Cover Story

Words on paper

"Words on paper" Continued...

Issue: "2014 Books Issue," June 28, 2014

First, digital book sales have leveled off to about one-third of the market, suggesting that readers still like the feel of a book in their hands. This is true even among the screen-obsessed young: Some studies show they prefer physical textbooks for studying. If they read, they do so on the printed page at least as much as on iPads. 

Second, while the number of independent bookstores has dropped by half since the mid-’90s, those that remain are feisty and dedicated. At the American Booksellers Association Children’s Institute last spring—the first event of its kind—I met several brave individuals who are opening new stores to appeal to niche markets or local tastes. If their former nemesis Barnes & Noble goes the way of Borders, there may be room in its crumbling shadow for the old neighborhood bookseller to move back and build a loyal customer base.

Third, trashy books will always find a market, but Fifty Shades has spawned no equally successful imitators, and bestseller lists of the last few years offer a more balanced picture. Amazon’s Top 25 for 2013 included two Christian titles (Heaven Is for Real and Jesus Calling), one classic (The Great Gatsby, with its movie tie-in), and eight juvenile or Young Adult novels. The YA publishing division has enjoyed spectacular growth, while sales of children’s books, new titles as well as classics, remain reassuringly steady. 

Books are still loved—how they look, how they feel, what they say for themselves, and what they say about us. That love may yet become as theoretical as Americans’ nostalgia for rail travel, which doesn’t convert to buying tickets. Trends indicate fewer readers in our future and perhaps fewer books of quality. But at WORLD, we remain hopeful. 

Meaning, here’s our annual books issue, with over 200 quality titles. Be influenced.

Janie B. Cheaney
Janie B. Cheaney

Janie lives in Missouri, is a columnist for WORLD, writes novels for young adults, and is the author of the Wordsmith creative writing series. She also reviews books at RedeemedReader.com. Follow Janie on Twitter @jbcheaney.

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