Whatever happened to the inexorable advance of e-books? Apparently it is turning into a retreat.

Last week I gave one of my daughters a Kindle, one of those ones you just read books on.

The benefit of a Kindle comes particularly when you go on holiday. If you are anything like me, you probably take in a hotel based holiday in a warm place once or twice a year. And during that time I can get through three books a week – sometimes more.

Given that I have to cover the possibility that one or two of the books I have chosen might not be to my taste, this can result in a fair amount of my airline luggage allowance being taken up with reading matter.

But back to my daughter. The gift was well-received. My daughter has downloaded a lot of books already and got the hang of it quickly. That was good – for as my children have grown up I’ve found I never know what to give them, and I dread giving the present that is graciously received but then tucked away and never seen again.

What was not so welcome were the comments at my expense from my friends when they found out I had bought a Kindle, comments suggesting that Admiral’s document storage services must be very much in decline if even I, a person dedicated to the world of storing paper, was now giving my daughters digital reading devices.

But actually, that is not quite how the world is going. For it seems that even people with Kindle readers and the like still buy books. The Kindle is great for specific situations – the holiday is the prime example – but when it comes to reading at home, on the way to work, at lunchtime, or whenever else people like to read, the book is still king.

And that means that everything to do with books, such as stocking the archive with a copy of each edition, holding original manuscripts, etc, is still a growing business.

In fact, all the research that I have seen shows that the days of rapidly rising e-book sales and plunging print sales are over, and indeed lasted just a short while. Digital sales started to fall year on year in 2012. The decline in print sales bottomed out last year and seems to be rising again.

For those people who like to count money rather than books, digital book sales fell 12% last year, and their share of the total revenue of major publishers fell. Digital books now make up about 13% of sales compared with 16% at the peak when digital was growing and print declining.

Behind these figures are some interesting revelations. Cook books, for example, continue to grow strongly as a brand and have become a very solid area of Christmas and Birthday presents. But cookbooks just don’t sell very well digitally – people want to be able to prop the book open by the side of the food preparation area. Likewise, big film tie-ins tend to sell only as print copies – not as digital copies. People want the pictures and want to flick through the book.

Indeed, even something like the Fifty Shades trilogy sells as a book not as an e-book, although quite why anyone wants to read this I have no idea. I got through about thirty pages and just couldn’t stand the style. Mind you I did go to a party where four ladies were discussing the books with much enthusiasm. I listened with interest and found even more reasons why I didn’t like the books. But perhaps I had better return to my main theme…

Penguin was the last big publisher to find sales of e-books rising – they had a huge growth of over 25% in e-book sales in the first half of 2013. But at that time they were bringing into e-book format books that had never been there before. And their print sales increased as well, because they had some really powerful new titles in that period. But even so, e-books at their height were still only 20% of the whole turnover of Penguin.

There are, therefore, all sorts of special factors involved, but throughout the industry we find the same general trend. E-books have peaked, and the drop in print copy sales has stopped and been reversed.

And there is one other factor. Some companies include in their “digital sales” category audio books which are still growing massively in sales. Now here I have to admit I am a great consumer of audio books. I long ago gave up on listening to the radio while driving, and whatever audio book I have clicks in as soon as the engine starts.

But audio books have never been a threat to print – because audio comes out alongside the printed version and most people use it as I do. I read printed books at home and listen to audio books in the car. That way I get through twice as many books!

So the threat to the printed book is, it seems, over. We are, indeed, heading back to printed books, and the world of storage once again seems safe from the incursion of technology.

If you’d like to know more about our document storage facility, please take a look at our website at www.archive-document-storage.co.uk.

Alternatively please do call us on 0800 810 1125.


Collecting can be a great hobby, but can bring with it problems too

Ever since I started writing my regular commentary about the sorts of things that we have in the Admiral Document Storage facility I’ve increasingly been talking to our customers and others within the storage industry about what they have to store.

This has led to a number of us sending emails back and forth, often of the “you’ll never guess what I have just been asked to store…” and “My Brother in Law has just told me about a neighbour who collects…”

The reality is that people do collect the strangest things. And when the collection gets too big for the house, or when the collector’s long suffering spouse or partner says “that’s enough”, part of the collection comes our way.

One of the strangest collections reported to me is sugar packets.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with collecting sugar packets; it is just that I ask myself “why?” And come to that “how did it start?” Is it that the individual just thought, “I’d like to collect something that no one else collects,” or did something happen earlier in life that made the individual think, “wow, sugar packets are really interesting.”

Another collection that has been mentioned by colleagues is Scratchcards. This utterly bemuses me since I long ago gave up dealing with Scratchcards, having never managed to win anything with any of them. And, it appears, virgin Scratchcards are actually considered to be of higher value than scratched scratchcards.

Now this is funny, I think. Because one might have a lovely collection of pristine scratchcards but never know if one of them actually won the top prize in that particular competition.

Of course, many of these collections preserve history – not just the history of a product or service but the history of a way of doing things. For example, in the early days of the internet AOL sent out millions of CDs which had different designs on, and which the recipients were invited to stick in their computers and use to set up an internet connection.

All this has gone with broadband and the like, but for a while AOL was the king of internet connection. So the hunt is on to find all of the 1000 plus different designs that AOL used.

Thus the list of collections goes on. Chocolate wrappers, banana labels, napkins – all have been, and are being, collected. And in some cases the collection leads to some sadness too.

Imagine a person who has taken to collecting something highly unusual, such as the examples given here. No one else can understand the ins and outs or share the passion, but as the years advance it is clear that this collection has given and continues to give a huge amount of pleasure to the individual.

Eventually the sad day comes when the individual passes on and his/her descendants are left with the most difficult decision as to what to do with the collection.

The problem is that with a unique collection it can be impossible to find anyone else who would welcome it. To simply throw the collection away would be unthinkable because that would be to harm the memory of the individual who so valued this collection.

So what to do?

I had not realised until I started having this conversation with those in the storage business, and with people who use our facility, that it can be a real problem. The collection meant so much to that one member of the family. It is now left behind, but no one quite knows how to handle the situation.

I have no answer, of course, although we can and do store such collections. What one really wants is for the collection to be named in honour of the departed, and then displayed properly with full recognition of its origins in a suitable museum. But for many collections we are still waiting for that museum to be built.

Yet perhaps each topic will have its own museum one day. For the sake of those who agonise over the problem, I do hope so.

If you’re looking for document storage facilities in the West Midlands do give us a call on 0800 810 1125.

Alternatively you can find further information on our website.