Even though Michael Wade has busted me on e-reader reluctant ownership – I still insist the Nook belongs to The Brunette – I continue to stand by the p-book. And it seems that many readers out there still are.

Columnist and technical writer Nicholas Carr notes the flattening of e-book sales:

In a post on the first day of this year, I noted the surprisingly rapid decline in e-book sales growth over the course of 2012. The trend appears to be continuing this year. The Association of American Publishers reports that in the first quarter of 2013, e-book sales in the U.S. trade market grew by just 5 percent over where they were in the same period in 2012. The explosive growth of the last few years has basically petered out, according to the AAP numbers

Not to get too jolly about this – printed book sales declined about 4.7 in the first quarter of 2013. But the printed book still dominates with about 75% of the market.

Carr suggests several possibilities:

  • The e-book may turn out to be more a complement to the printed book, as audiobooks have long been, rather than an outright substitute.
  • The advantages of printed books have been underrated, while the advantages of e-books have been overrated
  • The shift from e-readers to tablets is putting a damper on e-book sales.
  • The early adopters have made their move – further converts will be harder to find
  • Last, but never the least – novelty fades.

As e-book sales stall, and p-book sales still continue to contract, are we looking at people reading less? When you get past the gimmicks of technology, the act of reading takes a bit of stillness and concentration – two things we are less and less inclined to do. The influence of the web has retrained us to read in chunks – our ability to read linearly is disappearing.

I’m encouraged by the number of young readers I find who defend the printed word and take joy in putting their thoughts to paper. I’m also encouraged by the young artisans who are discovering the craft of letterpress and the the technique of setting type and printing on paper and board. I don’t believe print is ever going away. Television didn’t destroy radio and film didn’t destroy theatre. Print will remain as a unique enjoyment that electronics will never completely subvert.

Kindle that. Or not.

three women readingThree Women Reading
Uemura Shōen (1875-1949)
(via Awesome People Reading)