Digital paper

Digital Paper Book Stories at Techdirt.

from technology-does-not-destroy-culture department

Many of the worst ideas in recent copyright laws have been driven by the fear of some influential companies about the transition from analog to digital. While analog formats – vinyls, books, theatrical releases of films – are relatively easy to control, digital ones are not. Once a creation is in digital form, anyone can make copies and distribute them over the Internet. The traditional copyright industries seem to think that digital versions of everything will be freely available everywhere and no one will ever buy analog versions. This is not the case with vinyl records, and a recent article in Publisher’s Weekly suggests that analog books too, far from dying, are getting better and better:

Led by the fiction categories, print book unit sales increased 8.9% in 2021 compared to 2020 at outlets that report to NPD BookScan. Units sold were 825.7 million last year, up from 757.9 million in 2020. BookScan captures around 85% of all print sales. In 2020, unit sales increased by 8.2% compared to 2019, which saw 693.7 million print units sold.

The young adult fiction segment saw the biggest increase, with unit sales jumping 30.7%, while adult fiction sales rose 25.5%. Sales in the youth category increased by 9.6%.

The two years of sales increases are part of a longer-term trend, as this New York Times article from 2015 indicates:

the digital apocalypse never happened, or at least not on schedule. While analysts once predicted that e-books would overtake print by 2015, digital sales have instead slowed sharply.

Today, there are signs that some e-book users are returning to print or becoming hybrid readers, juggling devices and paper. E-book sales fell 10% in the first five months of this year, according to the Association of American Publishers, which collects data from nearly 1,200 publishers. E-books were around 20% of the market last year, much like a few years ago.

Digital formats have some advantages over analog formats, including convenience. Today you can access tens of millions of tracks online with music streaming services and carry thousands of ebooks on your phone. But many people obviously continue to appreciate the physicality of analog books, just as they love and buy vinyl records. The Publisher’s Weekly article also shows how the digital world is driving analog sales:

Gains in the young adult category were helped by several titles that received attention from BookTok, users of the TikTok social media platform who post about their favorite books. Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End, released in December 2018, was the No. 1 title in the category, selling nearly 685,000 copies.

As a recent article on Walled Culture noted, if publishers were less paranoid about people sharing excerpts from the books they love, on BookTok and elsewhere, the already large analog sales they produce could be even higher. If copyright industries want to derive maximum benefit from the online world, they must be courageous, not intimidating, as they so often are today.

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Originally posted on Walled Culture.

Filed under: books, complementary markets, digital paper books, ebooks