Two decades ago e-books disrupted the world of publishing. Since the introduction of commercial e-readers in the 1990s, the downfallof print books seemed inevitable. Likewise with the advance of the digital era, paper notebooks and planners were considered obsolete.
Yet the tide has turned. Print books, paper notebooks and planners are regaining popularity across generations. Why is paper making a comeback? Needless to say older consumers are reluctant to let go of print. But many consumers who did so, return to print. And what about those tech-savvy millennials? Why are they attracted to analog paper products?
The return of printed books
After reaching a peak in 2014, sales of e-readers and e-books have slowed over the past three years. Data from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) show that U.S. e-book sales dropped 14% in 2015 and 15.6% in 2016. The publisher revenues for January through August show that e-books continue to struggle in 2017 (-5.3%).
Meanwhile, U.S. sales of print books increased by 3.3% in 2016. AAP’s Stat Shot of January through August 2017 shows an +1.0% overall increase of trade publishers’ revenues compared to the same period in 2016, with children’s and young adult books up +2.9%and religious presses up +7.8%.
Earlier this year the Guardian reported that UK e-book sales dropped 17% in 2016, while the same year saw a whopping 8% rise of sales of their paper counterparts. How can we explain this?
The benefits of paper
An important argument to switch off your e-reader and turn to paper books is physical well-being. Screens are unhealthy. According to a 2014 study by Harvard Medical School researchers light-emitting e-books negatively impact overall health and cause sleeping problems.
Next there is the argument ofinformation retention and learning. By literally flipping the pages, readers have a clear sense of their current position in the narrative. Research suggests that readers of print books are therefore better able to reproduce the stories they have read than readers using digital devices.
Moreover, a growing body of evidence shows that college students learn less when they use electronic devices during lectures. Laptops distract from learning, both for users and those around them. In contrast, students who take notes using pen and paper are more likely to remember the information offered. Taking hand-written notes requires students to condense and process the information, resulting in better grades
The soul of paper
Finally there is the more elusive argument of appeal, experience and personality. Paper has soul. Print books are attractive to all ages. We read our first books sitting on our parents’ laps. When we become older, our book collections are physical reminders of our life’s journey.
Many people experience screen fatigue as they use screens throughout the week on several devices. Printedbooks provide an opportunity to step away from that.Especially for young consumers the tactile pleasures of holding print books mean a valuable break from their devices and social media. A 2013 survey by the youth research agency Voxburner found that 62% of 16 to 24-year-olds prefer print books to e-books.
The return to books follows the wider trend of younger generations being attracted to pre-digital technologies and all things retro. Like books, old school paper notebooks ooze authenticity. Besides, checking boxes of a digital to-do list is far less fulfilling than striking through a taskcompleted. The latter simply feels more like an accomplishment.
Millennials also use paper notebooks and planners as creative outlets. They serve as an extension of their aesthetics. While recording their daily thoughts and activities, notebooks and planners become instruments of personal branding. The result? Beautiful paper records of their personal accomplishments..
A living testament
The answer to why paper is here to stay is manifold. Paper both makes us feel better and makes us look better. Moreover, research shows that paper makes us smarter! Above all, paper is a living testament of the human experience