Pandemic book boom: how staying at home sold 200 million books

Pandemic book boom: how staying at home sold 200 million books 1920 1280 Haggie Partners

How the world has changed since World Book Day 2020.

While the children in our families may not be marking the occasion in the usual, fancy dress way, the mission behind World Book Day remains the same: to promote reading for pleasure and to offer every child and young person the opportunity to have a book of their own.

In 2021, World Book Day is needed more than ever. The National Literacy Trust’s tenth Annual Literacy Survey found that children’s enjoyment of reading has increased during the pandemic (from 47.8% pre-lockdown to 55.9% post-lockdown), having reached a 15-year low prior to the pandemic. Three in five children and young people said that reading made them feel better during lockdown.

But it’s not just children who have been turning to tomes to see them through quarantine. Research conducted by Nielsen Book found that 41% of people said they were reading more since lockdown measures were imposed, with 35% feeling that books were providing “an escape from the crisis”. The same research found that the nation’s time spent reading increased from 3.5 hours on average per week to six hours.

This is reflected in book sale statistics. Approximately 200 million print books were sold in the UK last year according to Nielsen BookScan, for the first time since 2012. The Bookseller magazine revealed that this figure represents the biggest volume rise in the market since 2007 and the highest annual value since 2009.

Former East 17 singer, Tony Mortimer, made headlines late last year after publicly sharing his newfound love of reading, having picked up his first book in March 2020. Putting his previous disinterest in reading down to lack of time and concentration before lockdown, he recently expressed that he wishes he’d picked one up sooner. “Books are just pure escapism aren’t they?” he told The Guardian, listing more than 70 books he’s read since March and counting.

In order to investigate this phenomenon further, I spoke with a few members of the Haggie Partners team to assess whether the nation’s sudden appreciation for reading has (book) wormed its way into our office. You won’t be surprised to hear that it has!

“Before the pandemic, I hadn’t finished a book since I was 16. The pandemic has sparked a new interest in reading and I have managed to finish three books, which doesn’t seem like a lot but, for me, someone who hadn’t finished a book in eight years, it’s a huge accomplishment,” said  Olivia Thomson, account executive. Liv puts this down to having more energy in the evenings which used to be spent commuting, describing reading as “a productive pastime”.

Damian Beeley, partner, has also found a lot more time for reading since the start of the pandemic. “I now read for at least an hour a day and have finished 12 books since June. I read one in the previous 12 months!” When asked why he thought this might be, Damian confirmed something I think the nation is collectively feeling at the moment, describing reading as “a desperate need to get away from a screen. TV is no longer the treat it used to be!” Amen!

And the relatability doesn’t stop there. Jo Bernhard, account manager, summed it up perfectly by saying: “I have, without a doubt, read more books since the beginning of the pandemic. I think, pre-pandemic, I’d forgotten how lovely it is to lose yourself in a book.” Jo even set herself a lockdown challenge of reading a wider selection of authors with varying writing styles that focussed on topics she hadn’t previously delved into. “I think my new favourite reading ritual has to be going to bed early and winding down with a good book as opposed to watching TV. It really helps to reduce anxiety levels.”

At a time when it seems so much is dividing us, from vaccines to Brexit, it’s heart-warming to hear that reading – a pastime as old as time itself – is what seems to be uniting us all.

We should all be able to enjoy reading. The Children’s Literacy Charity works with the most disadvantaged children in society to help them close the literacy gap and reach their full potential. Here at Haggie Partners, we support The Children’s Literacy Charity because we recognise the importance of language and want to help support those who do not have access to sufficient literacy tuition. You can help us to do this here.