For some, ink on paper is anachronistic and wasteful. For others, there's still some romance to tangibility. And, unlike vinyl or CDs, books are still a pretty efficient delivery system for words and pictures as there are no batteries to charge, you can read it relatively safely in the bath and it's resistant to sand. The media is predisposed to covering the old vs. the new. The old generally tends to lose, so ears pricked up after word of increased physical book sales and declining e-reader sales in some major markets in December. So how are physical book sales tracking in New Zealand? And is this a blip or a curve?
Nielsen BookScan shows that the New Zealand market peaked in 2010 at $146 million. Since then, the total market by value has declined by $30 million to $115 million. So the trend is certainly downward, but, year on year, sales did rise by around $100,000 in 2014 in terms of value, but volume was down by around 30,000.
E-book sales are not included in the BookScan figures. But, according to Deloitte, print will make up 80 percent of all global book sales in dollar terms this year (with the help of Mark Zuckerbrg, that might even be higher). As some have pointed out, "reports that physical books are gaining ground at the expense of digital are just plain wrong". As that story shows, sales declines have slowed, not reversed, "Philip Jones, editor-in-chief of the Bookseller in the UK, noted a 15 percent average growth in ebook sales across the main publishers" last year and, with multi-function tablets on the rise, "Apple reports its iBooks platform is adding 1 million new users a week".
So, is this a 'treesurgence'? Similarly optimistic things have been said recently about an increase in vinyl sales, but it sometimes pays to look at the longer term.