Aussie reading habits during the pandemic

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This post is courtesy of our colleagues at Nielsen Book Australia, who examined how COVID-19 affected consumer reading habits and closely monitored the effects of the pandemic on the Australian book market.


Consumer research* conducted by Nielsen Book UK found that “two in five UK adults reported reading more books overall during the lockdown so far, with another third saying they’ve maintained their reading and only one in ten saying they’re reading less.” Prior to lockdown, UK consumers reported reading 3.4 hours per week; during lockdown they added 2.7 hours of weekly reading time on average. A quarter of UK adults reported buying more books than usual since the lockdown, compared to 40% that say they are reading more. This seems to indicate that some consumers, rather than buying new books, were instead making their way through the stack of books on their bookshelves.

When it comes to print book sales in the Australian market, Nielsen BookScan reported an unremarkable start to 2020, with steep declines from February to April – the hardest hit weeks being mid to late February – followed by significant uplifts across the board from Easter Monday and into November. The week ending 28 March was the start of a more official lockdown, which is when we saw a strong “pre-lockdown” uplift.

So far in 2020, the Australian book market is measuring over $835m, up close to +5% on the same period in 2019, with most of the uplift attributable from the Easter holidays onwards and driven by Adult Fiction and Children’s books.

The escapism found in Fiction has proven to be a popular choice with Australian book buyers, with titles such as Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens, Hachette) and Boy Swallows Universe (Trent Dalton, HarperCollins) boosting the sector this year to date. Within Adult Trade Non-Fiction, Mind, Body & Spirit has had a strong year, driven by The Resilience Project (Hugh van Cuylenburg, Penguin Random House) and The Body Keeps the Score (Bessel van der Kolk, Penguin Random House). Home cooks have also been stocking up on cookbooks, as the Food & Drink sector sees Yotam Ottolenghi taking the top two spots (Ottolenghi SIMPLE and Ottolenghi FLAVOUR, the latter co-written with Ixta Belfrage, Penguin Random House) followed by The Australian Women’s Weekly The Pie Maker (Bauer Media).

The Children’s sector sees all subcategories up on last year, led by Pre-School & Picture Books and School Textbooks & Study Guides – two categories impacted by restricted living as Australian parents grappled with bouts of remote schooling. The top Children’s titles year-to-date include several titles from the Bluey franchise (Penguin Random House) and the return of two popular Young Adult Fiction series: Twilight with Midnight Sun (Stephenie Meyer, Hachette) and The Hunger Games with The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Suzanne Collins, Scholastic).

Nielsen Book will soon release the latest analysis on the correlation of accurate metadata and sales, Why a Cover Matters. This information will be from the other side of the Nielsen Book business, Nielsen BookData.

If you have any further questions about Nielsen BookScan analysis, please contact infobookscanaus@nielsen.com. If you would like to contact Nielsen BookData about your bibliographic information, please contact  infobookdataaus@nielsen.com.

* The Impact Of Covid-19 on the UK Book Consumer report, released in May 2020, was sent to 1,000 UK adults aged 18–84, nationally representative of the population by age, sex, social grade and region. Fieldwork was conducted from 29 April to 1 May 2020.

Source for Australian Book Market data: Nielsen BookScan data year-to-date, 29 December 2019 to the week ending 10 October 2020 compared to the same weeks in 2019.


About Nielsen Book

Nielsen Book is a leading provider of search, discovery, commerce, consumer research and retail sales analysis services globally. BookScan is the world’s largest continuous sales analysis service and operates in 10 countries and 4 continents. Retail sales information is collected at the point of sale from thousands of outlets in the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, India, Mexico, Brazil. Publishers, booksellers and libraries can use the information to assist strategic, acquisition and purchasing decisions. The company is wholly owned by Nielsen. For more information, please visit nielsenbook.com.au.

About Nielsen

Nielsen Holdings plc (NYSE: NLSN) is a global measurement and data analytics company that provides the most complete and trusted view available of consumers and markets worldwide. Nielsen is divided into two business units. Nielsen Global Media provides media and advertising industries with unbiased and reliable metrics that create a shared understanding of the industry required for markets to function. Nielsen Global Connect provides consumer packaged goods manufacturers and retailers with accurate, actionable information and insights and a complete picture of the complex and changing marketplace that companies need to innovate and grow. Our approach marries proprietary Nielsen data with other data sources to help clients around the world understand what’s happening now, what’s happening next, and how to best act on this knowledge. An S&P 500 company, Nielsen has operations in over 100 countries, covering more than 90% of the world’s population. For more information, visit nielsen.com.

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