Are physical books making a comeback? In an increasingly digital world, this would be great news.

The flagship Borders store was just off State Street near the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. The first time I visited was my freshman year. A good friend wanted to walk the five or six blocks from our dorm to pick up Mitch Albom’s new book, and I was pleased to join.

From the moment you stepped inside the store, the first thing you noticed was the smell. Or call it an aroma, because calling it a smell gives it a negative connotation and it was far from unpleasant. Rather, it was comforting. Then you stepped forward and walked the aisles, browsing, content, looking for the next book that will change you life.

This is the bookstore experience that we’ve all come to adore, and it’s the scene we fear we will lose as companies like Borders are forced to close their doors forever. That’s what happened with this store. Less than two years later, the building sat vacant. It was an end of an era — one I hadn’t had nearly enough years to experience.

The physical book, clearly, was dying. Let’s call it being replaced. The world was shifting toward digital platforms, after all, and books would be no exemption.

But after years of physical book sales decreasing and ebook sales increasing, have we finally struck a balance?

According to CNN, yes. And not only have physical book sales ceased declining, they’ve actually grown. In 2016, hardcover book sales increased more than 4% and paperback more than 7%.

QUICK READ: Amazon Bookstores: Good or bad for the industry?

What’s the result? According to Publishers Weekly, HarperCollins is set to invest in its physical book business. The large publisher is committed to supporting “any efforts to introduce more innovation and creativity into bookselling,” while also stating that it will be supporting the growth of independent bookstores.

For bibliophiles, this comes as refreshing news. Let’s hope the trend continues long into the future.

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  1. This is a difficult one! Without eBooks, I wouldn’t be a published author and I wouldn’t be able to afford as many books as I now own. Still…I enjoy the scent and feel of a “real” book if I have a choice. Most of my paper books are long gone, as I got tired of lugging them from move to move, but I still have a few I will always keep. I suspect eBooks will eventually replace paper altogether, but I hope I’m long dead before it happens. Thanks for the post Ed!

  2. Great post! I own a Kindle and I really enjoy it for a short moment before I start to miss the feeling of reading paperbacks. Although eBooks can be convenient, nothing beats reading physical books for me.

  3. I’m a bit skeptical about the “comeback”…
    Digital “books” are convenient. You can buy one and read it right away. You can have a lot of “books” on your device without having to take physical books on a long-distance flight.
    The only time I really read an ebook is when I’m bored and stuck somewhere I did not expect to be stuck. Otherwise, whenever I can prepare – paperback!

    1. There’s is a true convenience and affordability to ebooks, which is why I think they’re here for the foreseeable future. Just hope paperbacks stick around (and thrive) as well!

  4. There’s something about a physical book. Sure, they can take up a lot of space, but there’s a sense of progressing through them…and I feel like you can recall a phrase or a particular section much more easily when reading a physical book. And going to the Kindle store will never feel like going into a bookstore like Powell’s in Portland or Shakespeare & Company in Paris. : )


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