The battle between digital and analog is a David and Goliath match. But peddlers of antiquated products do have a magic slingshot: Nostalgia. It’s a powerful weapon, one that made the renaissance of vinyl records and instant film photography possible.
Could bookstores be next?
Sales in brick-and-mortar bookstores rose 2.5 percent in 2015 and 6.1 percent in the first half of 2016 — marking the first annual gain in the sector since 2007. The numbers come from U.S. Census data via statistics portal Statista. Before this jump, bookstore sales had been steadily declining.
The timeline in the chart above eerily tracks the evolution of Amazon, a company that single-handedly crippled the brick-and-mortar bookstore industry.
After pioneering online book sales, then e-books and e-readers, Amazon surprised everyone by opening its first physical bookstore in Nov. 2015 in Seattle. Just four months later a second store Amazon bookstore cropped up in San Diego. In July, reports surfaced about a third store in New York City.
It’s unclear whether Amazon is propelling booksales or just has its finger on the pulse of emerging consumer trends (as it so often does).
In either case, the upswing in sales is good news for struggling booksellers, especially if it is propelled by consumers longing for nearly-extinct products of the past.
That nostalgia helped Fujifilm sell five million Polaroid-like Instax cameras last year, a 30 percent increase over 2014. It also drove revenue from vinyl records up 32 percent last year, to $416 million.
Could paperbacks be next?