Storey intern and knitting enthusiast Anne Hackman ponders the place of knitting books in an increasingly digitized world.
When I came to Storey for my internship, I was especially interested in the publication and marketing of knitting books. As a lifelong knitter myself, I wondered how publishers keep knitting books relevant in an age where every knitting technique or pattern imaginable can be found with a simple web search.
The story of how I learned to knit is typical of many knitters. My grandma taught me the basics when I was a little kid, and everything else I’ve picked up along the way from books, magazines, websites, YouTube videos, and other knitters.
When I conducted a recent informal survey of all my Facebook friends who knit, the results revealed that many of them also prefer learning from other knitters. Visual learning is often the easiest way to understand a new technique, and learning in person allows you to work at your own pace and get corrections in real time.
However, when other knitters aren’t available, many people turn to video resources as the next best learning method. It’s easy to see why videos are a popular option. As long as you have Internet access, you can find a how-to video for almost any aspect of knitting you want to learn about. With videos, you get the benefits of visual learning and the ability to work at your own pace, as you can rewind and rewatch any parts of a technique that you haven’t yet mastered. While knitting books today tend to be highly visual, still pictures are often harder to understand or follow along with than video.
Convenience is another obvious upside of online resources. I knew when I was packing for my internship that I needed to bring along my knitting supplies to start work on Christmas presents (anyone else feeling the time crunch?). My knitting books stayed at home because they were too heavy to pack. Last week, when I needed to get working on a Brioche Stitch scarf, I had to turn to online resources to remind myself how to knit Brioche Stitch. As I searched for inspiration for how the scarf should look, I found myself frustrated by the results and missing one of my knitting books dedicated to Brioche that I had left back home. I missed the beautiful photos, a feature of knitting books that I rely on heavily. This is one area where knitting books really shine. They are purposefully designed to celebrate the beauty of knitted objects in a way that the immediacy of the internet doesn’t.
Printed knitting books also feel trustworthy in a way that online resources sometimes don’t. During my time at Storey, I’ve seen why. I witnessed for myself the endless rounds of checking each book goes through before it can be printed, and the many people behind the scenes working hard to make knitting books as beautiful and well-designed as possible. This is what I think is missing with online resources.
While the Internet is chock-full of patterns and instructions, I think most knitters out there will agree with me that there’s still just something special about printed books, whether it’s the attention to detail, the beautiful photographs, or the carefully curated patterns. In fact, in my informal Facebook survey alone, over 75% of the respondents still reported turning to knitting books for inspiration or to teach themselves new knitting techniques. And that’s the good news for publishing: despite the popularity of the Internet, books still have a valued place on most knitters’ shelves.