The Growing Demand for Paper

The cost to print a book keeps increasing. IngramSpark and Lightning Source recently raised their printing fees—again. A number of independent authors are frustrated by the rising costs.

The Demand for Paper is Increasing

We live in a digital age. If we are operating more in the digital realm, shouldn’t paper consumption be going down? If consumption is going down, wouldn’t this mean that paper is more affordable due to supply and demand?

Historically a shrinking demand would have led to overcapacity and cheaper prices in the paper industry. However, according the Publishing Executive, this is no longer the case.

In fact, we are using more paper due to booming ecommerce.  When people purchase goods online, these items must be shipped to them—and they are shipped in cardboard packages. Cardboard is paper. As a result, the demand for cardboard is increasing.

In response, the two or three manufacturers of paper products that dominate the North American paper industry (they produce 90% of paper) have designated more of their machines for making cardboard. This means there are fewer machines making paper for magazines and books, reducing the supply and increasing the price.

Paper is still very popular with people. Paper is safe, secure, sustainable, and trusted. Two Sides, a nonprofit initiative, has found that:

  • 64% of 18-24-year-olds are concerned the overuse of electronic devices could be damaging to their health.
  • 88% of people believe they understand, retain or use information better when they read print.
  • 68% believe that books are more likely to encourage learning and the development of other skills than using screens.
  • 56% of individuals trust the news stories they read in printed newspapers, while only 35% trust the news stories they read in social media.

Additional reasons people still love print are listed in the infographic below.

Related Posts:
Print Is Not Disappearing
Print Is Still King
Expanding Print-On-Demand Options

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Print is Still King

Printed books are not going away anytime soon. A recent study supports this statement.


The Ricoh Americas Corporation in its new study titled “The Evolution of the Book Industry: Implications for U.S. Book Manufacturers and Printers” had some interesting findings.

The most interesting of the findings was that nearly 70% of consumers feel it is unlikely that they will give up printed books by 2016. Consumers appear to have an emotional and sensory attachment to printed books. The four top reasons consumers gave for preferring printed books were:

  1. Lack of eye strain when reading from paper copy vs. an ebook.
  2. The look and feel of paper.
  3. The ability to add it to a library or bookshelf.
  4. The ability to share/pass on to others.

In this study, students also reported they preferred print text books because reading a digital text on a PC or tablet tempted them to other distractions on these devices.

Another interesting finding in this study was that about 60% of ebooks downloaded are never read in the U.S. Since many ebooks are offered for free or on a $.99 special, this may signal that many ebook users download these books, but then often don’t get around to reading them.

Print continues to be alive and well, and may be for years to come. I know that our BookCrash bloggers who review books for Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) member publishers by and large prefer print books. Out of the last 130 requests for a book to review, only five of these requests have been for ebooks. That means only about 3% of the bloggers prefer ebooks over print books.

Yes, ebooks are growing. However, print is still the dominant medium. To glean the most sales, you should plan to continue publishing your books in both print and ebook versions for years to come.

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The Disappearing Print Book

The disappearing print book—it’s the subject of publishers and book sellers worries these days. Much angst and thought is going into how to preserve both print books and brick-and-mortar bookstores.

Following are two interesting marketing campaigns aimed at doing just that. One is by a publisher and one is by book sellers. Interestingly, both of these entities are not located in the United States, which just goes to show that the disappearance of print books is not just a concern for Americans.

Books are My BagBooks Are My Bag

The United Kingdom’s Booksellers Association is launching the “Books Are My Bag” campaign that will run from September 13 through Christmas. The goal is to use cotton bags printed with “Books Are My Bag” to increase awareness of the importance of bookshops.

U.K. Publishers can join the campaign by ordering bags, use the “Books Are My Bag” banner on your website and in your emails, include the “Find Your Local Bookshop” button on your website, and join the social media campaign by following “booksaremybag” on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, and through using the #booksaremybag hashtag.

blank book

Disappearing Ink

One publisher in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is launching “El Libro que No Peude Esperar” (The Book That Can’t Wait) campaign. This publisher is printing books with disappearing ink in hopes of boosting excitement about real, rather than digital, books. These books will come in sealed packages. As soon as the reader starts to turn the books pages, the ink begins to age and fade. Readers will have about 60 days to finish the book before the pages go blank.

Campaigns come and go. Some are successful, some are not. Time will tell whether these two campaigns affect print book sales. While they may have the impact to increase print sales in the short run, I doubt they will do much to halt the march toward digital books in the long run.

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eBook Sales Keep Growing

A recent study by Simba Information recently showed that, while ebook adoption slowed in 2012, the number of ebook users still grew and passed the 50 million adult mark that year.

Interestingly this study showed that while the number of ebook readers grew, the amount of money spent by a given ebook buyer did not rise (between 2011 and 2012).


Simba also found that not everyone who can access ebooks chooses to do so. The study revealed that about 63% of smartphone owners, 48% of iPad owners, and 40% of non-iPad tablet owners do not use ebooks.

So, while the sales of ebooks are growing, remember that they still only constitute around 25% of all book sales. This means that if you only publish your content electronically, you are limiting the market reach for your book, and in turn, limiting sales.

On the other hand, if you are only publishing your content in print, you too are losing out on market reach and sales.

If you are interested in making your print books available digitally, but are not sure how to start, check out these great resources provided by Media Bistro.

I recently posted the following quote on Christian Small Publishers Association’s Facebook page. I think this quote sums up what to expect from the book market for the next few years.

eBook market growth has slowed and digital cannibalization of physical book sales has slowed as well. After the hyper-growth in ebooks over the last few years, consumers have settled into their book formats of choice. And while ebooks will continue to drive growth in the book category in the future, physical book sales will have a longer tail than previously anticipated.” ~Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch

It is not an either/or book selling market. It is a both market. Both print and digital versions of a book are now required to capture the widest audience.

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