Print books make a comeback

First Posted: 2/5/2015

BLUFFTON — At Book ReViews in Bluffton, book sales have increased dramatically in the past year, matching national sales trends.

Though many expected electronic books to continue to take a chunk out of print book sales, data from a Nielsen BookScan shows that sales have risen for print books from 2012 to 2014.

“After years of exponential growth, e-book sales have recently slowed resulting in a noticeable shift to print books,” Jonathan Stolper, senior vice president at Nielsen Book, said in an emailed statement. “However, print book growth in recent months can also be attributed to the rise in popularity of Children’s and Young Adult books.”

The children’s and young adult market grew 44 percent from 2004 to 2013, he said, and grew an additional 13 percent from 2013 to 2014.

At other local stores, sales seem to vary, with some booksellers having a large sales increase, others a large decrease, and still others steady sales.

Dhandria Parrett, assistant store manager at the Barnes and Noble store on University of Northwest Ohio’s campus, attributes the growth in print sales to the popularity of “page to screen books,” or movies that were adapted from books.

“There’s been a lot of books reprinted as movie tie-in editions,” she said. “People think, ‘Oh, well, maybe I need to read the book.’”

“The Fault in Our Stars,” “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” and “The Maze Runner” are popular for young adult readers, while “American Sniper” and “If I Stay” are popular for adults, she said.

Readmore Books and Hallmark Cards in St. Marys created a whole section of book to movie titles, which manager Cathy Miars said is doing well.

The store hasn’t had an increase in sales, but sales stayed steady since e-books and e-readers came on the scene, she said, while children’s books have increased in popularity.

“We have more people order children’s books as we build our children’s section,” Miars said, as the store does a lot of business ordering books for people.

Similarly, at Barnes and Noble, Parrett has noticed a growing popularity in children’s and young adult books. She said the store sees the most customer traffic from young adults and senior citizens.

The store hasn’t noticed an increase in print book sales so much as an increase in overall sales, Parrett said.

“I think people are reading more overall,” she said, noting how the store, which serves the community and the campus, sells Nooks, a type of e-reader, as well.

Though people may be reading more overall, Miars said she knows “e-readers are hurting books across the board.”

This is a distinction that while recognized by Christina Walton, manager at Book ReViews in Bluffton, isn’t affecting the store’s sales.

The store has seen a jump in sales from 500 books a week in 2013 to about 2,000 in 2014, which may be due to the fact that she knows her customers like to come in the store.

“They like to look at books,” she said. “A lot of it is the atmosphere. We’re friendly to everybody, and they can sit there and hold the books.”

At The Bridge Christian Bookstore in Van Wert, e-readers have meant a small decline in sales over the past two years, said manager Randy Sowers.

“Most of the people that buy books are older people,” he said. “Anywhere in an age group where technology is present, they’re going to trend toward e-books and e-readers.”

Though the sales in children’s books are staying steady, as Sowers said grandparents come in and buy books for their grandchildren.

With mixed sales numbers, readers seem to split into two decisive camps when it comes to the way they get their books: e-reader lovers and haters.

“You can’t lay it on your face when you need a little nap,” joked Bobbie Chappell, a long-time Book ReViews volunteer, about e-readers. “I like smelling it, I like holding it, I like going back and forth, and I’m bad on the computer.”

Bev Stockton, another Book ReViews volunteer, prefers her Kindle, which she’s had for about two years.

“It’s just easier,” she said. “Books take up so much space.”

Though readers’ opinions vary, the overall global book industry is strong, according to Jonathan Nowell, president of Nielsen Book.

“In mature markets, we are seeing solid growth in digital while print book sales are proving resilient,” Nowell said during the Digital Book World Conference, according to a Nov. 2014 release from PR Newswire. “In emerging markets, print continues to drive growth … For the foreseeable future, we will operate in a hybrid print and digital world, and we will witness further publisher consolidation in the drive for coverage and efficiency.”

“While the global book business is in good shape, it is clear that the shape has changed and will continue to do so,” Nowell said.