Reading Grows, Physical Books Retreat

Hardcover sales are down again, and e-book sales are up. But you figured that.

How often do you actually buy a physical book nowadays? Even I myself, a published author who loves reading, hesitate now to add another to my collection. Last week at a large reading in New York for a celebrated writer, I chose not to by the hardcover of his new novel, but instead downloaded it. I figured even though he can’t sign the e-book, at least I’m reading his new work and not further cluttering up my bookshelves, even with books from people whose work I like.

I did the same thing with an old friend, a mystery writer who publishes a book a year and whose every installment I read. But this year, I opted for the e-book of her new novel over the physical one. I’m still supporting and reading the work of this friend, and I hope contributing in a small way to her ongoing career. But I just couldn’t see lugging another book around and then storing it on a shelf taking up space.

Stupid, maybe. Books are more than physical objects, and yet many of us still cherish them for their tactile comfort. One of the novels in the 12-volume A Dance to the Music of Time series by Anthony Powell is called Books Do Furnish a Room, and the title is a reference to a remark by a character who says something along those lines regarding literature.

But really, although books do furnish a room, they also take up space. How many times have you found yourself culling your collection to make room for new arrivals? Often, I bet. That’s because you read a lot, and your reading outpaces your available space.

So, back to those new numbers from the Association of American Publishers. Hardcover and paperback sales are down about 18% through August of this year, while e-books are up close to 200%. And according to the AAP’s survey, “96% of e-reader users say they purchased one or more e-books in the past year and 36% of e-reader users are reading more than a year ago.”

This is good news for all authors, and perhaps more so for those who choose to market their books online. There remains a reading public hungry for content. The form of that content delivery is changing, but the drive behind reading experience remains the same: to be informed, challenged and entertained.

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2 Responses to “Reading Grows, Physical Books Retreat”

  1. Aldous Irving Jimenez-Echegoye November 2, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

    E-books are easier and faster to acquire.  You don’t need to rush to get your copy from a bookstore and hope that it is still available when you get there.  With e-books all you have to do is get it online.  However, I like the old way of collecting books…hard bound, paperback and classic.

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