Against all odds printed books thrive

The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher

When Amazon introduced the Kindle e-reader in 2007 it looked like the writing was on the wall for printed books.

Just as the iPod had decimated CD sales when launched by Apple six years earlier, it looked certain that the Kindle would do the same to physical book sales.

All the signs were there. How could bulky paper books possibly compete with a lightweight device that could store a whole bookcase?

And the Kindle was a huge success. Sales of e-books grew from near zero to around a third of all book sales in just a few years. Book publishers were convinced this trend would continue. Bookshops, already under pressure from the sale of physical books online, started to close in greater numbers, including many much loved independent stores.

But now something strange is happening. E-book sales have flatlined. Physical book sales are growing again. It turns out the printed book, with a history stretching back many hundreds of years, is a resilient old thing.

Some people have drawn parallels with the resurgence of vinyl records, which are growing in sales too. But this is from a very low base, and still accounts for only 3% of the UK music market. It is also not happening at the expense of music streaming, which continues to explode in popularity.

And there is another difference. Once music is playing it is in the air. A book, however, is something that you hold in your hands. Paper is tactile. It has weight.

Books are often beautifully made, from the choice of paper stock and binding to the typography and graphics. A book can be something you admire as an object before you have read a single word.

And when you do start to read there are no distractions. No internet browser or Facebook app.

Like most children my two young sons would probably spend all day every day playing on an iPad if only they were allowed, and yet surprisingly they have never once asked to swap a bedtime story in print for one on a screen.

For all these reasons and more it felt good to give and receive a bunch of books this Christmas.

Read the original article here.


Against all odds printed books thrive

Picture books of New York

I am always on the lookout for new picture books to buy for my two sons, Oscar (6) and Mateo (2). So I can’t wait to dig into the these:

“Wow . . . New York! Just like I pictured it. Skyscrapers and everything.” So murmurs a presumably wide-eyed newcomer during a spoken-word break in Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City,” and who among us outlanders and former rubes did not feel that same sense of mingled recognition and awe when we first set foot here? Thanks to movies and TV, magazines, the news, books — iconography in general — all of us, even natives, carry a mental suitcase stuffed with received images of the Big Apple. That’s true of children, too, for whom the city’s superlatives (biggest, loudest, tallest) hold a special fascination. You might even say that New York is to other American cities what dinosaurs are to other animals — minus, one hopes, the extinction event. And if we are — or were — lucky children, picture books play a huge role in how we picture the city, from “Eloise” and “The Snowy Day” to “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile,” “In the Night Kitchen,” “You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum” and “The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.”

Read the full review here.


Picture books of New York

Returning to books

From Charles Simic in the New York Review of Books:

There is nothing more mysterious and wonderful than the way in which some bit of language—a clever quip, a pithy observation, a vivid figure of speech found in a book or heard in a conversation—remains fresh in our memory when so many other things we were at one time interested in are forgotten. These days, I look in disbelief at many of the books on my shelves, from thick novels and memoirs to works of great philosophers, wondering whether it’s really possible that I devoted weeks or even months reading them. I know that I did, but only because opening them, I find passages and phrases I’ve underlined, which upon rereading I recall better than the plots, characters, and ideas I encountered in these books; sometimes it looks to me that what has made the lasting impression on my literary taste buds, to use culinary terms, are crumbs strewn on the table rather than the whole meal.

Returning to books