STRANGER THAN FICTION

Against all odds, print books are on the rise again in the US

Obsession
How We Buy
Obsession
How We Buy

For the last half decade, ever since digital books and e-readers first came on the scene, news headlines have been at war. “The physical book is dead,” some reports declared, while others vehemently argued for the eternality of the printed word.

Data, actually, supports the latter sentiment. At least in the US, sales of physical books have experienced a renewed surge of interest, according to Nielsen BookScan, a data provider that collects data on roughly 85% of the print market.

As of early December 2015, Nielsen says, around 571 million paper books have been sold in the country—a modest but noticeable increase over the 559 million sold in 2014.

Publishers told the Associated Press this week that the rise of coloring books and books authored by YouTube stars this year seems to have contributed to Americans’ re-investment in physical books. The release of Harper Lee’s much-buzzed-about (albeit bizarre) second novel Go Set A Watchman also may have played a part; Lee’s book sold four times as many copies in hardcover as in e-book format, suggesting that most readers wanted to own a physical copy of the historic book, HarperCollins publisher Jonathan Burnham told the AP.

While it’d be a stretch to say that the physical book is thriving, it’s at least staying strong. The same can’t be said of the e-book, which is seeing a decline in popularity. A Pew Research Center study in October found that fewer Americans are buying and using e-reading devices like Kindles and Nooks than they did in past years.

Assuming these trends continue, 2016 might just be the year that the physical book makes—fingers crossed—a real comeback.

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