There’s still life in the printed word

Sales of Amazon’s Kindle e-readers dwindled to almost nothing in the UK over Christmas, according to the CEO of bookshop chain Waterstones, but sales of physical books increased 5 percent. Kindle purchases “disappeared to all intents and purposes,” James Daunt told the Financial Times earlier this month.

While this is good news for beleaguered booksellers trying to scratch a living in competition with the all-conquering Amazon, what does it mean for content marketing?

The trump card a printed book holds over all other forms of communication with an audience is authority (other pluses are being nice to look at and to hold, and permanence). Despite the rise in self-publishing, particularly in the e-book market, the perception remains that to get a whole book published on a subject, you have to know what you’re talking about.

As a result, for businesses and organisations, a book is still one of the best ways to mark yourself out as an authoritative voice in your sector. For the researchers, academics and business people who write them, being able to add ‘author of XX’ at the end of articles you publish online can also lend weight to that content.

Marketing budgets for books have certainly moved online, with publishers and most authors (of both fact and fiction) expected to use social media to flag up new titles and keep in regular contact with readers. Importantly, the books themselves have remained in the physical world.

If you don’t have a whole book in you, direct marketing still has its champions. By way of example, the luxury travel company Mr & Mrs Smith sends highly appealing ‘postcards’ from sunny destinations in the depths of winter, on nice heavy paper which also stops them going straight into the recycling. The head of Brother UK, Phil Jones, told the Daily Telegraph’s Festival of Business late last year that the company has a 30 percent sales conversion rate on hardcover leaflets sent to likely targets. They contain a personalised film addressing the potential client by name and featuring the salesperson who then contacts them shortly after it is sent.

So it’s not time for trees to breathe a sigh of relief just yet…

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