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Does Anybody Still Read Books?

When I was a little girl, I had my nose in a book almost all the time. Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey Twins, and the Hardy Boys eventually gave way to Jane Eyre, Emma, and Anna Karenina and for most of my life, there has been no such thing as YouTube, Facebook, or the gaming. So as a book coach and editor, I think I can be forgiven for wondering, if anybody is still reading books.

The answer is an emphatic, “YES!”

The Covid-19 pandemic seems to have had a dramatic impact on book sales, hitting an eight year high in 2020 and then increasing another 8.9% in 2021. This brought the increase in number of books sold to 18% since the start of the pandemic in early 2020.

So, if you’ve been wondering if there’s any point to writing a book, the answer is still, “Go for it!”

Publisher’s Weekly says 825.7 million books sold in 2021 in the United States, up from 757.9 million in 2020. Meanwhile, in Canada, book sales declined slightly, from 53 million books sold in 2020 to 52.83 million in 2021. That’s still a lot of books. People are still reading.

According to the Pew Research Center, 75% of American adults report having read a book in the past 12 months, and the average number of books read in a year sits at 14.

Most people still prefer print books over eBooks.

Only 9% of Americans say they only read books in digital format (a category that includes audiobooks), whereas 32% of Americans only read print books; 33% read both.

I find the information about digital book consumption especially interesting because when eBooks first came out a lot of people were predicting that they would completely take over book sales…and they haven’t yet done that. Although I do enjoy both eBooks and audio books, there is nothing like the smell of a book to transport me into the world beyond my four walls.

There are pros and cons to both formats. I can read at the drop of a hat thanks to the countless books I can access at all times through the Kindle app I’ve downloaded onto my phone. But it’s tough to read from a screen on a sunny day at the beach. I don’t have enough bookshelves for all the books under my care, but I can keep adding to my collection through my Kindle reader: I don’t need more physical space to read more. But I also can’t lend a digital book to a friend or family member.

The lessons in all this are powerful:

1. If you are thinking about writing a book but are worried there will be no market for it – keep writing. Your marketing is important and must not be ignored, but people are still reading and probably will for generations to come.

2. Make sure you bring your book out in as many formats as possible. Paperback and eBook versions for sure, a hardcopy version if possible, and an audiobook if you want to capture the growing audiobook market and if your goals for your book would be supported through an audiobook (e.g., who is your target reader and are they likely to reach for an audiobook?).

3. Write the best book you are capable of writing. That means getting help when you need it and definitely investing in a quality editor who knows their way around a style guide. If you are self-publishing invest in a professionally designed book cover and consider hiring a copywriting to write your back-of-the-book blurb and your author bio. Amazon carries 48.5 million titles, which means you are going to have to work hard to get noticed and to sell copies of your book.

So, the upshot is that people are still reading. Your book can still find a market. There are unlimited possibilities waiting out there for you as a published author.

Write that book!

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