Even in an increasingly digital and paperless age, for many people there remain few substitutes for a good, old-fashioned print book. Whether it be nonfiction, fiction, or academic, there seems to be a timeless quality about traditional print books that other forms of print media like newspaper do not possess. For example, a 2016 survey by the Pew Research Center revealed that 80% of US adults get news online, leaving only 20% receiving news through print newspapers. This phenomenon is in stark contrast to the print book industry, which despite the emergence and rise in popularity of e-books and e-readers, is still dominant over digital forms. Unlike the prevalence of digital news, in a 2014 survey conducted by Pew, it was found that only 4% of readers claim to forgo traditional print books to read e-books exclusively.
So, the future for print books looks bright, but what are companies to do with these “old-fashioned” products in an increasingly digital age? With the daily barrage of technology coming full-speed from every angle, the answer is more simple than one may imagine. Rather than defaulting to an “either/or” marketing strategy, the solution is comes in the form of “both/and.” Both technology and print media can live not only simultaneously, but also in harmony. Technology does not have to stifle traditional media— it can enhance it.
The solution to marketing print books in a digital age is not to hastily jump to e-reading experiences, but to employ digital platforms to enhance the overall print reading experience. E-books are not the only reading-related development in the industry; in this digital age, there are multiple ways to engage with traditional books that incorporate technology in new and exciting ways.
One example of this truth can be found in Athens, GA at a local bookstore called Avid Bookshop. This local shop perfectly embodies the “both/and” possibility of marketing print books in a digital age through both owning a brick-and-mortar store with a curated selection of books, and offering digital options like online shopping and e-books. Taking it a step even further, readers can find pages on Avid’s website where they can browse the various book clubs that are hosted at the shop and add different books to wish lists. In this way, the consumption of a good book is not limited to either a physical experience or a virtual one, it is a combination of the two. After exploring then choosing an appealing community online, readers are able to purchase print books and experience them with other book-lovers at Avid’s shop. Through this digital process, the enjoyment of print books is not only facilitated, but it is also enhanced.
On a larger scale, the website Goodreads (a site allowing readers to search for books/reviews and post recommendations) boasts an online community of more than 7.3 million members. Readers can go on the site to log their read/reading/to read books, see what their friends are reading, and receive personalized book recommendations based on data Goodreads collects. The website, which is sponsored by Amazon, brings an offline activity online by enhancing the reading experience through engaging content and online communities, and in this way it improves the overall experience of the average print-reader and arguably makes them even likelier to buy more books.
In summary, although technology is transforming every area of life as we know it, it is still possible to market print books in a digital age. Even though print newspapers are growing obsolete, the majority of American consumers still prefer traditional books to e-reading platforms. This preference may seem to be an obstacle to the mission of digital marketing, but in reality technology is able to enhance the experience and amplify the consumption of print books in many ways. One look to Avid Bookshop’s book club process, or Goodreads’ online community/recommendation network, and it is clear that both digital technology and traditional media are able to work together in a way that improves the average reader’s experience.
Are you part of the majority of Americans that still prefer print books to e-books? Do you have a favorite online community I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments!