E-book sales plunge as people choose paper books

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In the age of smartphones, iPads and Kindles, e-books seem to be the future. But for most readers, new data reveals, nothing beats the pleasure of holding a real, printed book.

2016 wasn't great for e-books, with sales of the digital books continuing to dwindle, CNN reported. E-book sales in the United Kingdom declined by 17% in 2016, the Publishers Association revealed, while U.S. sales in the first nine months of 2016 declined by 18.7%. 

Print books, on the other hand, had a pretty good year on both sides of the pond. Physical book and journal sales went up by 7% in the U.K., while U.S. book sales in the first nine months of 2016 increased by 7.5% for paperbacks and 4.1% for hardcover books.

What's more, the physical books people buy are seemingly more likely to get read. A Pew Research Center study cited by CNN revealed that 65% of Americans had read a physical book in the past year. Only 28% could say the same about an e-book — although a quarter of Americans confessed they hadn't read any books at all, the study noted.

Sales of physical books are up.  Sang Tan/AP

Industry professionals cited by CNN attribute this trend toward printed books to people's desire for "digital detoxes," as well as the fact that books given as gifts don't seem quite as meaningful when they're given in digital form. 

Some genres also just lend themselves better to print. Adult coloring books, for instance, have risen in popularity, while children's books continue to sell better in print than in digital form.

"The print format is appealing to many and publishers are finding that some genres lend themselves more to print than others and are using them to drive sales of print books," Phil Stokes, head of PwC's entertainment and media division in the U.K., told CNN.

Of course, for many readers, the popularity of printed books endures because nothing can compare with the heft and permanence of a physical book — no matter what the genre.

"I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience," author Jonathan Franzen said in 2012. "Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn't change."