In reply to a recent tweet from HarperCollins: Be honest, how many books do you own (roughly), I estimated about 1000 or more in our last home, probably half that number in the current library of our smaller house. But from these photos I’ve just uncovered, I’d say it was a gross underestimation in both cases, given that I can get close to those numbers on just one wall…of one room.
Books: where would we be without them and the vast range of different worlds and experiences they open up for us all: publishers, booksellers, readers and writers… Remember all the debates in the early 2010s: the rush to be part of the digital revolution that existed alongside concerns that ebook sales would wreck the print book industry? And, a little later, audio? Well, from what I can gather, while they have certainly changed the bookscape, these other formats would appear to have plateaued at a very much lower percentage than originally anticipated. Which doesn’t mean that both the publishing world and bookstores haven’t had a tough time – and that, very sadly, many haven’t been able to hang in. Not good news for readers and writers either.*
But just as the advent of television and progressive formats of digital viewing haven’t destroyed the movie industry, ebooks and audio appear to have found their own niche by recreating or restoring the ability to access the written word for some people. For example, one of my friends enjoys audio books during long car trips, another finds an ebook lighter to hold – and my novel Out of Place was converted to audio for those who are visually impaired,
Otherwise, most of my friends read print and, personally, while I find ebooks handy when travelling, I doubt digital will ever be able replace the physical pleasure I get from reading – and buying – a print book. Or the almost organic sensation of being surrounded by books, whether in my own home or favourite bookstore. For me, they are – and always will be – friends and I like to think that their very diversity shows the different sides of my own character.
And it would seem I’m not alone. From what I can gather ebook sales run at about 20% of total sales worldwide and while bookshops were certainly impacted initially, those that remain are doing well.
*An interesting article by Constance Grady in New York Magazine (now owned by Vox Media) that sets out some of the difficulties https://www.vox.com/culture/2019/12/23/20991659/ebook-amazon-kindle-ereader-department-of-justice-publishing-lawsuit-apple-ipad