print on demand

The printed book is definitely here to stay

Written by Jon Tolley
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Originally published
July 10 2019,
May 27 2020

I couldn’t re-call it so had to Google the term for when a brand-name becomes so popular and all-pervading that it’s accepted as a common noun. Think Hoover (for vacuum cleaner) and Xerox (for photocopier). It’s “generification”, apparently. Or the sinister sounding “genericide”, if you want the proper legal term. My prediction for another was “Kindle” because, while there are plenty of other devices on the market, Amazon seemed to have captured hearts and minds with its model. The latest research points to on-screen reading falling out of favour though.


Print book sales are up

According to Nielsen BookScan, a total of 190.9 million print books were sold in the UK in 2018. That’s a 2.1% and £34m increase on the previous year. And some genres are doing particularly well. Sales of self-help books for example shot up by a colossal 20%!

The UK, still the world’s top exporter of books, isn’t alone in experiencing this. Other European countries are reporting similar trends and, when its ebook sales fell by 17% in 2016, Germany disclosed that they still only accounted for a mere 4.6% of its entire book market.


But why?

Seems there’s not one, single, explanation for us falling out of love with the ebook. An increase in pricing (of both devices and content), digital fatigue and too much screen-time, plus the lack of shareability are all cited as contributory factors. Maybe it’s just the pure enjoyment many of us experience from the acquiring, reading and finishing of a physical book which gives it the edge?


Books are better than screens for students

For those reading as part of their studies, some Europe-wide research of 170,000 people has reported that they are more likely to absorb information from printed books than screens. The analysis of these digital natives found paper still to be the preferred reading medium to learn from and that they were more likely to skim-read and less likely to take notes when using a screen.


Books cross the generation gap

You’d be forgiven for thinking that pre-2007 book lovers (when the first e-readers were released) would be slower to give up print, and that it would be the Gen-Z / Millennials who would gravitate towards the screen. Content agency Wardour found otherwise and established that young people are reading more print than they were a year ago. In fact, it found that those under 35 favour print publications more than those over 35!


An explosion in titles, shorter print-lengths, the ability to “print-on-demand” (and even personalise), the printed book is definitely here to stay!

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