E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead

Five years ago, the book world was seized by collective panic over the uncertain future of print.

As readers migrated to new digital devices, e-book sales soared, up 1,260 percent between 2008 and 2010, alarming booksellers that watched consumers use their stores to find titles they would later buy online. Print sales dwindled, bookstores struggled to stay open, and publishers and authors feared that cheaper e-books would cannibalize their business.

Then in 2011, the industry’s fears were realized when Borders declared bankruptcy.

“E-books were this rocket ship going straight up,” said Len Vlahos, a former executive director of the Book Industry Study Group, a nonprofit research group that tracks the publishing industry. “Just about everybody you talked to thought we were going the way of digital music.”

But the digital apocalypse never arrived, or at least not on schedule. While analysts once predicted that e-books would overtake print by 2015, digital sales have instead slowed sharply.

Now, there are signs that some e-book adopters are returning to print, or becoming hybrid readers, who juggle devices and paper. E-book sales fell by 10 percent in the first five months of this year, according to the Association of American Publishers, which collects data from nearly 1,200 publishers. Digital books accounted last year for around 20 percent of the market, roughly the same as they did a few years ago.

E-books’ declining popularity may signal that publishing, while not immune to technological upheaval, will weather the tidal wave of digital technology better than other forms of media, like music and television.

E-book subscription services, modeled on companies like Netflix and Pandora, have struggled to convert book lovers into digital binge readers, and some have shut down. Sales of dedicated e-reading devices have plunged as consumers migrated to tablets and smartphones. And according to some surveys, young readers who are digital natives still prefer reading on paper.

The surprising resilience of print has provided a lift to many booksellers. Independent bookstores, which were battered by the recession and competition from Amazon, are showing strong signs of resurgence. The American Booksellers Association counted 1,712 member stores in 2,227 locations in 2015, up from 1,410 in 1,660 locations five years ago....more 

A nation of tall cheese-eaters

The Dutch drink a lot of milk, eat a lot of cheese, and are now the tallest people in the world. Could there be a connection? The author of a new book on the Netherlands, Ben Coates, explains how the Dutch became not only voracious but also very discerning cheese eaters.
Earlier this year, a museum in Amsterdam was the scene of a terrible crime. Doing their rounds at the end of a busy day, curators were horrified to discover that one of their most prized exhibits - a small shiny object glittering with 220 diamonds - was missing. A security video showed two young men in baseball caps loitering near the display case, but the police had no other leads. The world's most expensive cheese slicer was gone.

In some countries, a theft from the national cheese museum might sound like the plot for an animated children's film. In the Netherlands, however, cheese is a serious business. For the Dutch, cheeses, milk, yoghurts and other dairy products are not only staple foods but national symbols, and the bedrock of a major export industry.

The Netherlands' love of all things dairy is largely a consequence of its unique geography. Four hundred years ago, much of the country lay under water, and much of the rest was swampy marshland. "The buttock of the world", was how one 17th Century visitor described it, "full of veines and bloud, but no bones". Over the next few centuries though, the Dutch embarked on an extraordinary project to rebuild their country. Thousands of canals were dug, and bogs were drained by hundreds of water-pumping windmills.

Some of the new land was built on, but large areas were also allocated to help feed the growing population of cities like Amsterdam. Silty reclaimed soil proved perfect for growing rich, moist grass, and that grass in turn made perfect food for cows. Thousands of the creatures soon were grazing happily on reclaimed land. The country's most popular breed - the black and white Friesian - became world famous. At one point, a Friesian called Pauline Wayne even lived at the White House, providing fresh milk for President William Howard Taft and giving personal "interviews" to the Washington Post...more 

Is It Better To "Stay Your Lane" or Branch out Creatively?

Marta Cerdá has a strong case of what the Germans call “wanderlust.” Her passport will reveal stops in, yes, Germany as well as New York, Los Angeles, and Barcelona. However, it is the 34-year-old graphic designer’s portfolio that does the most traveling.
A glance at her eclectic mix of projects is a map through place and time, transporting you to Mad Men-era America, to a roaring 20s ballroom, and then back to a modern day European experimental hip-hop concert. Range like that gets one noticed, and in 2008, The Art Director’s Club awarded her the prestigious Young Guns Award.

To a young Cerdá, it was the establishment’s approval that she was fit for the open road, and two short months later, she quit her full-time gig to go freelance. Soon, she began netting clients like Random House, Nike, Mazda, and a slew of internationally known magazines. Now seven years in, she’s had moments of doubt and success, but that old restlessness is taking hold again. We spoke with Cerdá about moving back to Europe and why graphic design is a lot like being a tourist.

A look at your portfolio shows a wide range of work. How do you stop your work from falling into the same style?

Every time I read a book or see an exhibition of something I like, I get excited and have to jump into that world. Although, I don’t know if it’s a good thing that I have variety. For me, it’s nice to see artists with strong homogeneity in their work, but mine is more eclectic. But it’s just how my brain works.

It’s most people’s inclination to ride out a style. Why is that not for you?

Creativity is like a journey. There are people that work like tourists that go to Paris to make sure the Eiffel Tower is still there, that want to see what they’ve already seen a million times. There are designers that do the same thing, that repeat the same formula. Like tourists, they don’t get under the skin of things, they begin a projects knowing how it will end, they repeat the same journey. Then there are the tour guides that do the same thing but know every aspect of that thing...more 

Boredom is not a problem to be solved. It's the last privilege of a free mind.

Confessing to boredom is confessing to a character-flaw. Popular culture is littered with advice on how to shake it off: find like-minded people, take up a hobby, find a cause and work for it, take up an instrument, read a book, clean your house And certainly don’t let your kids be bored: enroll them in swimming, soccer, dance, church groups – anything to keep them from assuaging their boredom by gravitating toward sex and drugs. To do otherwise is to admit that we’re not engaging with the world around us. Or that your cellphone has died.

But boredom is not tragic. Properly understood, boredom helps us understand time, and ourselves. Unlike fun or work, boredom is not about anything; it is our encounter with pure time as form and content. With ads and screens and handheld devices ubiquitous, we don’t get to have that experience that much anymore. We should teach the young people to feel comfortable with time.

I live and teach in small-town Pennsylvania, and some of my students from bigger cities tell me that they always go home on Fridays because they are bored here.

You know the best antidote to boredom, I asked them? They looked at me expectantly, smartphones dangling from their hands. Think, I told them. Thinking is the best antidote to boredom. I am not kidding, kids. Thinking is the best antidote to boredom. Tell yourself, I am bored. Think about that. Isn’t that interesting? They looked at me incredulously. Thinking is not how they were brought up to handle boredom.

When you’re bored, time moves slowly. The German word for “boredom” expresses this: langeweile, a compound made of “lange,” which means “long,” and “weile” meaning “a while”. And slow-moving time can feel torturous for people who can’t feel peaceful alone with their minds. Learning to do so is why learning to be bored is so crucial. It is a great privilege if you can do this without going to the psychiatrist....more 

Is Your Creative Process Killing You?


As a designer, you take pride in your process. And if that process has historically worked for you, your company and your clients, then you may be hard-pressed to change it in even the smallest way.But what if that process benefits everyone except you? What if during your creative endeavors, you find yourself slogging along, barely able to stay focused or, worse yet, barely able to give a Gaussian blur about the work you’re doing and your client? Well, that’s a problem—and you need to make a change.

Before you start considering a career switch, maybe all you have to do is find the culprits of your malaise. When looking to improve your productivity, time management, office culture and environment, design tools and client management, you need to assess what works and what doesn’t. Take the following quiz to see how your current situation stacks up. Then, discover the nine common problems you may be facing—and how to fix them....more

MUSIC: Say Hi - It's A Hunger

MUSIC: Herbert - Middle

MUSIC: Lydmor & Bon Homme - Things We Do for Love