How is the virus changing preferred book formats?


I’ve had the time to delve into my TBR since the world slowed down. Just started Eric Asher’s Vesik series. Been wanting to read these for a while, but with 14 books available and four more scheduled for release through July, it was a bit daunting. Days Gone Bad, the first book has been so much fun so far, so I’m glad I made the leap. Thinking this could be one of my new fave series. If you want to pick them up, look for the box sets so you can save a little $.

The interesting part is that I bought this first one as an audiobook. For me, audiobooks are entertainment for my commute, an alternative to the radio during the drive. So why am I buying an audiobook when my state’s stay-at-home order has me locked down?

It all boils down to basic mom math. When two teenage boys spend exponentially greater time in a space than they did before, that space is exponentially times messier, exponentially increasing cleaning time and decreasing reading time.

For me, an audiobook is the perfect solution; allowing me to keep up with housework while enjoying a good story hands free. This audiobook purchase was a core behavioral change. Though I listened to audiobooks regularly, for me, it was a big shift to start listening in places other than the car. And since I spend more time outside of the car than in, it would also make sense that I could potentially increase the volume of audiobooks I listen to in a year. And that epiphany led me to wonder … are preferred formats changing for other readers too?

eBooks are reportedly seeing holiday like sales. Audible is giving away free audiobooks for kids. And authors are trying to decide how to launch their new book without the traditional tour. The new normal is flipping publishing on its head.

WBUR Boston reports that libraries in their area have poured more money than ever before into ebooks after closing their doors because of the virus. In one day, Watertown Free Public Library spent $10,000 in ebooks and audiobooks. Another library recorded a 65% increase in requests for ebooks, according to the article.

According to, worldwide people are reading/listening to books 17% more in a study that looked at media consumption since the virus. That number is 11% more looking at just the US and 7% more in the UK. By the way, the top category in the study was news, closely followed by streaming TV, which should not surprise anyone.

And while ebooks and audiobooks are getting a boost, independent bookstores who have no distribution in place for these formats are struggling. Many have laid off employees and closed their doors, unsure if they will reopen. In “The World of books braces for a newly ominous future“, the New York Times takes a look at the indie sellers as well as struggling Barnes and Noble.

So is this the final breath for print? Not so fast. According to the article, “How the coronavirus will change book publishing, now and forever” published by the LA Times in March, the virus has led to a growing demand for print books from online retailers. Yes, print. The article cites that the American Booksellers Association’s members sites saw a 250% increase in traffic, while newcomer reported a 400% increase in sales.

Insiders are also curious to see how behemoth releases this year like Suzanne Collins’s The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and Stephenie Meyers’s Midnight Sun will affect book sales with their much anticipated followings. Their raving fans will likely want that print edition in their hands and on their shelves.

Based on the numbers, all book sales are on the increase as everyone searches for entertainment in the safety of their home. Print has shifted from in-store sales to online, but still seems to be decreasing slightly; while sales of ebooks and audiobooks soar. For now, there are few reports differentiating ebooks and audiobooks. It will be interesting to see how this changes as time passes.

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