OPINION: The book business as we know it is dying
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of “Heartstopper?” Maybe the beloved Netflix TV series or the TikTok videos that took the app by storm. I would bet that most people who watched the show didn’t even know it was a book series first.
That’s the danger of streaming services: they turn great books into bad movies and TV shows. Who’s going to read “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” when the movie is a click away and stars Noah Centineo?
It’s become a running gag that the book industry is dying. Big TV shows like “Bojack Horseman” want us to believe that there’s a visible end to the industry, showing the book publishers as constantly broke and searching for movie deals. However, that’s not the truth: book sales have gone up immensely in the last two years.
So why even make the argument that books are dying? It’s clear that books will be around forever, even if they get phased out by other forms of more accessible digital media consumption. Items like the Nook and Kindle have existed for at least a decade and still they have not pushed books into obscurity. There will always be physical media purists. We’re seeing that movement before our eyes with CDs and vinyl becoming hot commodities for music snobs and interior decorators. The real issue lies with who actually reads books anymore when there’s digital adaptations of just about everything.
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There’s not as much reason to read anymore when all the bestselling novels get turned into blockbuster movies, like “Where the Crawdads Sing” or “Twilight.” The reason they were adapted into movies was because they sold millions of copies, but who reads the original novels other than your mom’s book club? While 75% of adults said they read a book in some form in 2021, the percentage of physical books read had declined from the past few years. Book consumption is moving to e-books and audiobooks, especially with the rise in popularity of podcasts. Even how people find books is changing – the number one way people discover books is through online shopping.
This is not to say that people don’t care about books anymore. In fact, the internet has helped save the book industry after the pandemic. #BookTok has blown up on TikTok, giving readers recommendations and bringing up new discourses surrounding old books. It has saved the book, but it hasn’t saved the bookstore.
Independent bookstore sales have been steadily declining in the past ten years as stores like Amazon Books and Barnes & Noble have entirely cornered the market. Sure, Amazon Bookstores has failed as an experiment, but it has contributed to the shut down of hundreds of mom and pop bookstores while they were open. People are looking for the cheapest place to buy their books and that place will always be online.
It’s a bit sad, in a way. I’ve always loved reading, but the rise of film adaptations has killed that love just a bit. Most adaptations are so unlike the book that fans of the movies or shows will not see the original source material as worth reading. The authors don’t often make a ton of money off these deals either — unless, of course, you’re Stephen King.
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Books aren’t going anywhere, but readership is going down. Reading is fundamental but will surely become a manic pixie dream girl talking point.
“Oh, you don’t read? Then how can you read the story like it’s intended to be told? Poser.”
Char Jones (they/her) is a sophomore studying English and journalism.