Three years ago on this blog (three years!!), in a post called Sticky Pages, we looked at what seemed to be at least a lull in the U.S. ebook market. Before that point, the market had been rising fast enough to draw the comparisons to the fast digitization of music and, well, everything else on the planet. However, the Wall Street Journal article explored new findings that people were buying less ebooks and then were not always reading the ebooks that they were buying.
Now, new stats have surfaced in the UK from the Publishers Association that have caused some commotion online. The association found that last year ebook sales fell in the UK for the first time since they started tracking them, while print sales have risen for the first time in four years.
There has been quite the varied reaction to the news:
Simon Jenkins at The Guardian, says that the resurgence of books was inevitable and that only the “technodazzled” thought that ebooks would replace them.
Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader says that the stats don’t give a full picture since they only cover 75% of the market and believes the findings would change if indie and self publishers were included.
Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool says that the findings makes sense to him since comic books have also flattened out when it comes to ebook sales.
Author Damien Water says on his blog that this is only that moment for physical books when the sinking ship pauses before starting to sink even faster.
And I’m still watching with rapt attention. All of these writers bring up interesting points. For instance, that much of the dead tree growth was due to the sudden interest in adult coloring books (our definition of book is almost so wide open it doesn’t have a spine). On the other side, even Amazon itself, which is mostly responsible for the rise in the ebook, just opened its first physical bookstore this year in a planned chain of them. And ebook-only publisher Samhain recently went of business due to a “steady decline in ebook sales.”
Meanwhile, very few in those circles are talking about the fact that audiobook sales rose 29% in the UK in 2015…without a single adult coloring book inflating that stat.