There can be all kinds of disputes about the future form and the proper sales and distribution model of the book, but there is one thing that could certainly kill books stone dead in the long run: if young readers stop reading. Fortunately, there’s absolutely no sign of that yet.
Not at least according to the latest Publishers Weekly sales rankings for “The Bestselling Books of 2014 (So Far).” According to their data, “Young adult novels reigned over the top halves of the print and Kindle bestseller lists for the first six months of the year. John Green’s unstoppable The Fault in Our Stars was the bestselling e-book on Amazon from January to June, and its various editions occupied three spots on the print list. Green shared the leaderboards with Veronica Roth, whose novel Divergent, the first book in her enormously popular trilogy of the same name, hit #1 on the print list for the year to date.”
Whatever you think of teenage tastes as revealed by those titles, there’s no doubting that young adults have been dictating the shape of the bestseller lists in 2014, with their preferences even more emphatically clear in the traditional formats on Kindle. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt did at least break into the Kindle Top Five, but the PW Nielsen Top Ten as at end June also included John Green’s Looking for Alaska for the YA camp, and the book version of Disney’s Frozen.
Holdout pundits for the death of the book may take some heart from the number of top bestsellers that were recent or pending film adaptations – Roth’s books, Green’s work and of course, The Fault in Our Stars. But that’s a problem that prose has been surmounting for decades. And of course there’s always room for plenty of dispute around PW or Nielsen data that doesn’t track self-published titles so well. But all in all, the reading habits of American’s teens seem to be in rude good health.
I would not read too much into the fact that YA Fiction is doing well. While there is a very strong overlap I have seen some people claiming that as much as 40% of the YA Titles out there are purchased and read by Adults and not teens.
I do agree with your premise however that books are not going away. I believe they just morph into other forms of narratives.