Just think, around fifteen years ago the media predicted the death of physical books. In hindsight, we can see why – things were pretty shaky in the music industry during that time too, with revenue plummeting as illegal downloads soared. It was simply assumed that books were next. After all, e-readers were taking off and self-publishing was finding its feet in a world that meant print and shipping were no longer necessary to authors who wanted to sell their craft.
Both e-readers and self-publishing went on to become extremely successful but, as we know, they didn’t hammer a single nail into the coffin of physical books. On the contrary, there wasn’t a coffin at all, and people continued to purchase books, both physical and digital – and a combination of the two. However, the continuing success of printed books in a digital world has become a matter of endless fascination, particularly when so many creative industries have found themselves disrupted by inventive new ways to reach their consumer. Homes no longer have CD racks, but they do have bookshelves. IKEA even recently relaunched their classic Billy Bookcase in a range of new colours.
Sales of printed books remained steady despite the market being inundated with new e-readers, offering storage for endless books and various bells and whistles. The two happily existing in parallel suggested that if you were a reader, these devices offered a great deal of convenience and portability, but there was something about a real book that was uniquely appealing. It was okay to enjoy both, and the predicted demise of print simply didn’t materialise, but what did was absolutely unexpected. From 2018, a new generation of book lovers emerged, and publishers watched as they changed the face of book sales forever.