With all of the hand-wringing over the fate of the written word, this is not what many were expecting: bookstore sales rose by 2.5% in 2015, the first increase since 2007.
The rise in sales – from $10.89 billion in 2014 to $11.17 billion last year – comes from U.S. Census Bureau data, as reported by Publishers Weekly.
The news is not all good: bookstore sales are still well below the height they reached in 2007, when sales topped $17 billion. But at a time when many print-based businesses seem to be in a one-way slide, the new numbers indicate a very welcome resilience.
The industry has been showing other signs of life lately – including Amazon opening its first-ever print bookstore last year, in Seattle, and recent rumors that it could open more.
For years, we have been hearing about the virtues of online book buying – the ability to make a book purchase without leaving one’s home; the ease of reading reviews and researching an author’s other books with just a few mouse clicks.
The latest sales news is a reminder of the opposite. As the CEO of Seattle’s famed Powell’s books, Miriam Sontz, told the financial network CNBC, when the rumor of more Amazon bookstores first broke:
I thought it was a great acknowledgement of something that independent brick-and-mortar stores have known for the past few decades, which is there is something special that occurs at a physical bookstore that is not replicable on the Internet. People have tried, and it's just not the same experience. It doesn't have the same serendipity. It doesn't have the same sense of community.