Why Print Books Still Work

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So, Waterstone’s, the iconic British book retailer, has released its Christmas numbers, reporting a 5% increase in print book sales. Furthermore, after years of losses, Waterstone’s expects to at least break even this year. However, this is no obituary for the Kindle. It’s just a reiteration of something that was lost in the explosive sales of ebooks, apps and MP3s. Humans have great love for a physical artifact. A beautiful print book is more than just ink on paper. It is an experience.

Not convinced? Then, let’s look at a technology that many would describe as completely superseded.


Yes, vinyl records. Vinyl sales grew 50% in 2014, and vinyl records are available at such mass market retailers as Target and Whole Foods. Jack White’s Lazaretto¬†sold almost 40,000 copies in its first week – that’s vinyl copies alone. Now, these numbers are not predicting the death of iTunes. They are suggesting, however, that in the age of instant availability of pretty much any song and in the face of abundant piracy, there is still a market for cover art, liner notes and surface noise. There is still desire for a physical object.

Marketing thrives on goals, and that goes doubly for content marketing. What is your goal for your story? Who is listening? If you’re telling a complicated, intimate tale then maybe you need to embrace the slow. Sending someone an email to their overcrowded inbox is almost a surefire way to be ignored. How would your most important customers¬†respond to a book in the mail signed by your CEO? How would your shareholders respond to a documentary that reveals the passion behind your process? How does your story reveal your expertise, thought leadership and differentiate you from your competition? These questions can be as important as click-through and shares. There is more than one way to build engagement.

It’s about story, and the importance you place in it. We spend a lot of time as marketers thinking about how to engage deeply with our audience. Think about whether you are measuring what you care about. In the end, that’s what matters.