The rate at which Kiwis are moving away from books, and towards digital media, appears to be accelerating according to research by a local PR agency.
New figures taken by Impact PR from an analysis of data provided by the Companies Office show more book retailers closed in 2013 than in any of the previous 12 years.
Impact PR director Fleur Revell says there has been a 212% increase in local bookstore closures in the past seven years than in the previous seven - a change that could be linked to the widespread introduction of e-reader devices in 2007.
As a result, a total of 291 bookstores throughout the country have closed since that year.
With increasing availability of e-readers and online book downloading services and apps, people appear to be flocking to digital options over traditional bookstores in greater numbers with every passing year.
“This definitely seems to be an increasing trend,” Revell says. “The last three years have seen a steady increase of bookstore closures throughout the country, with 46 closing in 2011; 50 in 2012; and 68 in 2013.
"We also used the same methodology to identify trends among bricks and mortar video retailers and found a similar pattern with video store closures at an increasingly rapid rate."
A follow-up survey conducted by Impact PR on Kiwis’ use of digital media shows many people expect to increase their use of digital media when it comes to reading online, but have concerns about the way that will affect literacy.
“Over half of those surveyed believe the increasing digital media consumption in New Zealand will have a negative impact on literacy levels here,” Revell adds.
“Even the 18-24 year olds who have grown up in a digitally-savvy world are concerned, with 47% believing this will have a negative result.”
Despite those concerns, or perhaps because of them, an overwhelming majority of Kiwis (92%) still believe there is a place for libraries in the future as more e-books are published.