Why physical books still outsell e-books | CNBC Reports


E-book or physical book? You may be surprised to hear that for most,
old school print on paper still wins. Despite digital media having
disrupted many other industries. 67% of Americans had read a physical book
in 2017, but only 26% read an e-book. So, why do people still prefer print over the convenience
of reading on a smartphone, Kindle or Kobo? You might think that electronic books, more
commonly known as e-books, are relatively new. But an initiative called Project Gutenberg claims
to have started them all the way back in 1971. Today, it still publishes books online, focusing
on older works where the American copyright has expired so it can
offer them for free. The modern e-book came around in 2007, when
Amazon launched its Kindle in New York. It went on sale for $399 and was reported to
have sold out in just five and a half hours. By 2010, Amazon announced it was selling
more e-books than hardcover printed books. At the time, many questioned the future of
hardcovers and their relevance in the digital age. While the Kindle popularized e-books, the book
industry is still dominated by physical versions. I met up with Meryl Halls, managing director
of the Booksellers’ Association, to learn why. Print’s been incredibly resilient actually,
I think the e-book bubble has burst somewhat, the sales are flattening off, I think the
physical object is very appealing. So the cover designs are often
gorgeous, they’re beautiful objects, The book lover loves to have
a record of what they’ve read and it’s about signalling to the rest of the
world, it’s about decorating your home. In 2018, more than 2.7 billion books
in all formats were sold in the U.S., for an estimated net revenue of
almost $26 billion for publishers. And that’s just the value of all books
directly sold by publishers to retailers. Of that amount, around $22
billion-worth were printed books, $2 billion were e-books and
$1.2 billion were audio books. In the U.K. the same year, publishers’ sales
of printed and e-books topped $8 billion, with printed books taking
$4.5 billion of that. Cookbooks are, they’re having a resurgence,
nature writing and nature books are doing incredibly well and it’s partly the political
landscape, people are looking for escape but they are also looking for information, it’s
harder to have an emotional relationship with what you’re reading
if it’s on an e-reader. It’s obviously cheaper to produce e-books
than print copies, but the number of printed books sold by publishers to retailers in the U.S. and U.K.
also outstrips the number of downloaded books. Even the kind of books people like to read
in print versus on an e-reader varies. In the U.K., readers prefer fiction categories
like crime, thriller and romance on their e-readers, but children’s books are
still dominated by print. High profile launches like Three Women and
of course, the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, have also boosted print sales. But one study revealed that readers found it
harder to recall the plot details of a short mystery story when they read it on a Kindle, compared to those
who read the same story in a paperback book. E-books really, a lot of innovation had started
in the academic area of publishing, and then of course they came into trade publishing
and I believe, started off with romantic fiction and possibly slightly erotic fiction because
it was marvellous that you could read that in public totally anonymously. Traditional stores took a hit when Amazon
started selling printed books online back in 1994. In 2011, U.S. chain Borders declared
bankruptcy, while Barnes & Noble’s sales have declined steadily
for the past six years. In 2019, activist investor Elliott
Management bought Barnes & Noble. And it also owns this U.K. chain, Waterstones, which has
undergone a bit of a revolution in the past few years. How have bookshops
reacted to Amazon Kindle? Okay, well I think initially they were frightened
and they did try and sell e-books, but I think what they discovered very
quickly is that bookshop customers are coming into bookshops
for a very particular reason. Their shops, their spaces
are very welcoming and people are looking all the time for
things to do that are not on screen. In 2015, Amazon opened its first physical
bookstore in Seattle’s University Village mall, and it now has 19
outlets across the U.S. It uses information on Kindle reading
habits to inform what it sells. For example, it has an
“unputdownable” section in-store, which displays physical copies of books that
Kindle readers finish in three days or less. E-books have also been a way for new authors
to get noticed by mainstream publishers. Science fiction writer Hugh Howey
published his e-book Wool in 2011. It went on to sell more
than 300,000 copies. And in 2012, American publisher Simon
& Schuster bought the print rights. But not every author
is a fan of e-books. The Catcher in the Rye author JD Salinger
resisted digitizing his novels for years, but in August 2019, his son Mark
agreed to publish them as e-books, saying his father wanted to keep
his work accessible and affordable. So, what’s the future of
books, in any format? While millennials get blamed for killing
many industries, it’s actually young people that appear to be driving sales of printed
books, especially in the U.K. Sixty-three percent of physical book sales
are to people under the age of 44, while 52% of e-book sales
are to those over 45. It’s a similar picture in the U.S.,
where 75% of people aged 18 to 29 claimed to have read a physical book in
2017, higher than the average of 67%. People always need knowledge and people always
need stories, will it be the written word, or will it be the spoken word, but it will
still be stories and it will still be knowledge. The book, in whatever format,
has a strong future. Thanks for watching. To see more of our content, check
out the videos on the right. And let us know in the comments below if you
prefer old-school print or new-school e-books, and don’t forget to subscribe.

100 Replies to “Why physical books still outsell e-books | CNBC Reports

  1. it's the same reason why physical books of paper don't need batteries to recharge because they don't have batteries and why you don't need electricity or internet to use the book again

  2. I rather read ebooks on my kindle. Not a phone, tablet, iPad or Fire Tablet but e-ink device. It is way more practical, you have access to tons of your books without carrying a lot of weight in your backpack. I still long for colour e-ink readers, as this would be perfect for comics or seeing photos like real-life prints. Can't wait to see these before I pass away 🙂

  3. Right now e-books are free accessible to me so I'm reading
    e-books.
    Otherwise I'm a fan of physical books if cost is not a problem for me.

  4. I've largely gone to e-books. I've straight up run out of space. I had piles on the floor (still do) because I've run out of shelf and table-top space.

    When it comes to study books (lifetime learner and scholar), if the option is there, I like to get one physical book and one e-version of the book.

    Nothing beats a physical book for when you need to scan and flip through pages to find something specific. Physical books still beat e-books for you being able to put post-it notes, margin notes and other methods of marking things down.. yes, you can do that with an e-book but I have never found it as practical or useful as I do with these physical and readily visual ways of marking things up.

    I hope we continue to live in a world where there is ample room for both options.

  5. I love physical book. The smell, the sound when i turn pages, and its nice not looking to some screens while read physical books like resting my eyes.

  6. I personally many times downloaded many ebooks. Reading these I compelled to collect the hard copy of these. ebook can't fulfill the appeal of hard copy of any book. The aroma of new book and physical presence of new book can't be found in ebook.

  7. I prefer the old school print over a digital one. There is something about experiencing a physical book over a digital device. Also, physical books don't need to be charged through power 🙂

  8. I used to have eyestrains when reading on my phone kindle app. But since I got a kindle device, that is no longer a problem. It also has so many functions such as dictionaries and the X-Ray function that makes the reading that much more convenient. Physical books, if new, are sold almost inexorbitantly. Why pay £25 for a book when you can get them online for £4? Most of my physical books are from the library or from secondhand bookshops, which I frequent quite regularly. The browsing of books in an analogue manner has that bit of a charm and forms a bit more of an emotional connection, that I cannot deny.

  9. Maybe because for the money spent, you actually get something tangible? Also the joy of leafing through a book's pages cannot be replicated by an ebook

  10. The artical just skips the economics. E-books are expensive… often more so that a paperback. Consumers know that printed books should cost more (printing, shipping, stock, store space, additional retailers, etc.) yet the books cost the same (or more) to download. People also know that with a physical book, you can reuse it — i.e. give it to a family member or sell it used for a few bucks which they can't do with digital. Then you have the issue with e-books that (unlike music) you can't copy them easily. You need the 'correct' device and app, account/password, internet connection, download, etc. Then you have the issue with the 'reader'. You need a $300 tablet-like device which brings up the problems that they rarely last three years, phones are two small, people often have iPads, tablets, etc. which are too big/heavy, yet don't see the point in paying $300 for another tablet. The device can be lost, broken, stolen, it needs to be charged, it's hard to read in bright sunlight, etc. And of course if you have a smart device like a tablet, then you are immediately competing against any other content which can be shown on the device — music, videos, TV, audio books, web sites, news, etc.

  11. Thoughts:
    – paper books doesn’t consume your eyesight like a screen
    – back in college I really prefer real books while studying but sometimes its too heavy to move around. A tablet w/ ebook comes in handy.
    – social media decrease attention span and have more elements, you really need a good book to continue reading.

  12. Nah dude. All textbooks by law should be ebooks. It's ridiculous to recharge people a $100+ for barely changed re editions every year.

  13. I disagree. Books are not better because it can decorate your home or keep it for historical purposes. Books are better because it simply doesn’t strain your eyes as much making it more usable.

  14. You’re wrong. The BIGGEST reason why physical books outsold ebooks is because of schools. Mandatory physical books for use in their classes is the cause.

  15. iPads and iPhones offer so much distraction and notifications to let us stay focused on the book so no, thank you, but physical books for me forever

  16. I have a book from the 1800s on astronomy, one of my prized possessions. It's hard to actually own an ebook, your buying the rights to it.

  17. I use an iPad Pro with the trutone display setting on to read. I think the reason most people still prefer physical books is because they are easier on the eyes than cheap tablets and high end readers like the the iPad pro are expensive. Once high quality 120Hz displays become more common on tablets and the prices drop, I believe eBooks will see a resurgence. I would not read digitally if my tablets display was as bad as some of the other tablets on the market.

  18. I can't read ebooks on tablets or on a phone compared to physical books, i would be far more distracted by it to do other things than actually read.

    P.s: im not investing in a kindle or a Amazon books subscription.

  19. Reading online is better. If you read more informative things or defining terms/articles/research etc. You can't beat the web/digital. I haven't read a book in years.

  20. Technology isn't a panacea. Though it has contributed immeasurably to human progress, there are times when original art forms are just better. Not to mention many people despise Amazon's business model and habit of destroying entire industries.

  21. We would've gone 100% ebooks if our schools did not force the students to buy colorful, overpriced textbooks just so the school staffs can get tipped by the publishers!!

  22. I think a majority of non-frequent book readers have not taken to e-books because:
    1) reading books on smartphones or tablets is unpleasant either due to tiny size of the screen or discomfort to the eyes due to blue light,
    2) standalone e-readers are still quite expensive when compared to the falling price of smartphones (expecting a value-for-money option from Xiaomi in
    future).
    As these issues get sorted, a lot of people may opt for e-books given their affordability. Also they don't need any storage space and are easier to navigate.

  23. My dissertation was on this and it turns out my predictions were right. I did interviews at the Waterstones UK and HMV. Many people thought Waterstones would go out of business but they are still in existence

  24. it's easy instead of harming our eyes..I prefer the old school way of smelling and touching books with trouble changing pages instead of scrolling down…and Would be the same for my life

  25. I prefer ebooks, as I can download it for free and leave if its not interesting, while paper book is more expensive and I can not be sure Ill want to keep it

  26. The mayor reason I still buy printed versions is because I like to feel the pages and even to feel the smell of that pages. It gave you satisfaction after you read it and you can put the book in a place where others can perhaps be interested to discover those same pages.

  27. For physical book is somewhat emotional attachments are be there, for online be there only for entertainment and quick stories.

  28. Ebooks ftw! They are much more portable and lightweight. You can read them at night. And not to forget that they are cheap AF! A lot of classics are available for free. You can look up word meanings, definitions, wikis and whatnot.

  29. @CNBCInternational
    New video suggestions. What is: the OECD, African Union, Arab League, Gulf Cooperation Council, ECOWAS, East African Community

  30. Ebooks are easily available for free so their sales do not reflect the true number of users. I'd bet for every person who buys an ebook legally, there'll be more than a dozen who'll simply download a pirated version

  31. Not surprised. I love print books. Less distractions, and also great for highlighting and writing notes in the margins. Audiobooks are for people who are too lazy to read, so ebooks are loosing their place in the market.

  32. I like Print as I read a lot of Magazines that were on a App before Apple bought it and close it for eveyone on on a Apple Device. I use my Tablets and Phone sometime on the go on Travel and commuting on Public Trans.

  33. Reading physical books is a way of digital detox. Also, a personal library at home gives a much better impression than electronic devices!!

  34. I personally reading in both print and on kindle, I like the integration of kindle with the kindle app, and the kindle is extremely portable. In addition apps like Libby and Overdrive can be linked to your library card to borrow ebooks, which is a convenient and affordable way to read lots. I also enjoy the convenience of downloading the sample to see if I really want to read the book, while I don’t always have time to go to the store and read the intro of a lot of books. However I still love going to book stores and purchasing physical books and I believe they can exist in harmony within your world

  35. E books can be easily pirated though. But at the same time due to convenience people tend to buy more things online, I am not sure if this analogy fits on e books.

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