Pulp Magic

JULY 30, 2015

The Joys of Summer Reading

There are few things as simple and satisfying as reading a book at the beach.  No need to worry about getting the pages wet or dropping it when you fall asleep. I have lots of old paperbacks with sand in the pages and each one reminds me of a vacation at the beach soaking up the sun with a good book in my hand.

Turns out physical book sales are on the rise and given the continued popularity of the “summer read” I can see why.  According to Nielsen BookScan, sales of printed books are increasing by about 2% a year.  That includes books sold online through Amazon and other electronic venues.  This marks an important reversal of fortunes for printed books after e-books came on the market nearly a decade ago.   And as is so often the case, digital is not substituting pixels for paper . . . digital media is supporting the physical world.

Here’s a great example: Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame has launched what amounts to a global online book club.  Zuckerberg’s New Year resolution in 2015 was to read an important book every two weeks and discuss it with the entire Facebook community. And unlike me, he’s kept his resolution this year.  The list of books is impressive and eclectic — so far it’s nonfiction only.  And the discussion is lively and well-informed.  It’s also very well attended with nearly half a million participants so far.

Facebook doesn’t sell books so this isn’t simply a marketing scheme.  It’s more about the love of books and sharing the ideas they inspire.  You can certainly do this online but there’s something deeper happening when you can clutch the book in your hand, underline the passages that mean the most to you, and carry it with you knowing that wherever and whenever you need to refresh your mind, you can pick up your book and find what you need no matter how far you are from an electrical outlet or a wifi connection.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet and all the convenience it puts at my finger tips.  But my finger tips themselves prefer to leaf through a book made of paper.  That’s one reason why Nielsen Bookscan reported that in the first half of 2014, 67% of all the books sold were printed on paper and bound in physical copies that can be held in your hand.