Gen Z’s Soft Spot for Physical Books

By: Kaydee Ambas · March 14, 2023 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

Bringing Back Books

Amazon (AMZN) appeared to deliver a critical hit to bookstores in the 1990s and 2000s, with its massive online selection and the convenience of fast shipping. Then with the introduction of digital eReaders like Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook, printed books looked for a moment like they may go the way of the newspaper.

But thanks to Gen Z, it looks like books are here to stay.

Books Are Booming

According to a survey by Pew Research, almost 70% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 read printed books, compared to just 42% for ebooks. Meanwhile, according to data from McKinsey, sales of books in the US hit a record high of more than 843 million in 2021. This was almost matched by 2022’s second-highest total of 789 million.

The TikTok generation’s soft spot for printed books, bookstores, and libraries is more than just a poetic coincidence. In fact, part of the reason for the sales spike is likely due to Gen-Z-fueled TikTok trends.

For example, the hashtag #BookTok is used to share book recommendations with friends and followers, and has become a powerful publishing engine in its own right. The top 90 authors trending in the literary TikTok niché collectively saw sales more than double from 9 million in 2020 to 20 million in 2021.

Why Books?

There are a few reasons why Gen Z prefers hardcover books over eReaders.

To start, physical books lead to less eye strain for many people. They also provide a way to “digitally detox” and get away from screens for a little bit. Finally, people enjoy visiting their local bookstores, wandering the aisles, and supporting local business. Some respondents even cited “the smell of real books” as a differentiating factor.

So if you’re feeling frazzled from being too plugged in, take a page out of Gen Z’s book and give your local bookstore a visit.

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