MarketLine Blog

Are we witnessing the death of the traditional book?

Thursday 7th March 2013 is World Book Day; a day when the joy of reading is celebrated and promoted. Numerous events will be held in schools, nurseries, libraries, and book shops across the UK and Ireland. Many children will dress up as their favorite storybook characters and numerous World Book Day tokens will be exchanged for one of eight World Book Day new book releases. A smartphone app will also be launched aimed at young adults, featuring stories from leading teen authors. This delivering of content digitally highlights the era that we live in, where laptops, mobile phones, and e-books are fast becoming an important substitute to the physical book.

MarketLine research indicates that revenue generated from the sale of books in the UK had dropped by almost 9% in 2011 when compared to 2007 values. The outlook does not look particularly promising, with values in 2016 expected to be over 20% less than the 2011 figure. A similar situation can be seen in other Western European countries and North America. One important reason for this decline is the growth of electronic books available on laptops, tablets, smartphones, and e-readers.

An e-book can offer an attractive substitute to the traditional book through offerings such as hyperlinks, cut and paste, interactivity, and multimedia content. An e-book can be downloaded instantly, saving a trip to the shop or library, or waiting for delivery. Furthermore, there is the ease of transporting an e-book compared to a physical book, with e-readers and tablets generally being small and light-weight. There is also the issue of space, with e-books removing the need for bulky storage systems such as book cases.

However, despite these clear advantages many consumers still prefer a book in its traditional format. For many book lovers possessing the physical copy of a book is important, as opposed to just the content. For some, books are also seen as a collectable object. Traditional books also remain important when reading to young children.
As we progress further into the digital age, the traditional book may die out as e-books takeover. Perhaps the future for books will be similar to vinyl, with the physical object being a treasured possession. On the other hand, the e-book may not serve as a complete substitute to traditional books; it may be that the two can exist alongside each other with e-books acting as a complement to traditional reading as opposed to a replacement.

Take a look at our Books Industry Profiles available in the MarketLine store

Read our case study ‘Amazon’s Kindle: Dominating the e-book market while selling at cost price’ available here.

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