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Millennials and Younger Are Leading the Charge Back into Barnes & Noble

Image Credit: Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Of all the industries most disrupted by the rise of the internet, bookselling may have had the greatest upheaval.

It’s almost impossible to believe now, but let’s not forget Amazon started as a bookseller and a bookseller only. In fact, for almost the first five years of its existence, that’s all the company sold. 

Today of course, Amazon remains the biggest player in the book industry, with roughly half of all print sales in America. 

And make no mistake: People who like books also like Amazon, specifically Amazon Prime, where current bestsellers are often over 40% off list price. In fact, 56% of Americans who say books are a “passion” in their life have an Amazon Prime account, which is 22% higher than people who say books are something they’re not interested in.


So while Amazon clearly has a dominant position in the market, the company – outside of three locations – lacks the tactile experience of actually flipping through a book before buying it. Enter the nation’s largest bookselling chain, Barnes & Noble. While the company has had its ups and downs over the last 15 years, a recent CivicScience study of over 70,000 Americans shows a definite uptick in the number of people who have a favorable view of spending a Sunday afternoon lost in the bookshelves. In fact, 5% more Americans say they like to shop at Barnes & Noble compared to this time last year.

And where the support is coming from is curious: people under 35 are leading the charge back into the bookstore. They have the highest favorable rating overall of Barnes & Noble.

Physical Books Making a Come-back

Along with this mini-dash back into the brick and mortar mammoth that is Barnes & Noble, another fascinating find: Americans are growing more fond of getting their reading done on the printed page as opposed to an eReader. Over the last year, Americans are preferring print slightly higher rate and exiting eReading at a 13% clip.

This jives with overall eReader ownership, a number that has been stagnant over the last year at about 24%.

And even among eReader owners, only 48% use it as their primary form of reading.

Owning an eReader does not preclude someone from enjoying a trip to Barnes & Noble. In fact, people who own eReaders have a favorable view of the shopping experience at Barnes & Nobles (59%) compared with people who don’t own eReaders (44%).

While the rise of technology obviously caused major upheaval in the bookselling world, it appears that a bit of a snapback is occurring. Millennials and younger, who were raised in the Age of Amazon, are finding a pleasurable experience in the aisles of America’s biggest brick and mortar bookseller. And while Kindles and Nooks have been on the top of holiday gift lists for years, Americans overall are tipping back to the old-fashioned way of reading. 

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