I know we left 2020 in the dust (not that 2021 is looking all that much better so far), but forget that for a minute—let’s look back at the top titles borrowed from Overdrive and Hoopla in the past year, and see what kinds of trends have emerged in these, dare I say, unprecedented times.
As the outside world closed up, forcing us all to turn inwards, what sort of activities did you find yourself doing? If you found yourself reading a ton more than normal, you’re in good company (conversely, if you found yourself unable to concentrate on books, you are also in good company). While plenty of people found themselves in a reading rut thanks to the existential crises caused by COVID, the general trend of reading during lockdown actually increased overall. A study out of the UK reported an almost doubled rate in reading, from 3.5 hours a week to a reported six. From the same study, “A third said they read more printed books, 18% consumed more e-books, and 9% listened to more audiobooks”. A third of people reading more paper books in a single year is nothing to sneeze at.
But stats like this are actually not surprising; there is historical precedence for this kind of thing. An industry analyst for NDP (a market research firm) notes that historically, book sales are resistant to economic downturn; even the Great Recession of 2008 saw a year-over-year increase in book sales. While on the surface this may come as a shock, it makes sense if you consider books for their personal value rather than just their financial cost. When the going gets rough, as it most certainly did in 2020, people often turn to books not just as a form of entertainment, but also for escapism, distraction, and for mental wellbeing.