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Print Is Not Dead

July 11, 2016
At least he's not staring at his phone. (image via wikimedia)

At least he’s not staring at his phone. (image via wikimedia)

“Print is dead,” I said as my family entered the book store.  It was a stupid thing to say, I admit, and probably rude.  I’ve never said “God is dead” while walking into a church.  It’s just that the first thing I noticed was a bunch of people staring at their phones.  Staring at their phones in a book store?  What else was I supposed to say?

Print isn’t dead.  Not yet, anyway.  According to Nielson BookScan  (I didn’t know Nielson kept track of book sales too!), sales of print/real books are up 6% for the first half of 2016, even though there hasn’t been a blockbuster this year.  A few years ago 50 Shades of Grey was the blockbuster, and everything that was 50 Shades related sold well.  There hasn’t been a blockbuster like 50 Shades since, but real books are still being bought anyway.

Five years ago, a lot of people thought that print was dying, that young people would prefer digital, even as they got older.  Maybe kids do/will prefer digital, but real books might still be more useful.  Research shows  that readers who use a real book will retain information better than  somebody who uses a digital format.  I don’t know if these studies are accurate.  They could have been rigged, or they might be biased, or they might have been paid for by the educational publishing industry so that they could justify overcharging for printed textbooks.

It’s too bad that sales for fiction are going down, despite the overall rise in book sales.  According to other recent studies , which may or may not have been accurate, people who read fiction, especially literary fiction, are supposed to be more empathetic than people who don’t read fiction at all.  There are a lot of narrow minded people out there who can see things only from their points-of-view.  We need more empathy in this world.  Therefore, we need more people to read fiction.  Maybe studies will show that people who read print fiction become more empathetic than people who read digital fiction.

I let my daughters buy a couple books each month, but I don’t let them buy magazines, especially teen celebrity magazines.  My daughters can find anything they want about teen celebrities on the internet.  The internet is great simply because I’ve never had to spend money on a teen celebrity magazine.  Somebody must be buying them, though.  There were a bunch of teen celebrity magazines in the book store, and my youngest daughter wanted to buy them all.  Print isn’t dead until the teen celebrity magazine is dead with it.

Even though I let my daughters buy their own books, I use the library.  We can’t afford to have everybody in my family buy their own brand new books.  New books are expensive.  Plus, I pay for the library with my taxes, whether I use the library or not, so I might as well use it.  On some days when I don’t even feel like reading, I go to the library and check out a bunch of books, just out of spite.

A 6% increase in book sales over the first six months of the year is a blip in the larger scheme of economics, but it’s better than a 6% decrease.  Even though I like reading books digitally, especially when I travel or am standing in a long line, I’m glad that print isn’t dead.  There’s a lot of value in print.

As we drove home, I kept my eyes on the road like I’m supposed to, but while we sat at a red light, I glanced at my daughters in the back seat.  I’d been expecting them to be reading the books I’d just paid for.  Instead, they were staring at their phones.

“Print is dead,” I said quietly to myself.


What do you think?  Is print making a comeback?  Was print ever truly threatened?


When I was a kid, I was punished for saying the word crap.  Looking back, it kind of ticks me off because now I know…

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  1. Udit Rajhansa permalink

    Print will never die. There will always be people who will prefer a printed version of text to an on-screen display of it.
    Brilliant post though!!

  2. Love this post. Makes me a little sad, because it holds so much truth. But in reality, writing and creating stories is still alive. Just how we all go about reading them is changing. So, maybe instead of mourning the death of books, we should be looking at how to capture the readers in a different way. Books are still a go too, for sure. And writing has always been the legacies of society, whether carving on a mountainside, drawing in a cave, inking on paper, or electronically sending. Our words, wisdom, and creativity will still live on. Writing isn’t dead!

  3. Anonymous permalink

    Print is certainly not dead. In my circle a few people are in book clubs. Others are constantly discovering new books to read. What we may not have taken into account is that the market is saturated with used books. In my local pub there is a free exchange facility where you take in books you don’t want and take what you want. All the charity shops are bursting with books. Given all this and the state of the economy who would want to buy new books? So in terms of the sale of new books, there is no incentive to publish but the readers are reading books just as voraciously as ever. In the trains I travel I rarely see any sort of kindle machine unless people are reading books on their phones but I do see many people reading books and in the tube too. The kindle is already dated and no one wants to be an old fuddy duddy carrying a kindle, but a book on the other hand with its attractive cover…

  4. By the look of fellow book bloggers and #bookstagram, it sure seems like.

  5. I do think people who read fiction end exercising more empathy than those who don’t. It takes considerable amount of effort to step into another’s shoes and not be daunted by this character’s vulnerabilities. Fiction provides the fodder good.

  6. not dead, nor dying, but it will also never again be as prominent as it was in previous decades. Too many competing media.

  7. happyfreeconfusedlonelyatthesametime permalink

    Not dead. I spend lots of time on my phone but I also read soo many books

  8. I love this post as well. I have split my time between reading books on my phone and getting a “print” book from the library or used book store. I do enjoy the freedom of a print book when I’m at the beach or traveling, it just feels better to read a book than reading a digital copy off my phone.

  9. printed words are the embodiments of thought’s composure and emotion’s treasure….. print will never ever be outdated…….. there is magic in printed words…..

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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