Paper book sales soar

You’ve probably seen a headline like this on Twitter; the particular one that broke this camel’s back is from CTV News Vancouver. On a light note, I’d like to point out that Canada are reporting paper book sales up just after I had a trip to Canada and filled my suitcase and my partner’s with new books from Indigo and various non-chain bookshops. Coincidence?

Well, yes, but I like it anyway. Even though I was in Calgary, not Vancouver. And made some of my purchases in Edmonton. You’re missing the point.

Anyway, I’m getting pretty sick of these headlines, which inevitably come with lines about how reading a “real” book is more satisfying. More interesting, perhaps, are the articles which I’ve seen that show teens are not big adopters of ereaders and ebooks. I’d love to see more about that, because this is a generation that has grown up reading from screens all the time. Maybe it’s because when we’re reading, we want to escape from the everyday world. When screens are your everyday world, maybe you want something that creates a bit more separation, and has no extra bells and whistles to let you know that you just got five emails.

Maybe it’s because many teens just aren’t that interested in books, and therefore won’t invest in an ereader, and teen purchases of books tend to be one-offs, in paperback. I don’t know; I’d love to see studies on why teens aren’t adopting ereaders/ebooks — link me, if they exist!

But what I really don’t get is the way people are crowing over the “failure” of ebooks. I walk into the eye clinic I volunteer at, and I clock at least three Kindles in each 2.5 hour session. They’re great for making books accessible. Large print books are usually not cost effective: the library I volunteer for have a collection of older ones, but I don’t think we’ve added a new large print title in years. They’re just not available for reasonable prices. But you can choose your own font size — uniquely calibrated to your needs and preferences. You can pick your own font, too. Some ereaders even have the font designed for dyslexic readers as an option.

I’m not seeing the failure here. People are choosing what works for them. Ebooks constitute 17% of sales in Canada, for example. That’s not nothing, or a failure. It’s people choosing the technology they’re comfortable with, and which suits their needs. The stats don’t even tell us anything about whether people use both.

For me, it doesn’t matter. I’m not “more satisfied” reading one way or the other. I love my ereader for the access I get to ARCs and the way ereaders create opportunities for short fiction and serialisation. I love paper books because, yeah, I like the smell of the pages, I like to own things. I like my ereader because it has a backlight which adjusts to current lighting conditions, and I can get new releases cheaper. I love paper books because they make my room look lived in. I love my ereader because I can travel, with all the books I want still at my fingertips. Kindle sales can be amazing, but there’s also the satisfaction of carrying home a nice stack of books.

It’s weird how invested people get in the “death” of ebooks, in how “artificial” they are or how they’re “killing” the book industry. Nope, Amazon across all book sales is much more of a threat than ebook sales as a whole, including non-Amazon sources.

I have no big investment in how other people read. Ebooks, paperbacks, hardbacks, audiobooks — whatever floats your boat. Just read, I don’t care in what format.

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7 thoughts on “Paper book sales soar

  1. My biggest objection to eReaders is the problem of ownership; you own the reader not the book. Given my paranoia about Big Brother this makes me very uneasy. The other risks associated with whole-sale abandonment of paper books are set out well in Century Rain. It’s abundantly clear that readers are not driving such a total abandonment – and it’s not at all clear how things will evolve. At the moment it seems like most people who read a lot use a mixture of paper and e-books for reasons that are personal to them.

    • Indeed. I think people like to be sensational about it either way — either the paper book is on the way out, or the evil ebooks have been defeated — and it annoys me because it’s not so clear-cut. And it doesn’t need to be an emotive issue. (But of course it becomes so for me, because I am very aware of the accessibility issues with books, I like my gadgets, and reading is a big part of my identity so when someone starts yakking on about how I can’t really be a reader because ZOMG KINDLE… Sigh.)

  2. Huge fonts and the fact that I usually use my phone to read ebooks, so I don’t have to carry extra around are the major reason I’ve been able to get back into reading published books at all. Yes, occasionally I will pick up something in paper if I really want to make sure it won’t poof into the ether just in case B&N pulls it, but on the whole, it’s ebooks all the way.

    Where I live, there’s one bookstore that isn’t attached to a university and that bookstore is honestly mostly made of things that are not books, so yeah. And I love reading! But I don’t love it enough to make four hour round trips all that frequently to the nearest better bookstore, or the hour to the library.

    I’d honestly prefer it if both formats were easily available, because physical copies are just as necessary as ebooks. I don’t get why one has to win over the other, when the entire purpose is to get people to BUY YOUR BOOKS.

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