Will the Pandemic Permanently Change Reading Habits?

Changing Reading Habits

The rise of e-book checkouts at libraries made news during the pandemic, as did the rise of e-book sales. Some enthusiastic writers suggested that this was the future–the increase in e-book consumption was clearly some sort of trend that ought to be celebrated, especially in terms of increased library circulation. The obvious counter to this argument is, of course, that readers often had no choice but to read e-books. Physical stores and libraries were closed. If people wanted to read–and many did–they probably had to get an e-book (or else have a physical book shipped from an online retailer). But will this change last?

That e-book checkouts and sales rose during the pandemic is no surprise. Nor is it a surprise that many people reported reading more, since they had more time to do so, after losing jobs or commute time, or being unable to participate in their usual leisure activities. Book Riot’s July 2021 Pandemic Reading Habits survey of 5,117 people, for instance, shows that 58.4% of respondents said they are reading more. These news articles are not particularly interesting because they seem only natural. What will be interesting is whether or not these changes will be permanent.

For instance, e-book checkouts and sales are up currently because people cannot access physical books. But is this a temporary shift, made only until physical books are made more available by the reopening of bookstores and libraries? Or did the forced change really introduce e-books to a new group of readers who will remain avid e-book users? The articles celebrating the rise of e-book readership so far do not seem to address these questions, but simply to assume that increased numbers means all these new readers are here to stay.

In the same vein, reading is up because people have more free time. However, once travel locations, malls, movie theatres, and so forth open up again, will people still dedicate their leisure time to reading? Will sitting down with a good book have rekindled an old love? Or will people put the books down as soon as they have other, more attractive options available? Once again, the surveys do not delve into whether readers see their new habits as temporary or not.

So what do you think? Have your reading habits changed during the pandemic? If they have, do you see the changes as better? Do you intend to keep them?

18 thoughts on “Will the Pandemic Permanently Change Reading Habits?

  1. kat says:

    I’ve loved e-books for over a decade now and was so happy when the pandemic hit and more readers began to value them, which helped make me feel less like a weird duck on social media when I was in a sea of people showing off only physical copies. But, oddly enough, I find myself preferring physical copies these days. E-books are still wonderful and so easy to carry around, but, now that my kids are getting older, I’d rather flip real pages and hold a book in my hands since my kids are unlikely to destroy it now.

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    • Krysta says:

      My sense is that a lot of people do read e-books, but bloggers seem to think that physical books/book covers do better on social media. So maybe they are showing off physical copies, but perhaps reading e-books? Especially since most ARCs now seem available only as e-books.

      I like the feeling of flipping through a physical book, too! And I do think I retain information better from a page than from a screen.

      Liked by 1 person

      • kat says:

        Part of me really hopes that’s true and I know a lot of readers like having one book in multiple formats, but the frugal part of me wonders why people would spend so much money buying the same book in multiple formats. Then again the sheer consumerism of Instagram constantly has me running from it, so I really have no clue how readers on it read.

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        • Krysta says:

          I don’t really see the appeal of buying the same book multiple times, but I guess some people just want to support the author? Or they really, really like that book? XD Instagram does seem to celebrate consumerism, though, and I agree it can be uncomfortable.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. TheFantasticalWorldOfReading says:

    I’ve always loved e-books as they are readily available, where physical books often take weeks to be delivered (downside of living in a non-English speaking country). I do still get them when I’ve loved an e-book and want to support the author and for sequels that I know I’ll love. As an avid reader for many years so these last years didn’t change that. I feel like therefore I’m not the best target audience for this post, but I haven’t especially seen more people pick up books in my surroundings.

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    • Krysta says:

      I don’t personally know anyone who started reading more during the pandemic, either. A lot of people I know prefer to watch movies/TV and I think they subscribed to more streaming services. They didn’t start to read!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Books Teacup and Reviews says:

    It has changed for me as I never had access to libraries. I got my books from Amazon whenever I see good discount and all ebooks come from author, publisher and NetGalley from the beginning. So pandemic hasn’t changed anything for me. As stay-at-home parent I used to have same time for reading as in pandemic but I can see those who are working, with everything open now, would have less time for reading. Some might continue reading ebooks or physical copy lovers would start going to libraries and shops but I have they too are reading more ebooks now. It totally depends on person and their situation.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes, that’s a good point! Everyone has a unique situation. All the early articles about how staying home would mean we could all learn to sew and bake bread and write novels was both funny and a bit out of touch. Parents sure wouldn’t getting more free time!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Deanna Parenti says:

    I’ve had my kindle for 10 years now and I’ve always loved it for traveling. I still love it very much but I’m a sucker for being able to hold a physical book and flip the pages. My favorite part about paper books is how you can visually see how far you are into the story.

    Also, I agree with your point that a rise in sales may be because people could not physically buy paper copies; however, I hope it’s a sign that more people are reading!

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I can definitely see the convenience of e-readers for traveling! I do bring physical books with me, but they are heavy and bulky, and I start to worry that I’ll smash the pages in by accident if I don’t pack them properly.

      I hope more people are reading, too! It’s always nice to find a fellow reader to talk to!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ali@abookishlife says:

    I’m probably running contrary to the trend. With the loss of my commute (I’m working from home) I’ve lost that hour a day on the train which was spent reading. Instead I seem to end up working longer and reading less. Also as I don’t have to carry my books around with me I’ve been buying and reading more hardbacks. It’s been good to get a break from screens.

    While the bookshops were closed a lot started selling online so I’ve been trying to support the indie bookstores where I can. I do know a lot of people who have started reading more (or just started reading in some cases) so hopefully it’ll continue. Must admit I have my doubts though.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I can see how losing commute time could result in lost reading time! I seem to find myself busier as well these days and have less time to read, though internet articles seem to suggest we should all be mastering various artistic skills, baking bread, and doing all these other hobbies!

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      • Ali@abookishlife says:

        It is one of those mysteries how now I’m not commuting I somehow have less time. I have started making my own bread but have to confess I bought a bread maker so it’s doing all the work. I was doing more baking and experimenting with dinners but that’s fallen by the wayside now we’re allowed out of the house and restaurants have opened back up.

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  6. Siena says:

    This is a really interesting discussion! Before the pandemic, I never read ebooks and didn’t like them. However, when the pandemic started I had no choice but to read them since my local library was closed. I found that I didn’t mind reading them as much as I thought I did, and I’ve recently bought a Kindle, so I will probably be reading more ebooks in the future. If the pandemic hadn’t happened then I doubt I would have ever stared reading ebooks.

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  7. Michael J. Miller says:

    I wouldn’t say my reading habits changed at all but lockdown certainly let me read with less distractions. It also added dimensions to my reading as it became an escape from the isolation of lockdown, too. I’ve always loved to read and I prioritize it in my life (I gave up cable years ago and only have a few streaming services because it’s cheaper and I spend more time reading anyway) but there was an salvific nature to it some days as we’ve moved through the pandemic.

    I’ve never liked e-books. I’ll do anything I can to read a physical copy instead of an e-book. But I do use Marvel Unlimited to read comics on my iPad. My presumption would be I use it for its practicality. In my research for my blog pieces as well as my general leisure, the library of tens of thousands of comics Marvel has for free there is hugely helpful. And it’s the only way I can read some of those Golden/Silver Age comics without spending a gazillion dollars to find something that came out in the ’60s or ’70s. So I think I use Marvel Unlimited so much because of what I can find there not because I’d rather do that than read a physical comic.

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    • Krysta says:

      I love reading in part because it’s a chance to get away from a screen, especially now when everything is online and virtual. If I’ve learned anything from the pandemic it’s that, no, I don’t want everything to be online! Reading ebooks was a struggle for me in the past and I think it’s worse now.

      I do see the benefits of something like Marvel Unlimited when you can’t get physical copies. I sometimes like to read out-of-print books and many times they are being digitized. Still, reading comics as ebooks is a struggle for me because I often need to keep zooming in and out!

      Like

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