Millennials Want to Make Books Cool Again

June 7, 2016, 4:03 PM UTC
Books in a secondhand bookstore
Photograph by Luoman — Getty Images

Nearly a decade after electronic readers revolutionized how people read books, paperbacks and hardcovers have become cool.

“It is like a hipster movement to get back into reading,” said Trish Caudill, manager of Books-A-Million in Corbin, Kentucky. “It’s almost cult-like.”

Caudill, 29, has seen a resurgence of young customers and more sales of physical books at her store. Her peers are drawn in by graphic novels, the “Hunger Games” and “Divergent” series, and memoirs and essays by YouTube stars Joey Graceffa, Connor Franta and Shane Dawson.

Millennial customers at Books-A-Million and other retailers are missing out on online discounts at websites like (AMZN), but they are more interested in the group experience, with the bookstore becoming a social destination.


Across the United States, the 22-to-34 age group has become a larger percentage of the physical book-buying demographic. It is now 37 percent of the market, up from 27% in 2012, according to Nielsen Books and Consumers.

Millennials are also putting a huge chunk of their reading budget—82%—into books they can hold, keep and eventually share, according to Nielsen.

Sara Gonzalez says she does not even look at the price when she is buying a book, even for costlier hardcovers. Part of what she says she is paying for is being part of a community of readers.

“I’m really big about read and pass along,” the 30-year-old Chicago resident said. “Share the wealth.”

Tech-obsessed younger people are finding that holding a book in their hands can “fill an important void,” said American Booksellers Association Chief Executive Officer Oren Teicher.

That is the case for 24-year-old Kaitlyn Veach, who visits Caudill’s Books-A-Million store daily and says she spends too much there.

Veach, a married skateboard shop owner, says she wants to keep her books forever. She shuns reading on devices and finds a thrill in turning the pages as she gets close to the end of a book.

“I can’t wait to see what happens,” Veach said.

While Veach and her peers prefer to shop in person and are willing to pay up for that experience, buying books does not have to break the bank. In fact, books can be one of the cheapest forms of entertainment.

One easy option: used books. Not only are they frequently sold alongside new books at online retailers, they are also often found at various types of secondhand stores.

Many bookstores also have membership plans or offer discounts for frequent shoppers on new releases and other featured titles. Most stores also have discount bins.

Many private book clubs or affinity groups have book exchanges, where members can trade with each other.

And the ultimate social and eco-friendly way to save money on books: the public library.

While borrowing might not help the book industry with sales figures, it could help keep the generation reading without straining their budgets.

Gonzalez, for one, has taken note.

“I’ve been meaning to go” to the library, she said. “It’s on my to-do list.”

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