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.


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