The recent release of some surprising statistics has forced me to explore a difficult question here on the Htet Tayza blog this week. Can technology ever really replace traditional entertainment mediums?
The evolution of technology has changed the way we view information. The perfect example is the e-reader e.g. the Kindle. These devices were first released at the tail end of the previous decade and they let people buy and read books digitally, causing widespread panic in the publishing world.
The e-reader quickly became extremely popular, and this is because it made reading more convenient. Consumers didn’t have to trudge down to local book stores to buy the latest editions, they could do it all via their e-reader. This made many people wonder whether the print medium, and other outdated forms of entertainment mediums e.g. CDs and vinyl, would eventually die out.
Yet the trend seems to be reversing. This was made particularly obvious by the release of BPI and Nielsen Soundscan sales figures for the first half of 2015. They showed that vinyl sales soared 38% in the US and 56% in the UK, but music download sales have gone down.
The trend also made itself apparent when the Association of American Book Publishers released their latest sales figures. The New York Times reported that this data, which the Association collects from almost 1,200 publishers across the US, shows that digital books accounted for around 20% of sales last year. This is roughly the same percentage of sales they accounted for a few years ago, indicating that the e-book’s popularity has somewhat stagnated.
The Times spoke to a number of publishers that are seeking to capitalise on the trend. Data shows that publishers across the States are pouring money into improving infrastructure. Hatchett, for example, added 218,000 square feet to their warehouse in Indiana late last year, and Simon & Schuster has decided to expand its distribution facility in New Jersey by 200,000 square feet.
Commenting on the trend, the chief executive of Penguin Random House, Markus Dohle, said: “People talked about the demise of physical books as if it was only a matter of time, but even 50 to 100 years from now, print will be a big chunk or our business.” It’s become clear that publishers are starting to realise this, and that’s why they’ve begun reforming infrastructure.
Htet Tayza’s opinion
You can’t deny the statistics. People are starting to drift away from digital entertainment mediums, and back to paper and vinyl. Yet I can’t help but wonder whether this is nothing more than a backlash which’ll die away. The digital technologies market has become saturated, so it makes sense that consumers would push back, if only for the sake of nostalgia.