Whatever happened to the “death of print?”

Illustration by Jason Raish

Remember when ebooks were supposed to kill print? “They physical book is dead,” Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MIT Media Lab said back in 2010. He predicted that digital domination would come in five years.

The apocalypse is two years late. Is it coming at all?

According to the Association of American Publishers (AAP), ebook sales actually dropped this quarter. It’s not a catastrophic drop—only about five percent—but it is significant.

Why is this happening? “Screen fatigue” (a.k.a. “digital fatigue”) might be to blame.

In an interview with Mainstreet Magazine, Dick Herman of New York’s Oblong Books and Music commented on this issue: “E-books were really hot, but they are now in gradual decline. Holding a book is a much better experience than reading on a screen, which a lot of us have to do all day long at work.”

This attitude is becoming more common. The UK’s Daily Mail reported an increase in print sales of children’s books because “parents have often worried about youngsters spending too much time on their computer or games console.” Franklin Foer wrote a recent blog post for LitHub about digital reading. He returned to print, in part, because “after so many hours on the Web, I crave escaping the screen, retreating to paper.”