Why Physical Books Will Never Die
Why do so many readers prefer reading a physical book over an e-book or kindle?
Physical books are more expensive than digital books, and as a result they feel a lot more meaningful. Their tactile and visual quality bring a wonderful satisfaction to reading. Compared with e-books, physical books last longer, are easier to lend/share with someone, are perceived as more worthwhile gifts and give people a sense of pride when they form part of a personal book collection.
What elements give physical books such sentimental value?
Printed books last longer and have the smell to prove it. They survive the test of time and eventually end up in a library or a charity shop to be given yet another lease on life. I still have books in my library from my childhood and I hope I can read these stories to my children. Passing these stories down through generations gives a sense of meaning and value. This enables physical books to be much more easily shared and invites potential readers to browse them before potentially reading or buying.
Are there features physical books have that make them better than e-books for reading and learning development? Why/ why not?
When it comes to learning development physical books do not emit blue light, which mobile phones, computers and TVs all do. It has been scientifically proven that reading a physical book before bedtime helps children go to sleep (www.goestosleep.com), whereas looking at a digital screen before bedtime stimulates the brain and actually sabotages sleep. This includes problems with falling asleep, messing with your circadian clock, supressing your melatonin generation (a hormone which encourages sleep), and feeling more tired and less alert when you wake up. The Children’s Sleep Charity has published a lot of research on these issues.
E-book sales have continued to decline in recent years. Why haven’t e-books been as successful as first expected?
When e-books were first introduced, many people thought they would completely wipe out physical books. This has not turned out to be the case. The introduction of the e-book came whilst I was working at Egmont UK and I saw this change drive the decline in sales of the physical books in the adult market. The children’s book market, however, was not really affected. Today, it seems that everyone who wanted to buy a digital reading device has now already purchased one, causing the drop in physical book sales to stabilise.
People probably initially didn’t realise the danger that is associated with too much screen time. In this day and age, our entire life is lived on our smartphone. To also use a screen to read long novels doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’ve definitely been subjected to headaches caused by looking a screen for too long and now try to limit my screen time. This year Apple even introduced a Screen Time app to help people monitor – and limit – their screen time.
How does book genre play a part in the battle between physical and electronic books? Are there some genres that dominate in physical book sales?
Surprising, book genres such as sci-fi, fantasy, mystery and romance fiction have been doing much better in e-books than in physical book sales. Publishing giants Random House and HarperCollins have even launched their first digital-only imprints, which focus on genre fiction.
Are younger generations driving physical book sales? What can be predicted for the future of physical book sales?
Yes, as a parent and someone who has been working in the publishing industry for over 10 years, the children’s book market has never been stronger. Parents are getting much more conscious of their children spending too much time looking at digital screens during the day. Reading a physical book before bedtime or a story during the day has never been more crucial. This is where my idea came about for creating the ‘Goes to Sleep’ book with the Children’s Sleep Charity. You create your personalised book online on www.goestosleep.com (where you can customise the title, name, and the principle character in the book – a child who wants to go to sleep), but receive a physical copy to read before bed.
Where is the publishing industry headed?
The industry continues to be a lot clever and more inventive with their content and how they publish it. There is a lot of competition as the same story can be translated into many different published formats and finishes. Publishers which own heritage brands such as ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’, have the unique advantage of printing – and re-printing – this original material in numerous versions of the long history of these brands. New formats are usually saved for anniversary editions, which can command a higher price point.
What challenges does the publishing industry face today?
The publishing industry faces competition from other publishers printing the same content, the increased cost of producing a physical book and competition from people who self-publish. I am not a publisher and yet I was able to create and self-publish my ‘Goes to Sleep’ personalised book using a specialised on-demand printing partner with the ability to deliver globally. Technology is now much more accessible, and with the right partners, a small company can start competing with big established publishers.
The price of producing non-standard children’s books, such as pop-up books, touchy-feely books for babies, bath books and cloth books is the most expensive. The specialised materials required for these books are becoming more expensive, as the cost of constructing these books by hand is still high. Perhaps the industry would benefit from more effective systems to re-cycle and re-use old books.
The edited version, on The National Storage, website can be found here.