How The Reading Habits Have Changed During The COVID-19 Pandemic

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Covid-19 has impacted the publishing industry drastically. As per the reports by Association of American Publishers (AAP), the total US book publisher year-to-date sales across all categories from January to June month were $5.7 billion, which shows a drop of 4.2% percent compared to the same six months of last year.

A majority of authors and publishers have been trying really hard to stay afloat and survive the crisis. And so, there is a dire need to know what the people are actually up to.

As quoted by Jessica Flareau, Manager of the eCommerce division in Barnes & Noble,

“As people around the country started social distancing we saw a strong pickup in online orders, orders for curbside pickup, and ebooks”

Since the crisis cropped up, we must first understand how the reading habits of people have changed. As the lockdown and other safety guidelines were being followed on the global front, more and more people were forced to stay and spend time at their homes. On one hand, print media was facing a major decline and notable challenges, and on the other, online sales were getting bigger and more striking.

The shut down of a large number of schools, libraries and bookstores due to the COVID-19 crisis has compelled people to stay at home, and so, it led to a major decline in print sales. And while businesses that are directly related to print media or are in a certain way, dependent on print sales such as authors, publishers, bookstores, and more, the challenges are here to stay for a while now.

The reading audience, the ones that once used to go for printed materials, books and journals, are now placing orders online to get their desired book or journal. And that is the reason why in-person print sales have shown a major decline.

There has also been a considerable increase in online print sales from autonomous bookshops and small bookstores too. For instance, there is a budding online retailer, Despite the inevitable pandemic situation and so many business closures, this retailer disclosed a phenomenal boost in sales. This was due to the independent bookstores that helped in navigating the customers to the new platform and bring in more sales in the process. The online retailer, in return, gave a portion of the revenue to local bookshop owners.

Let us throw some light on the changes that were witnessed in the reading behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Switching To eBooks

  • There has been a significant shift in the buying behaviour of readers. People have started purchasing books through online shops giving a dramatic rise in digital book sales. According to Publishers Weekly, Michael Tamblyn, the CEO of Rakuten Kobo, has admitted that, during this crisis, there has been a sudden surge in new account sign-ups as well as purchases, and it feels as if it is the holiday season.

    In addition, the purchase of eBooks has also risen across most platforms as more and more eBook distributors for self-published authors like Draft2Digital went all out to announce their ‘safer at home’ message and many others to showcase their safety concerns. In Fact, the authors and publishers who were selling out their books across various online platforms also noticed a marginal increase in digital sales.

    There has been a considerable increase in digital sales for both audiobooks and eBooks thanks to all the online book publishing platforms . In Fact, after the social distancing norm came into being, authors and publishers have witnessed steady or elevated eBook sales, that too with double-digit growth. Though the graph varies for every genre, it is showing a gradual increase at the moment. As far as the reader engagement is concerned, there has been a massive increase in email opens and clicks post the “stay at home” directive in the US.

  • Shifting to a newer routine with less commuting

  • Since there was less travelling and commuting to offices, filling the time listening wasn’t happening. And so it led to a decline in the demand for audiobooks. But, as the routine changed, the listening behavior changed too. People gradually got time to listen to them, maybe at a different time, but they were still accessing audiobooks. Various cloud reader apps have also carved their way into the lives of people with a new routine. Just as eBook sales have surged, audiobook sales have also risen over time.

  • A steady engagement

  • Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a shift in the kinds of books readers intend to read. With school closures, there has been a surge in the sale of children’s books such as learning books and nonfiction books. People took this time to teach and engage their kids by developing reading habits as well as educating them. Even adult readers revisited their wishlists and bought the books they always wanted to, but couldn’t.

    Some of the prominent picks during these trying times were books pertaining to parenting, comfort books that induce a ‘feel good’ factor, novels that are lighthearted and uplifting, spiritual and self-help books.

  • Inclination towards affordability

Undeniably, during these unprecedented times, there is a great deal of economic uncertainty. And due to this readers tend to buy books that are easy on the pocket. The trending Google searches in the month of March included “free books”. However, people are also opting for highly-priced books and also looking for emails informing about new releases and preorders.


This is a turbulent time for the publishing industry. Covid-19 has impacted many authors, publishers and bookstores drastically. But the key takeaway here is that readers are still seeking books to learn and find solace during these unprecedented times. Though print sales will continue to be a challenge, digital sales is gradually taking off with more and more readers buying books online and opting for platforms to read, learn and enjoy virtually.

Our dedicated experts, at OneRead, intend to support our clients during this corona pandemic with our exceptional multi-channel digital publishing & distribution services. We also specialize in rendering corporate eLearning solutions as well. Get in touch with us at for all your publishing and distribution requirements.

We are here to help you sail through this difficult time smoothly.