The strange tale of our, er, rekindled love for paperbacks

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The strange tale of our, er, rekindled love for paperbacks

It turns out books are not an endangered species after all, even if the stories they hold are falling to pieces

Gaby Wood

The story of the 2010s in books is essentially the story of a MacGuffin. This time 10 years ago we were staring down the barrel of “the Kindle Christmas”, and predicting doom for an object that had led a long and healthy life since Johannes Gutenberg printed his bible in 1450.

Yet the printed book could not be killed off with such ease. Format is not as relevant as it seemed, though that evolution has had intriguing side-effects. For instance: sales of erotic fiction in digital form increased thanks to the ready cloak of the e-reader; sales of cookbooks increased in physical form, by contrast, because they were easier to handle in the kitchen. Book designers lent their talents to beautiful new editions of classics. Kids wanted David Walliams’s words in their rucksacks. Now audiobooks are the fastest-growing sector – that may turn out to be another story.

But so far, digital and physical have proven to be remarkably companionable siblings...

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