Physical books are still king – but durability is a priority


Consumers overwhelmingly prefer physical print books, presenting opportunities for sustainable manufacturers, according to a new study.

According to a survey by renewable pulp and paper maker Stora Enso, Western readers still prefer to read from “real” books, rather than e-books or listening to audiobooks.

Almost two-thirds (65%) of people who buy books, e-books or audiobooks said they prefer physical books. One in five (21%) prefer e-books and only 14% opt for audio books.

The survey, which covered the UK, France, Germany and the US, also found that many people had been prompted to read more as a result of the pandemic – an effect particularly noticeable in the US. and in the UK, where more than two-thirds (70%) said they now read more.

According to Lisa Faratro, director of environment and sustainability at CPI Group commercial printers, this increase in demand has been accompanied by greater recognition of the industry‘s need to decarbonize.

She said Print week“The book industry certainly feels like it has accelerated its demand to go green, especially since the lifting of lockdown restrictions and the return to ‘business as usual’.

“At this point, we are in the data collection phase, particularly around scope three, with multiple industry bodies working together to help create standards and understand book-level carbon emissions, as well only the changes that will be necessary to reduce these emissions.”

Scope 3 emissions measure an organization’s carbon dioxide (or equivalent) emissions across its value chain, including the share of supplier and consumer emissions caused by its activity.

Six in ten respondents (61%) and 70% of younger respondents said they would pay more at retail for carbon neutral books – a product that Faratro says can currently only be achieved through carbon offsetting.

Amanda Ridout, Chair of the Independent Publishers Guild Sustainability Group, said Print week that retail price hikes could well happen if publishers want to decarbonize their entire value chain.

She said: “It is a matter of live discussion with our members.

“We need to make sure consumers understand the narrative that book prices have only gone up 15% in the last 20 years, while inflation has gone up 50%. Also, if we want to make the supply chain and our products more sustainable, prices will have to go up.

Ridout added that given the enduring appeal of physical editions, the future is clearly multi-format for the book industry.

“Sustainable physical products are an integral part of this.”

Lucas E. Kelly