As E-book Sales Fall And Audiobooks Rise, Print Still Dominates For Local Booksellers

By Ally Marotti
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Though the category still holds just a small fraction of the market compared with print and e-books, sales of audiobooks are growing briskly.

Chicago Tribune

At some of the Chicago area’s independent bookstores, “Kindle” used to be a swear word.

Over the past decade, some predicted rising e-book sales would spell gloom and doom for hardcovers and paperbacks alike — and, by extension, the independent bookstores that sold them.

But those morose predictions didn’t came to pass. Now, as screen fatigue takes hold for some, e-book sales are declining.

“Just like any other electronic device, (people) get really excited about it at first then the glory of it kind of wears off,” said Katie Anderson, a manager and buyer at Anderson’s Bookshops and the daughter of one of its owners.

The family-owned bookseller, with shops in Naperville, Downers Grove and La Grange, still sells some e-books through its website, and from 2012 to 2014 it sold an e-reader device called Kobo as an answer to Amazon’s Kindle.

But in February, Anderson’s started working with a company that brought its customers something else: downloadable audiobooks.

Though the category still holds just a small fraction of the market compared with print and e-books, sales of audiobooks are growing briskly.

Publishers saw a 30 percent increase in revenue from downloadable audiobooks in the first seven months of 2017 over the same period in 2016, according to the most recent data available from the Association of American Publishers.

The shifting demand between print, e-books and now downloadable audiobooks is playing out between the stacks in Chicago-area bookstores.

At Anderson’s, overall sales during the holiday shopping season were up over last year, Anderson said, though she declined to disclose specific numbers.

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