Why the popularity of books is growing as e-reader sales decline

Celebration: Tasmanian author Rachael Treasure was part of celebrating 25 years of Not Just Books with owners Kevin and Sue Young. Picture: Brodie Weeding.
Celebration: Tasmanian author Rachael Treasure was part of celebrating 25 years of Not Just Books with owners Kevin and Sue Young. Picture: Brodie Weeding.

Printed book sales have been growing in Australia for some years, despite predictions they would be replaced by e-readers.

Not Just Books and ABC Centre co-owner Kevin Young said the fall in printed book sales stopped about five or six years ago.

“Sales of e-books in Australia grew to about the same level as in the United Kingdom and the United States a couple of years after they did.

“But sales of e-books have been declining while printed book sales have been growing,” he said.

Mr Young, whose bookshop is celebrating its 25th anniversary over May and June, said newspaper and magazine sales were declining more than books.

Those real tangible pastimes that don’t involve electronics are coming back. There may be a trend away from screens.

Not Just Books and ABC Centre co-owner Kevin Young

“I think the printed book has reached the level where people who wanted an e-version for all or some of their reading have moved (to e-readers).

“Now we have a stable base of people wanting a printed book, so we’re seeing stability or growth in the printed book.”

Mr Young said one reason for the growing popularity of books was that people wanted something tangible and physical to relax with. “Sitting by the fire with an e-book isn’t quite the same.”

Not Just Books has been open so long the owners are now seeing a new generation of readers.

“One of the big joys of being in the industry is seeing people who came in as children, bringing in their own kids, so it’s the next generation.”

Book trends drive sales

In the early days of the shop, the first big trend was the so-called 3-D magic eye books, which took the world by storm.

“That was followed by Harry Potter and certainly it’s been the biggest selling series or individual title we’ve ever had.”

Harry Potter introduced a lot of late primary and high school students to reading, and they became readers for life.

The John Marsden series was hugely popular, and other trends included the paranormal with the Twilight series, and Fifty Shades of Grey. 

Adult colouring books, jigsaw puzzles and board games have also brought people into the shop.

“Those real tangible pastimes that don’t involve electronics are coming back. There may be a trend away from screens.”