Colour me a bestseller

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According to reports, adult colouring books are now among the top bestsellers on Amazon. As with the recent debate over whether adults should be reading YA fiction, or should be feeling ashamed if they do, people are taking sides. Some see nothing wrong with it, while others fear a downward slide into idiocracy. However you choose to look at it, it does seem to be part of a larger trend of at least some significance. Dominic Basulto provides some closer analysis:

What’s going on here?

The best theory offered to date is that best-selling adult coloring books such as “Secret Garden” and “Enchanted Forest” are all about easing stress and calming one’s inner child. From this perspective, coloring is all about regaining mindfulness and getting a digital detox. And, indeed, the best-selling Scottish illustrator and “ink evangelist” behind these books, Johanna Basford, recently told The Guardian: “I think it is really relaxing, to do something analogue, to unplug . . . Coloring books are also an easy way to flex our creative muscles in a way we likely haven’t since our good old paste-eating elementary school days.”

However, explaining the phenomenal success of coloring books for adults in such a way can’t also explain the strange evolution in reading tastes around the world, which has seen an explosion in the popularity of certain genres that might have been considered “childish” just a generation ago. After all, it’s not just coloring books that are hot — it’s graphic novels, comic books and especially, young adult titles such as “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games.”

In 2014 alone, young adult titles represented the fastest-growing segment of the book market, as well as the fastest growing genre amongst all e-books. So here’s an alternative theory for why a coloring book is No. 1 on Amazon these days: our digital reading habits are breaking down what might once have been the embarrassment of reading certain kinds of books. In other words, the relatively anonymous experience of purchasing books online and reading them on e-readers is making it easier to consume certain types of content. Nobody really knows what you have on your e-reading device, and so you can experiment in ways that people won’t judge you for later. That assumption is borne out, to some degree, by looking at the data for young adult novels. It’s actually old adults, not young adults, who are purchasing these books in the greatest numbers. And e-book sales are up nearly 53 percent in the YA/Children’s book category.

It’s not clear if this is a development to be worried about, but it’s certainly one worth taking note of.

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