Remember the olden days—the ones that occurred maybe 10 years ago—when Amazon first unveiled its revolutionary Kindle, that brilliant device that promised a whole library of books to sit within a single screen? Remember when various news outlets rang the death tolls for ink-on-paper books, proclaiming them officially dead in the new, shiny, paperless era?
So much for that.
It was in 2007 when The Economist stated “The book is dead: Long live the book (in some form),” attaching phrases such as “world-historical significance” to the advent of e-readers (the article even dates itself by describing Amazon.com simply as an “online bookseller"—my, how times have changed!). In “The End of Books and the Death of Libraries,” Purdue’s Matthew J. Bruccoli mournfully expressed that digitization of books both rendered them “not real” and served as a destructive endeavor against culture as a whole. The New York Times, at first admitting skepticism, warmed to the idea that the Kindle may have finally written “a new chapter” in an increasingly digital age, another article going so far as to deem bibliophiles' love of print as “fetishistic.” If that is indeed the case, today’s Gen Z and Millennials are out-and-out book perverts.
Despite the convenience and unlimited amount of books e-readers boast to offer, 53.8 percent of Tylt voters much prefer page-turners with actual pages than screens. An interesting result, to be sure, considering that younger demographics are supposedly technophiles. More tellingly, Marie Kondo’s belief that owning more than 30 books is cluttering one's household didn’t really sit well with Tylt audiences: A majority 93.4 percent believe any number of print books was far from taking up space in their homes. A further 90.1 percent say how book reading itself will never die, remaining just as strong as no matter what addictive content Netflix may churn out.
This Tylt data greatly aligns with what the book marketplace itself is seeing. Seven years after its prophetic proclamation that paper books were kaput, the Times instead came to the conclusion that “print is far from dead.” In fact, in 2019 print books actually outsold eBooks by quite the margin, raking in $22.6 billion in revenue (eBooks made only $2.04 billion). Much to Ms. Kondo’s dismay, it appears that book lovers are still cluttering their shelves with endless paperback stashes.
Similar to what Mr. Bruccoli states in his article, the love that younger generations have for books may lie in the sense of comfort physical books provide. Ever enamored with nostalgic items, Gen Z and Millennials—faced with the uncertainty in part created by technology—opt to lose themselves in “real” items as opposed to being sucked into bottomless social platform holes. As they continue to log off for longer, reading printed books seems another way in which younger generations can untether themselves from being constantly connected to an increasingly frenetic world.
The renaissance of printed books should be a sign to brands that digital isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the only way to appeal to nascent consumers. More and more people are looking to be grounded in a reality that lies outside their phones. It’s an escapism from escapism, and what better way to escape than within the pages of a very real, very good book?