Next time you're sitting on a train, take a moment to glance up from your phone and survey those around you. Like you, each of them is glued to their screens, whether scrolling intently through music libraries, chatting on social media or catching up on their favourite show. Confronted by this sight, it's easy to assume that our overconsumption of digital media has ruined our appetite for physical media - real records, CDs, DVDs, books and video games.
However, this isn't the case. eBay's new Guide to Physical Media, suggests that the format has not only stood the test of time, but is also feeding into a collective cultural nostalgia for owning the entertainment we love once more. You only have to look at Sainsbury's launching a record label for vinyl albums, to Justin Bieber and The Weekend releasing their albums on cassette tapes, to recognise that physical media is firmly back in fashion.
In fact for many shoppers in the UK, physical media is still the preference over digital - 52% of Brits said they preferred real books, vinyl, or discs to digital downloads. In the last year, over three quarters of UK shoppers, more than 39 million people, bought a physical media item. On ebay.co.uk, there have been more than 830 million searches for physical media, a year-on-year increase of over 27 million.
These are the trends that I thought were most promising.
Meet 'Generation Phygital'
18-24 year olds - a group often characterised as 'digital natives', who have never known a world without 'likes' and 'shares' - are suddenly latching on to the idea of ownership. Over the last year, 83% bought an item of physical media, led by books and DVDs. 61% simply like the feeling of physical media, whilst 60% see it as a way to switch off and disconnect from the online world. These young shoppers also want to show off their "In Real Life" (IRL) collection on social media - a quarter of 18-24 year olds say they buy books to display them and 17% buy records for the same reason.
The vinyl revolution
2017 has also been the year that vinyl went from niche to the norm, The highest selling vinyl records of 2016 on eBay.co.uk included classics by David Bowie and Prince, as well as Radiohead's 'A Moon Shaped Pool', and the soundtrack to Marvel's 'Guardian's of the Galaxy'. So strong is the trend that record players have also become much-coveted items - there were more than 5.3 million searches on eBay.co.uk for record players between July 2016 and July 2017.
Spines over screens
We know that over the last year e-readers have been in decline; more than three quarters of Brits we spoke to said they preferred a physical book to an e-reader.
New releases by well-loved authors and TV series based on books are definitely galvanising a new generation of readers and fuelling the purchase of books. When Philip Pullman announced the release date for 'The Book of Dust', there was a 300% rise in searches overnight for Pullman's previous 'His Dark Materials' trilogy on eBay.co.uk.
Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' ranked as the third most popular fiction book on eBay.co.uk over the summer whilst airing on Channel 4. Whereas shows like 'Game of Thrones', 'The Crown' and, 'Peaky Blinders' have amassed new followers and the search for previous seasons and box sets are heating up as Christmas gifting becomes front of mind.
Whether it's the tactical joy of ownership or the desire to show off our film collections on Instagram, physical media isn't going anywhere. We've released the 2017 Guide to Physical Media to celebrate the nation's passion for owning, collecting, and gifting physical entertainment, and highlight the great opportunity for sellers on our marketplace. These businesses will be ensuring our Entertainment Shop is fully stocked with a vibrant selection of the world's greatest physical entertainment to respond to this trend. Who knows what's next - perhaps we'll see a revival of the Betamax in 2018?