I know librarians are supposed to be book fanatics, but I have to confess that I never have been. Maybe it’s my background in computers from an early age. Or perhaps a rebellion against parents who read Proust in the original French.
Despite my enthusiasm for technology, I did not welcome the arrival of digital books and their associated e-readers. I tried a few, but always found the experience ergonomically inferior to the traditional bound printed paper form.
So, I was pleased to hear on the radio today, a report from the Daily Telegraph newspaper that book sales have risen, in contrast to ebooks sales, which have declined. Books are back: Printed book sales rise for first time in four years as ebooks suffer decline
It will be interesting to see if hard-copy continues to make a come-back, or this is a temporary blip in the relentless march of new technology.
I am reminded of a conference speech many years ago by Seth Godin, marketing guru and author of the Purple Cow, He said that his biggest selling book was in fact the one he also gave away as a free PDF. He explained that after having read the electronic version, people wanted to have a ‘souvenir’ copy to put onto their shelves. Just imagine having friends round, and as the conversation turns to marketing – you say, “Have you seen Godin’s book?”.
Scenario one would be, “Ok, let’s just walk over to my computer, turn it on, and see if I can find the PDF file for you to look at”. The second would be, “Ok, let’s just have a look on my bookshelf and show you what I am talking about. You could even borrow it, if you promise to bring it back ;-)”.
I know which of these scenarios would be more appealing to me.
And it’s not just books that are enjoying a resurgence. Sales of vinyl records are up this year by more than 60%, and are set to reach levels not seen since the late 1980s, according to the BBC. But, although record players such as the Crosley Cruiser (currently available from the British Library shop as part of our Punk exhibition), are selling well. It turns out almost half the people who buy a vinyl record will never actually listen to it. Silent vinyl: Buying records without a record player
So, is this another case of the souvenir copy to impress friends and family? If so, it tells us that the digital world still has a lot to learn in terms of what gives human consumers retail satisfaction.