The Resurgence of the Printed Book

In the early 1990s, rumours of a new way to read books were starting to circulate. Digitized versions of books became available on the internet, and clunky precursors of the now ubiquitous e-readers were developed. By the early 2000s, e-books and e-readers were here to stay, and everyone said this would be the death of the printed book.

Fast forward to the present day, where e-books have taken a sales nosedive, dropping over 17% in 2016, the largest loss since 2011 when Amazon Kindle took the world by storm. Since then, e-reader sales have flatlined. Has the same occurred for paper books? Not so much. During the same period when e-books were seeing this massive decline, paperback book sales increased by 7.5%, while hardback sales increased by 4.1%.

What has led to this remarkable turn in fortunes for both e-books and traditional books? Many factors are at play and there are several reasons why people are switching back to real books. The following twelve points are merely a few reasons why traditional books have risen from their prematurely predicted grave to reclaim their rightful place on our bedside tables:

Screen Fatigue: We spend so much more time on our screens now than we did when the e-reader first entered our consciousness. Since 2011, screen time has increased by nearly 10 times, and science is discovering how hard this is — not only on our eyes, but on our brains as well. It’s quite possible that people are just “screened out,” and that a respite from screen use is soothing and comforting.

Improved Comprehension: Consumer research conducted by Two Sides in the UK showed that 84% of people were able to retain, use, and understand information better when it was read off paper rather than a tablet. 83% indicated a clear preference for paper reading for more complex topics. Likewise, over 70% found reading from print material more relaxing.

Books Are Easier to Share: This happens all the time. You’ve just read a wonderful book and you tell your friends about it, but then you can’t loan it out because it’s on your e-reader. Frustrating for sure. Sharing books is one of life’s greatest joys and a real book makes that possible. Libraries are a prime example of the popularity of borrowing books.

Books Make Better Gifts: With the advent of electronic books, people would give gift cards to others so they could purchase e-books of their own choosing, but there’s something special about opening a new book, one picked just for you. Although it’s nice to choose your own adventure, when you’re given a book by someone who knows you well and knows what might interest you, there’s a reminder of a deeper connection, one that a gift card simply can’t convey.

Books Smell Good: There’s something transporting about the smell of books, especially old ones. According to researchers at University College London’s Institute for Sustainable Heritage, the scent of a single book reminds people of chocolate and coffee. In a room full of books, they reported smelling wood and smoke. When you read a book, that smell is interwoven with the story on the page and it becomes a total sensory experience, making it possibly even more pleasurable.

Reading Books Sets a Good Example: Kids see us on our phones and tablets all the time. We could be doing anything – looking at social media, emailing, texting. But when you’re reading a book, you’re only reading; nothing else. In a 20-year study conducted at the University of Nevada, researchers concluded that having books in the home was a greater predictor of a child’s educational success than the education levels achieved by his or her parents.

Books Are Beautiful: A beautifully bound book is a treasure – what Toronto antiquarian book dealer David Mason calls “shelf furniture.” There is something satisfying about seeing a shelf of books and knowing that you’ve read them all. Being able to glance at them and remember their stories is deeply satisfying. Old books are lovely, but even new paperbacks with their glossy covers are captivating. No matter what their age, books are a pleasure to read and a pleasure to look at.

Print Books Have a Longer “Shelf” Life: A little joke, but it’s true. Print books can last for centuries if cared for properly; the Gutenberg Bible is over 600 years old! It’s not likely that e-books will be accessible centuries or even decades from now, what with growing advancements in technology. Paper book technology, however, never needs updating.

No Known Negative Side Effects: While e-readers have been associated with eye damage and are known to interfere with our sleep, print books have no side effects and are completely safe for human use. In fact, studies have shown that reading before bed can help you fall asleep faster and lead to deeper sleep.

Books Never Need Charging: Books are not only transportable, they are very low maintenance. Other than treating them with respect and not dog-earing pages or writing in them, they don’t need much routine care. And, most conveniently, they require no charging. Taking a book on a long flight makes the hours pass quickly. If you have an electronic reader and there’s no power source, you’ll be left hanging when the battery dies. Not to mention that if the power ever goes out, you can read a book by candlelight, but you can’t always recharge your e-reader.

E-Books Have Distractions: Electronic books are designed to keep you distracted. There are badges and rewards, links and helps, all of which reduce your ability to focus on the story itself. The act of reading becomes interactive, and though this might be interesting, it detracts from the overall experience and further reduces your ability to retain what you’ve read.

Feel Your Way: One of the nicest things about a real book is that with just a quick glance or touch, you can see how far along you are in the story. It is truly a satisfying metric and one that is grossly undervalued. There’s nothing better than watching your progress through a book, lamenting the inevitable end.

Paper books, beautifully bound and easy on the eye, are a treasure for generations. They travel well, inspire our children to read, and look lovely on the shelf. Why not hit the bookstore or library today and begin a new adventure?

For hardback book covers or for any custom paperboard product needs, contact Hammond Paper in Toronto and Vaughan at 1-877-750-CHIP (2447).