Predicted Future for Books and Bookstores

Predicted Future for Books and Bookstores

What is the future for books and bookstores? I have a prediction. As a foundation, please believe that as a writer and reader, I adore books. I like being in bookstores, small or large. I love possessing and reading real, touchable printed books but confess to reading an ebook or two in moments of impatience or cost consciousness. I enjoy both nonfiction and fiction.

books and bookstores

Countless experts have ventured opinions on this subject, although forecasting future public taste for reading format or purchasing habits is an expertise of a different nature. Soon after the first ebooks reached significant numbers in sales and major bookstores chains collapsed, eminent death for physical books and bookstores was foretold. And then a few years ago, the expected trend suddenly changed. Let’s start there.

Quotes From A Few Years Ago

“…the Times indicates that the first few months of 2015 actually saw a decline in the number of ebooks sold” (number of print books sold also declined)

“The growth rate of ebooks has recently slowed in many markets, including America and Britain. Publishers now expect most of their sales to remain in print books for decades to come—some say forever.”

books and bookstores

“The end of the printed book – but then something really interesting happens. The number of independent bookstores in the U.S. starts to take off…That’s right. The phoenix rises from the ashes…big-box stores and the chains – they really got crushed…so that left a gap for the indies to fill.”

Books & Bookstores Past

  • 3500 BC Clay Tablets—Earliest known written system, the cuneiform alphabet inscribed into clay tablets by the Sumerians.

books and bookstores

  • 2400 BC Papyrus Scrolls—Egyptians wrote words on a thick paper-like sheets made from the papyrus plant. Bird feathers and parts of the reeds were used to “write.” There is some evidence this technology began in 3100 BC but took a while to catch on. (Readers likely were attached to the feel, weight, and smell of the clay tablet)

books and bookstores

  • 500 – 200 BC Parchment—Invented in an ancient Greece because of shortages and expense of papyrus. Named after a Greek city, parchment is made form untanned animal skins. Parchment caught on gradually probably because of lower cost. (Readers likely were attached to the feel, weight, and smell of papyrus.)

books and bookstores

  • 105 AD Paper—Invention for writing credited to Chinese named Cai Lun by combination of mulberries, bark, hemp, old rags, and used fish nets for paper pulp. Some evidence of writing on paper reported around 8 BC while Chinese used a form of paper for wrapping. The price of paper eventually sounded the death for parchment when many facilities began producing paper in Italy around the 13th century making its cost one sixth that of parchment. (Readers likely were attached to the feel, weight, and smell of parchment.)
  • 1985 CD Books—First book available on Compact Disc was The New Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia.
  • 2000 AD Ebook—First mass produced electronic novella by Stephen King, Riding the Bullet sold over 400,000 copies in first 24 hours. It was priced at $2.50 for a download.
  • 2007 AD Kindle—First ebook reader.

If interested on a more detailed history, a good resource is: The Evolution of the Book by SF Book Reviews.

Books & Bookstores Present

  • Year to date (July 29, 2018) print book sales up 2% vs 2017, although fiction print down by 4% from 2017. Data from NPD Bookscan
  • Globally, for the Big Five publishers, print is 80% and ebook 20%. Fiction is 50% ebook.
  • CEO’s of the Big Five commented on how pleased they are with the stable business model.
  • Five years ago, ebooks were 28 % market share for traditionally published books. Now ebooks are at 20%. (This is data for traditional publishers. Most ebooks are sold through Amazon and that data they cannot see. Amazon data is invisible to the rest of the world.)
  • News stories say ebooks are failing while estimated data by Bookstat indicates 240 million self-published ebooks were sold that are untracked by traditional data.
  • 46% of Canadian book readers use “word of mouth” for deciding on their next book. 36% browse physical bookstores. 11% have never been in a physical bookstore.
  • 23% of Canadian digital book readers now read them on their phone. A 10% growth in 2 years.
  • For Canadians for the past year, 81% have read a book which is down from 88% in 2014. 92% of the readers have read a print book, up 2 %, and 52% said they had read an ebook, up 4% from the prior year.
  • The number of bookstores have risen by 40% from 2009 to now.
  • 2018 survey of 2000 American adults, less than 10% reported ending reading printed books, but 30% are reading both print and ebook. 40% read in printed form only.
  • For Americans for the past year, 74% have read a book, unchanged from 2012. For printed books, 65% read them, and 28% for ebooks.

 books and bookstores

Books & Bookstores Future

This is the section where I predict the future for books and bookstores. My credentials for doing so: Fiction writing, nonfiction writing, business training and experience, technical education and experience, big corporate experience and understanding, publishing industry food chain awareness, affinity for reading and bookstores and most importantly, this is my post.

Considering history, human nature, business behaviors, and the accelerating speed at which society changes because of technology, our direction is clear. But it is only direction. Unseen options, technologies, and innovative minds will create possibilities none can imagine from this perspective in time.


The overarching premise it that books will always be in our future regardless of form. They have become part of our being human with the quest to learn and to feel emotion. Poetry, fictional stories, and written learning tools are core to our existence. But the form of those “books” will evolve or else we cease to evolve intellectually and spiritually.

books and bookstores

History’s lessons give us clarity. The medium for the written word has changed for thousands of years with roots in the first cave paintings of our ancestors. Each epoch of change brings resistance, and then acceptance because of economics, gains for accessibility and other human advantages. Absorb the history listed above, however brief I have represented it. Ebooks in some form will replace the printed book. Like the first use of paper books, mimicking that which was familiar with the use of script writing, today’s ebooks have not yet tapped their potential for a more flexible format to deliver an even more powerful experience to the reader, whether it be poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. It will not be hundreds of years away, but decades or years. Consider the accelerating speed of human innovation. Niches for printed books will remain for those interested for a time, as they have for vinyl records and film photography. Keep in mind, ultimately, those niches disappear. We don’t have clay tablet clubs that cherish that format for its romance.

The future for the current big house publishers is of their own making. But if they remain complacent in their present business models, they will go the way of Pan Am, Kodak and so many others. Perusing their views, some of which I captured above, their long-term survival is not rosy. Amazon seems to be on top of the game, quietly advantaging themselves of the coming changes, but unless they get it right, even that behemoth, which I respect because of their creativity, could lose their edge.


The bookstore landscape has changed from the giant chains to small independents, but with the existing and future inevitable growth in ebooks, they are missing opportunities. I believe the nature of the bookstore needs to be as innovative as the changes in book formats otherwise their numbers will shrink. Speculating here, but possible evolution to become more of a reading experience where people can gather to share ideas, impressions, and emotions connected reading with others. Some bookstores already chase that path with some positive results. I hope some creative entrepreneurs invent some groundbreaking approaches to capture the hearts of potential customers as print book purchases dwindle and ebooks rise in whatever form.

books and bookstores

Capitalizing on future changes rather become a victim of them, are the earmarks of successful companies, small or large.


I am a fiction writer, but research topics and provide posts like the one above for enlightenment and entertainment. If you liked it, please take a look at some of my other posts and my home page, R. A. Andrade. This post was prompted by the following passage in my upcoming novel, Three Remain:

Traci followed, evidently desiring human companionship. “You stealing this stuff?”

“I’ll pay them whenever ‘them’ returns,” Glen answered while loading the trunk. When packed, he walked quickly to the bookstore, Traci tagging along as if she just happened to be going in the same direction. Scanning the store as he entered, Glen could not see Sunshine. Anxiousness rising, he called her name.

Traci’s eyes grew in size and she whispered, “Did you lose your friend too? You sure about the zombie thing?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *