Sunday, December 4, 2016

Why Are Digital Books Losing Ground?

According to research from industry associations, 70% of the revenue from music sales is from a digital source.  59% of the home video market revenue is from digital.  As those two areas continue to grow, digital book sales for trade publishers declined in 2015 to 20% of overall book trade revenue.  Why?

Digital music is embraced due to cost, availability, ease of use, and other factors.  Movie streaming or downloads comes for the same reason.  CDs, DVDs and the clunky devices used to listen and watch them seem to be on their way out.  But with books, people prefer paper – and are willing to pay more for it.

There may even be a digital backlash going on.

Everyone is so used to and dependent upon their devices.  They check them constantly.  The country just stares at technology all the time.  Click here, download that. From work to entertainment, from desktop and laptop to smartphones and tablets, screens of all sizes and shapes are everywhere.  We may even suffer eye fatigue and brain drain as a result of constantly being tethered to a device.

Digital content – audio, video, and text – is burdening us.  There is tons of free content out there – taking away time from potential book-buying readers.  It also negates some potential book sales.  After all, why pay for the milk when you get the cow for free? 

We are moving further into being a digital society.  There are lots of advantages to this but we can’t ignore certain realities, including:

·         Our fingers, eyes, and brains need a break from focusing on whatever comes from a digital device.
·         We need a physical world to co-exist along with digital – from human touch to brick and mortar stores to how we read our newspapers, magazines and books.
·         Even though online we feel next door to someone half way around the world, geography still matters.  We still live in a physical community – join it and be present.  Don’t just tune it out and disappear online.

There is evidence of a device peak.  A few studies a year ago shared:

·         40% own game controls – down from 2009.
·         14% own a portable gaming device – down from 2009.
·         73% own laptop or desktop computers down from 2012.
·         40% own MP3 players – down from 2010.
·         19% own e-book readers – down from 2013
·         45% own a tablet – that’s still rising, but at a much slower rate than just a few years ago.

Smart phone ownership is still growing.  68% of Americans have one.  Just 8% of the country does not have a cell phone.

We always hear the phrase:  “Think out of the box,” but many people feel they live in a digital box, always checking something on a device or screen.  We’re addicted.  We go from checking our smartphone to logging onto our laptop to streaming something to emailing a funny video link to posting on Facebook to scanning Twitter to sharing photos to shopping online to learning a new software program to downloading music to reading a blog to searching for people we haven’t spoken to in 15 years to…

It goes on and on.  From morning to night, disrupting the middle of things we should be engaged in.  Soon we will all have ADHD.

The printed book is a beautiful thing.  For people who read for pleasure, reading off-line could be a treat.  Some things have to be digital-blogs, email, movies…but something like a book gives us the option to consume content away from a screen or device. I know some people prefer e-books for a variety of reasons but apparently more people for more reasons prefer printed books.

Will we see a digital overload or backlash with other things?  Eventually, yes.  There’s just too much content to consume and not enough time, money or brain-span to process it all.  What could be the first to go or suffer?  We’ll see, but for now, print books look like they come out ahead when digital fatigue settles in.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016 ©.
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