Readers saturated with screen-time are rediscovering the printed pageby Sameer Rahim / December 10, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
Read the rest of Prospect’s big ideas of 2016 here When Amazon launched its e-book reader, the Kindle, in 2007, the death of the printed book was confidently predicted. But while e-books make up a significant share of the market—between 20 and 25 per cent—sales slowed sharply in 2015. In the US, the number of people reading books primarily on e-readers fell from 50 per cent three years ago to 32 per cent now. Publishers such as Simon & Schuster and Hachette have been investing heavily in warehouses and book distribution depots. The pattern has been repeated in Britain. Waterstones, once under serious threat of closure, has returned to profit. It has stopped selling Kindles in most of its stores. Overall sales of paperbacks and hardbacks rose 3 per cent in the first half of 2015. Publishers have started to create books that are also beautiful objects, such as Helen MacDonald’s bestselling memoir H is for Hawk with Christopher Wormell’s richly drawn front cover. The market is growing for special editions you can show off on your bookshelf. So is this the end of the e-book? Not quite. Readers like books that suit their own convenience and tastes. Fans of crime and romance—who in the past would have bought throwaway paperbacks—still much prefer e-books. Sales of the Kindle are down but you can easily download books from the Kindle or iBooks app on your tablet or smartphone. Holiday reading on your device is now commonplace. But readers saturated with screen-time are undoubtedly rediscovering the pleasures of the printed page. Yet the digital revolution has made an irreversible difference to the relationship between authors and readers. Social media allows for the intimacy of direct communication. In a recent interview, JK Rowling said that Twitter was the best way for her to speak to her fans: “No one has to buy a ticket.” Using the hashtag #TenTipsforWriters, the novelist Joanne Harris tweets advice to aspiring novelists, ranging from how to construct dialogue to finding an agent. Increasingly, publishers are looking at the size of a writer’s Twitter following before signing them up. The internet is turning writers into their own publicists.