Good news for those who have a soft spot for the printed word: According to Nielsen BookScan data, 571 million paper books were sold in 2015, up from 559 million sold in 2014, and 501 million sold the year before. During this same period e-book sales began to slump, with an approximate 11% decline over 2015.
This unexpected boom has extended to Westchester’s booksellers, many of which agree they have been seeing a rise in sales. “There has been an uptick in book sales,” says Eugene Sgarlata, owner of Womrath’s Bookshop in Bronxville. “When it comes to e-readers the luster is a bit off the rose and more people are finding that they like reading a book. It doesn’t mean they are going to give up their e-readers, but certain books they want to have; to touch, feel, and read.”
Roy Solomon of The Village Bookstore in Pleasantville has also seen a rise in sales, on the heels of what he believed is a leveling-off of interest in e-books. “The growth of electronic readers was enormous. And it seemed that if things stayed along that curve physical books were going to disappear in about an hour and a half,” he recalls. “But, since, electronic reading has become more steady and, as I’ve discovered, there are a lot of people who read both ways.”
Laura Schaefer, owner of Scattered Books in Chappaqua chalks up the rise in book sales to a number of factors. “I think the experience of holding a book is different in terms of relaxation, comprehension, and learning than reading off of a screen,” she contends. “A number of studies have shown that the retention is different among children. A book offers more comfort, more learning. “
Schaefer also notes that in this technologically charged age, the simple act of reading a book may appeal to many smart phone-wary adults. “Parents really want their kids reading a book now. There is such a simple pleasure about a book and I think our society really misses the simple pleasures in a lot of things,” she notes.
Others view the trend as more situational in nature. “When travelling it might be easier to use an e-reader, and at home it might be easier to use books,” notes Sgarlata.
At the end of the day, it is hard to deny that books seem to bring with them a certain level of comfort—which is comforting to business owners. Schaefer, who is also a children’s book author, has experienced this effect since opening Scattered Books in November. “Sales have been good,” she says, “and I have been surprised how enthusiastic the community has been. So many people have come in and actually say, ‘I am so relieved to just be able to buy a book.’”