Research Suggests the Pandemic Reading Surge Will Continue in 2021

The stay-at-home orders that swept the nation in March 2020 inspired many people to take up new hobbies, and delve more deeply into old hobbies. 

Friends started sharing their success (or flops) with their new sourdough starters on Facebook. Bread was baked, puzzles were assembled, and quilts were lovingly crafted. Craft stores like Michael’s experienced an 11.1% increase in sales and a 353% increase in online purchases in 2020.

And people started reading more. A report by Publisher’s Weekly announced that print book sales were up by 7.8%, and 9.1% for all formats of books in 2020. But what does this mean? Will the surge in reading continue as we make our way into 2021? Let’s explore some reasons why the book-buying wave may continue to swell. 

Ease of Access

The Library of Congress adds 10,000 new titles every day, and access to these titles is only getting easier. Between delivery services and digital books, getting access to brand-new titles is easier than ever. It is estimated that there are 2.5 million subscribers to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, a subscription service where users have access to millions of book titles. 

While it’s more difficult to rent a print book from your local library, there are services like Hoopla that can connect with a library to offer access to their digital titles as well. Because we have millions of books at our fingertips, people are once more turning to books as a leisure activity.

Leisure Time

With the cancellations and closures that plagued 2020, people found themselves with more leisure time than most of us were used to. People who are now encouraged to stay at home are finding ways to fill that time. 

Some reports indicate that most people do not intend to resume “normal” behaviors until more than half of the US population is vaccinated. This means that it will still be quite some time before we are collecting en masse again, so we will continue to see cancellations of major events and restricted travel until much later in the year. Additionally, some are reporting that the pandemic caused a refocusing of priorities and that they intend to continue the more leisurely behaviors adopted while stay-at-home measures have been in place. 


The pandemic has affected us all, and we feel the effects of stress on the world. Reading takes us away from all of that. It’s an epic form of escapism, allowing us to break free from the daily stressors and walk in someone else’s shoes for a while. Books are known to help people to overcome fears, to feel less lonely, and to give hope that things can get better even when they look most bleak. In fact, some of the best stories are those of insurmountable challenges being overcome. Would The Lord of the Rings be such a wonderful and well-known tale if Frodo hadn’t had to fight against such impossible odds? It is this escapism that helps us to be better able to cope with our own daily lives. Books will always continue to draw us in. 

As we continue to navigate the after-effects of the pandemic, there are changes that have occurred that could linger for some time to come. It is estimated that the “Millennials” read more than any other generation, and this trend will likely continue. Books have been around for centuries, and even though some skeptics believed that it was a dying past-time, recent events have solidified their place in our culture, and in our hearts. 


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