The Decline In E-book Sales Continues

With the rapid technological advances and discoveries that have happened in the last few decades, inevitable changes in society and lifestyles have occurred around the world. Introducing innovative and digital replacements for many traditional tools and objects happens on a daily basis now. One major innovation – e-books – shook the publishing industry about a decade ago. Though e-books were rapidly accepted among the general population, especially young people, in the last few years their sales have started to go down. What are the reasons for this decline? Is it just temporary, and what are the possible outcomes?

Nielsen has conducted a survey on this topic for the UK market, and the results show that the trend towards declining sales of e-books continues to accelerate. The numbers don’t lie, and according to the above-mentioned research, in 2016 the sales of print books increased by 7 percent while the sales of e-books declined by 4 percent. Concurrently, a Publishers Association survey in 2015 showed that digital content sales volume fell from £563m in 2014 to £554m the following year, while at the same time they noted an increase in sales of physical books. The Bookseller has also published a report on the five biggest publishers in the UK, and they all state that during 2015 they had a decline in e-book sales

To confirm that this shift back to traditional, physical, printed books is not limited to the UK, we have checked the results of yet another Nielsen study, this one for the USA, and they are pretty similar to the results in Britain. According to the survey, sales of traditional books increased by 3 percent in 2015, while e-books’ share of the total book market decreased from 27 percent in 2014 to 24 percent the following year. The Association of American Publishers has also published a report which states that the sales of e-books fell by 14 percent in 2015. The report of the Codex Group from their April 2016 survey showed that e-book units purchased as a share of total books sold also fell, from 35.9 percent in April 2015 to 32.4 percent in April 2016.

So what is the reason behind this sudden fall in the sales of e-books?

Well, at one level it’s quite simple – the decrease in e-book sales occurred two years ago when major publishers started controlling the prices of e-books in the UK. Now this may be one of the reasons as it was obviously a change that affected every e-book buyer, but is it really just a question of the price tag? Millennials, as the main demographic that uses e-books, are known for their willingness to pay extra for what they want. So is it just the price tag, or are the reasons behind this phenomenon deeper?

Let’s look at other possible reasons why readers are turning once more to traditional printed books.

  • Turning off the digital word

Even though it is common to believe that Millennials are addicted to technology and cannot live outside the digital world, a large portion of this generation is turning towards printed books as a retreat from digital technology. The social media represents a burden for many people, and good old books are a way out.

  • Customer experience

One more common misconception about the youth of today is that they do all of their shopping online. The truth is that most Millennials actually prefer to have the experience of walking into a bookstore and getting what they want or what they like. The one-click buy is really not a thing anymore.

  • Let’s go audio!!!

When audio-books hit the shelves, both e-book and traditional books sales felt it. The increase in audio-books sales sky-rocketed the past few years, with the result that audio-books have become the fastest-growing format in the publishing industry.

  • Smartphones and tablets are taking over

The increase in e-book sales occurred at the same time that e-readers also faced some bad numbers on their sales accounts. Most people started using their tablets and smartphones to read instead of buying devices that were specifically designed and made as e-readers. Millennials prefer to keep it simple, so having so many devices is really just an unnecessary burden for this generation.

Despite all these facts, the overall conclusion is bright. The publishing industry is still booming, the sale of books regardless of their format has increased, and one can only hope that it will continue to grow. So go get your favorite book just the way you want it, as you now have the opportunity to choose the format you prefer.

Photos: Shutterstock

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