But the novelty has worn off.
Peak digital is at hand.
The ultimate disruptor of the new information age is … wait for it … the book.
Shrewd observers noted the early signs.
Kindle sales initially outstripped hardbacks but have slid fast since 2011.
Sony killed off its e-readers.
Waterstones last year stopped selling Kindles and e-books outside the UK – switched shelf space to books and saw a 5% rise in sales.
Amazon has opened its first bookshop.
Now the official Publishers’ Association confirms the trend.
Last year digital content sales fell last year from £563m to £554m.
After years on a plateau physical book sales turned up – from £2.74bn to £2.76bn.
They have been boosted by the marketing of colouring and lifestyle titles – but there is always a reason.
The truth is that digital readers were never remotely in the same ballpark.
The PA regards the evidence as unmistakable: ‘Readers take a pleasure in a physical book that does not translate well on to digital’.
Virtual books – like virtual holidays or virtual relationships – are not real.
People want a break from another damned screen.
What went wrong?
Clearly publishing – like other industries before (and since) – suffered a bad attack of technodazzle: It failed to distinguish between newness and value.
It could read digital’s hysterical cheerleaders but not predict how a market of human beings would respond to a product once the novelty had passed.
It ignored human nature.
Reading the meaning of words is not consuming a manufacture:
it is experience.