How did the pandemic change the way we read?

Since the pandemic began, we’ve been hearing about “getting back to normal” and adjusting to “the new normal,” but the truth is that the social changes resulting from the pandemic are still fresh and sweeping. We asked our team: how has the pandemic changed the way we read and interact with books?

In 2021, are we buying more ebooks and audiobooks? Are we reading more? Reading less? Happily attending virtual events, or eager for that fresh in-person bookstore experience?

Our team discusses all of that in more below. And we want to hear from you–how has the pandemic affected the way you read?

“When the pandemic emerged last March, I thought for sure my reading would slow down as life got more complicated, but instead the opposite has been true. I’ve never read more than I have over the past few years, and books have been a welcome escape. Some days, they’re the only thing that doesn’t feel turned upside down! And my end-of-the-day reading time has never been more sacred to me.”

–Ellen Whitfield, Publicity Director

“Before the pandemic, I was strictly a print reader, but when local bookstores and the library shut their doors, I turned to audiobooks to fill the literary void in my life. I still love the feeling of holding a physical book and flipping through the pages, but I gained a new appreciation for audiobooks. I always have a pair of headphones on me now.”

–Angelle Barbazon, Lead Publicist

“I used to be really into literary fiction, but during the pandemic I saw myself entertaining fantasy and romance novels – which were two of my least favorites prior. I picked fantasy because I wanted to escape reality, and romance because I wanted a happy ending.

Regarding events – I prefer physical, but living in Dayton, OH – there aren’t many. I typically have to travel to a bigger city for events. The pandemic uniquely allowed for me to attend more events, though in a virtual format. But hey, to me, that’s better than nothing! I very much hope that bookstores continue to do hybrid events for the sake of someone like me!”

–Elysse Wagner, Campaign Strategist and Publicist

“I’ve always been a fan of romance, but I’ve started reading a lot more romance and just general books that I know will have happy endings and make me feel good. I have to space out books that I know will be mentally draining or make me think because I want to give them the attention they deserve, but I also need to be in the right headspace for them.

I’ve only been to a physical bookstore a couple of times since the beginning of 2020, and that’s one of the things I miss the most. Getting bookmail is great, but nothing can compete with walking in a bookstore and browsing the stacks. Though I am actually very fond of virtual events and I hope we continue to see those for years to come. They allow me to hear from authors I’d otherwise never get the chance to see (and also getting to wear sweatpants during a virtual event is a plus).”

–Jennifer Vance, Publicist & Digital Marketing Strategist

“My book habits haven’t changed too much! I’m really picky about book formats (I only read trade paper; I hate hardcover books and mass market, lol) and I have no attention span for audiobooks. So I haven’t branched out into new formats. I do think the amount of books I read/buy has increased over the course of the pandemic, though.

With so much downtime on my hands, it’s been a fun project to create a home library and fill up the space I have with books I’m excited about. I did buy a lot of books from during the pandemic (when my local bookshop was closed) and since they’ve re-opened, I’ve been shopping in person and online, sort of in a 50/50 split. As for events, I prefer in-person events, and I haven’t been to any book events (virtual or otherwise) since the start of the pandemic. I’m hoping in-person events may be safe and more common in 2022, and if they are, I might attend again!”

–Jackie Karneth, Publicist

“Before the pandemic, if I was reading it was from a paperback. But when the pandemic hit it seemed like everyone was giving each other advice on ‘life hacks’ of any kind. I remember hearing people talk about how they read so many books a year, and it was because of audiobooks. I don’t know if it’s just because I started working in the book industry right at the beginning of the pandemic, or if it was because of COVID that people seemed to be talking about audiobooks more, and how convenient they were.
Before the pandemic I definitely would basically only buy books from Barnes and Noble or Amazon. I am not proud of it! But when the pandemic hit, people were posting about their local indie stores so often, and it reminded me how important it is to shop from and support local businesses. Now, if I have a book in mind that I want to read, I always check an Indie bookstore first to see if they carry it.
Virtual events were convenient and fun when we didn’t have any other choice, but nothing beats in person events. I also engage with books through Booktok and through Bookstagram now. I didn’t even know these platforms existed before the pandemic.”

–Corrine Pritchett, Publicist & Digital Marketing Strategist