Desire for escapism fuels rise in book and audiobook sales

There has been an increase in the number of books being consumed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Publishers Association said that while sales for print books fell by 17% in the first half of 2020, demand for digital books rose by 13%.

Adult fiction proved to be the most popular genre, seeing a 13% rise in demand.

The sharpest increase in demand was for audiobooks, which saw sales increase by 47%.

Natalie Trice, a mother of two, told Sky News her family turned to audiobooks during their daily school journeys.

“The news kept creeping up, and you just never knew what you’re going to hear, so we started listening to audiobooks,” she said.

“It’s a really nice way to come together before the day’s started. It’s just something else to talk about that’s not Xbox or Fortnite or the things they would normally be into.”

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Ms Trice added that books she’s listened to have “made a massive impact”, helping her “switch off from everything else going on”.

Despite the increased uptake in reading, bookshops have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Daunt Books, a world renowned bookshop in London, relies heavily on footfall for sales.

Brett Wolstencroft, the store manager, told Sky News: “It’s been a disaster to restrict people coming in.

“We can’t really sell books in anything like the quantities we can online or through click and collect.”

Adult fiction proved to be the most popular genre, seeing a 13% rise in demand

However, remaining optimistic, Mr Wolstencroft said: “There is an increased appetite and increased appreciation in what books do.

“I think we’re all remembering now what good value books are as entertainment and just how important they are for the whole family.

“To keep us distracted, to give us some relief during this dark moment.”

Although there has been an upward trend, the industry struggled in the early days of the pandemic.

Christine Jones, UK sales director at Pan Macmillan, said there was a “steep drop off” before sales began to pick up month on month.

She told Sky News crime and thriller books saw one of the largest spikes in demand.

“I think that’s because with those sorts of stories you’re so riveted, you’re so in the moment, it takes you out of yourself in a way that I think that people are really looking for,” she said.

“We’ve also seen an uplift in warm and engaging fiction; again, there’s probably an element of escapism there.”

Ms Jones added: “Rediscovering the pleasure of reading has been a really interesting outtake of the pandemic.”

If the current pace continues, The Publishers Association estimates this could be a record year for digital book sales.

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