September 28, 2023
Will print popularity continue in this digital age? Digital content is everywhere you look, from advertising to online media to e-books and virtual publications. But just because it is becoming more prevalent every year, does that mean that consumers prefer digital over physical content? Consumers vote with their pocketbooks in many ways and with sales of print products like books and magazines holding strong, most market and publishing experts agree that print popularity will continue in the future.
Enduring print popularity may seem like an anomaly in today’s increasingly digital world. But while consuming digital content is clearly the way of the future, book and magazine readers are pushing back against the trend of moving all content to online, digital, or electronic formats. According to data from Statista in 2021, over 65% of readers report having read a physical book with only 23% reporting they picked up an e-book.
And in 2022, bookstore sales reached an eye-watering 8.99 billion, surpassing pre-pandemic levels for the first time. So if print books are still the preferred format for readers, why haven’t readers chosen to adopt the convenience of modern electronic readers over print books? Let’s look at what recent research tells us about reader preferences and where the publishing industry expects the future of print books and magazines to be in a few years.
Fast content like news and social media both flourish on digital platforms, but neither of these types of content is meant to be savored, re-read, and held on to for reference the way a print magazine is. And readers have responded accordingly to this print popularity, reporting that they love to read print magazines at least as much as they do a digital version.
While the news has largely gone digital with very little likelihood of ever returning to fully printed newspapers that were ubiquitous in the pre-digital era, print magazines have retained their appeal with readers garnering over 220 million readers every year, 66% of which responding to a 2020 survey who said they prefer the print over digital format. Today, unlike past publications that stood alone, print popularity for magazines are more likely to be tied directly to digital content, websites, and other interactive content than any other print publication.
And this connection with print popularity has allowed magazines to jump on the digital bandwagon without abandoning readers who prefer the feel and experience of a physical print magazine in their hands.
Not only do magazine readers like to hold a print copy in their hands more than swiping through a digital reader to explore the content, but book readers also feel the same way for print popularity. According to Pew Research, as of 2021, over 75% of Americans have read or started to read at least one book every year. And of those, 65% responded that they only picked up a print-format book.
The use of audio and eBooks both continue to rise in popularity but print popularity has remained fairly steady for the past decade. Adults who report choosing to read only print books have wavered only marginally from a high of 72% back in 2011, much to the surprise of many outside of the publishing industry who incorrectly predicted that e-readers would quickly overtake print books in popularity.
In fact, while many readers report that they consume both print and digital formats, only a shockingly low 9% of readers self-report that they only read digital books. So while many readers read both print and digital, or just print books, very few readers have completely given up the experience of a physical book for print popularity for a digital reader.
The print disruption that happened to the publishing world during 2020’s pandemic was surely a hiccup for many. Consumers temporarily purchased fewer tangible goods and simultaneously paused visiting bookstores and other retailers at the start through the height of the pandemic.
But since the world has resumed regular consumption of all types of goods, including print books, the popularity of print is on an upswing that publishers, self-publishers, and retailers have all noticed. Retail booksellers reported sales of 918 million US dollars in January of 2023, up from 860 million in sales reported just eight months before.
And predictions about the future of print publishing indicate that self-published books, indie publishers, and the Big Five traditional publishing houses will all continue to grow in popularity with readers who love to hold a physical book in their hands.
The undeniable print popularity may be hard to understand for those who see new advances in technology as the best way to improve our world. But new and different don’t always resonate with a low-tech activity like reading where the aesthetic experience is more valuable than speed or convenience.
Print’s popularity is not in jeopardy for the foreseeable future with every demographic, since statistics bear out the fact that readers of all ages, backgrounds, and interests prefer to hold a book in their hands over an e-reader.
And there appears to be plenty of room for both self-publishing authors and traditional or indie publishing houses to continue to print books, magazines, and other content for readers of all ages who are clamoring for a new book to read or the next installment from their favorite author.
Authors can partner with a trusted printer like Publishing Xpress to bring their book to life for hungry readers to devour as a print book to participate in the enduring and beloved pastime of losing oneself between the pages of a good book.
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