LONDON, Nov 05, 2013 (AFP) - Vinyl records are back in fashion in Britain where they have seen their best sales for a decade as devotees and new fans relish what they say is a livelier sound than digital formats.
The Soho district of London is peppered with small shops where music fans are once again enjoying the feel of dust on their fingertips as they flick through the racks of albums.
"They love the sound, they love the packaging, they feel they are buying something a bit more special," said Neal Birnie, of the Sounds of the Universe shop.
"It's more real than buying an MP3, you are buying more of a product than when you buy an MP3."
Nearly 550,000 vinyl discs have been sold in Britain already this year, according to music industry body BPI.
If sales continue at the same pace until the end of the year, they could exceed 700,000, which would be the highest since 2003.
While that represents less than 0.8 per cent of all music formats sold, it is clear that having almost suffered a death at the hands of digital music, vinyl records have more than survived.
It is not just old re-releases either - the highest-selling vinyl record in Britain this year was "Random Access Memories" by French duo Daft Punk, featuring their global hit single "Get Lucky".
David Bowie released a vinyl edition of his first album for a decade, "The Next Day", and British pop-rockers Arctic Monkeys followed suit.
French-Canadian stars Arcade Fire, US indie legends Pixies, Pearl Jam and even Paul McCartney have also put their latest albums on vinyl.
"We're witnessing a renaissance for records - they're no longer retromania and are becoming the format of choice for more and more music fans," BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor said.
The principle of the disc emerged at the end of the 19th century. It soon replaced cylinders and remained the dominant format until the mid-1980s.