Are Print Books a Dying Breed?
It’s a question that has been asked in the publishing industry for so long. And thanks to a recent statistic I came across, I’m happy to report that it is not.
The first e-book in the world came out in 1971. It was a project run by Michael S. Hart, and the idea was to digitize the Declaration of Independence. Surely at that moment, not many thought to themselves Are print books dying? But this event would slowly begin a cycle of digital books that would thrive.
With regard to any new trend, there is an adaptation model that is followed. This model shows the life of a product, from innovation to exhaustion. With regard to e-books, Michael Hart was clearly the innovator. He created an idea that would sprout into an entire industry of its own.
In the 1990s, the idea of e-books picked up steam. So much so that in 1999, Simon & Schuster created their own imprint for digital books.
And that’s when print books started dying?
This was certainly the mindset the publishing industry had.
The publishing industry is like any other: money rules all. So when they all saw that it costs nothing — literally, not one penny — to produce a sold book, every company began to jump on it.
Obviously, there are some start-up costs with regard to formatting and, oh yeah, writing. But after that, nothing. After that? E-books are set it and forget it.
Then in the 2000s, other digital-exclusive companies started to sprout and self-publishing really took off. For companies like Amazon and Smashwords, self-publishing was a gold mine. So what if the authors only sold 100 books a year. There were absolutely no costs on their end and they would collect money every time a book was purchased.
You’re rambling, John.
I know. And I normally tend to. What I’m trying to say is that the digital publishing industry has had this phenomenally rapid growth. And because of that, it had been assumed all through the late 90s and early 2000s that print books would soon be dead. That bookstores would all shrink up and die and that dusty paperbacks in your grandma’s dresser would be the only remains of what was once called the “traditional publishing industry.”
But today I read a stat from Statista. The statistic stated that last year, there were 695 million print books sold in the U.S. alone. Even better? That number has consistently grown since 2012.
Now on the downside, I did the math and the portion of books I sold within that 695 million is pretty small — .0000037% to be exact. But on the plus side, when people ask the question Are print books dying? We can now confidently answer with a resounding No.