Is there a Book Renaissance Underway? Is Print Dead?

| December 19, 2013 | 0 Comments


It really infuriates me to see an antiquarian book handled with bare hands! Put on some cotton gloves, would ya, pal ?!?
It is said that printed books are dead.

When can you sell your book
for $14,165,000.00 ???

Simple … Print it then wait 374 years
and sell it at auction.

The Bay Psalms book sold
for that much last month.

It was printed by Massachusetts Puritans in 1640 and is basically the first book ever published in America. There are a few copies around but they don’t float around much.

It is reported that the Puritans printed around 1700 copies in 1640 but only 11 are known to exist today.

Old_South_Church-BostonIt is rare to see one up for sale. The last one to be sold was back in 1947 and went for a mere $150,000.00 … a real bargain !

The Old South Church of Boston was the owner who sold this copy at auction. It was estimated to have sold for between $15 and $30 million dollars. So, the sale fell quite short of expectations.

It’s OK though … the church has another copy!

I love antiquarian books and I have quite a sizable collection. However, I’m more into the content rather than the collectible value. My oldest happens to be a 1799 edition of the laws of the Commonwealth Of Massachusetts. I love looking at it magnified to see where the metal fonts dug into the paper when it was printed!

So then it is only new books that are dead? Are ebooks really taking over?

Apparently, according to real sales data, it depends on the subject category of books. Books that are more visual (illustrated) oriented are on the increase, while books that are more type oriented are on the decrease in printed form and increasing in electronic form.


I saw some interesting data from the Association of American Publishers about Electronic Book (Ebook) sales over the last several years back to 2008. Ebook sales growth shot up to peak in 2010.

But it’s growth has been in a nose dive since and seems to be leveling off well below its 2010 peak.

What gives?

There are stats out there that have been telling us that Ebook sales would surpass printed books in 2017.

Is it an economics thing? – or are Ebooks just a toy that has lost its new shine and appeal?

print-is-not-deadOn the cover of the latest edition of a leading trade magazine for the print graphics design industry, they have in large, bold letters covering the entire surface:




… like they are trying to convince someone.

Book stores are indeed closing up.

This speaks more to HOW people are buying books rather than a symptom that seems to say people are not buying books.

Barnes and Noble are trimming back on their numbers.

I remember when Walden’s started selling cheap overstocks. Then they closed.

Books A Million started doing that a few years ago. The writing is on the wall.

And of course Borders is long gone now. Their customer demographic were the very ones who jumped on the e-book trend. Borders could not ride out the period of sales famine.

keep-calm-and-go-with-the-flowNow there seems to be strength returning in the printed book industry. Not because they are all printed in China by communist owned printers … “Printed In The USA” is showing up more and more in book stores.

Look – whenever seasons change there is definitely a change in habits –

… or is it better to say there is more going with the flow.

Do winter coats sell better in June or November?

Do people tend to eat when they are hungry or when they are full?

Obvious questions? Absurd questions? Ridiculous?

Sure …

So why is it not just as ridiculous to have industries cry over sliding sales or what seems to be a loss of interest in what used to be high demand?

Just as Chicken Little freaked out and thought the sky was falling – we would laugh at someone who was freaking out about the planet dying because all the leaves were falling off the trees in September.

the-sky-is-fallingThe same principles apply to longer trends.

There was a huge peak in births in the mid-1950s …

There was also a huge peak of births centering in 1990 …

There was a large drop in births centering in the 1970s …

Think about how that effects EVERYTHING – especially now.

Enough about that …

… other than trends do indeed follow demographics.

Today, it’s all about 20 to 25 year old OR 60 to 65 year old people.

Everyone else is cannon fodder.

Think of this fact: Why did children’s programming (especially Saturday morning animation) absolutely blow chunks in the 1970s and well into the 1980s ?!? Because it was the lowest demographic at the time. Those people are now between their late 20s to late 40s now.

who-has-earsStop complaining that your ice cube sales to Eskimos
are down !!!

Of course they are!

Print is not dead.

Just as radio is not dead.

It’s the same principle that allows some child actors to make the transition to an adult actor.

It’s just time to put on a new pair of shoes.

As it was once said: “Let him who has ears, hear.”

Meanwhile – at the Public Library …


Category: Tony Rollo Blog

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