that coloring books aren’t “books” in the proper sense, the fact remains that the tactical, sensory experience of the product is a massive part of its appeal. There are plenty of coloring apps out there, but they certainly don’t provide the same satisfaction.)

Digital media certainly has a place in book marketing, as Cox noted, but it’s the printed book that engages best. “While social media are an effective platform for promoting to targeted audiences, print books remain critical to the discovery that drives sales,” he explains.

“Browsing displays in physical stores remains the most common way to discover specific book titles. In a 2015 Nielsen survey, 16% of book consumers reported seeking out new books in stores. The next-most-used book discovery channels were TV ads and in-person recommendations from friends or relatives, each cited by 5%,” Lukovitz adds.

Yes, the adult fiction market has definitely felt the impact of e-books and the rise of print on demand publishing. It does seem, however, that there’s still plenty of room for printed books in readers’ hearts and shelves. Millennials in particular are enjoying print books, and that bodes well for the future of the industry. Books are beautiful things.