UK Pandemic Reading Trends Revealed at The London Book Fair

UK Pandemic Reading Trends Revealed at The London Book Fair

Manga, cosy crime and celebrity memoirs popular since pandemic

Print see resurgence as 213 million books sold in 2020 & 2021

Book sales see year-on-year growth in 2022 Q1

London, 6 April 2022. The British public have turned to cosy crime, celebrity memoirs and manga since the pandemic, Nielsen Book revealed at The London Book Fair today, with print books experiencing a surge in popularity.

Book Sales on Rise, with Print Experiencing Resurgence

There was significant growth in both audio and print, with the latter seeing a distinct resurgence during the pandemic. Physical book sales reached a record high of £1.82bn, with 213 million being purchased in 2021.

Book sales show no sign of slowing down post-lockdown, with 2022 volume sales up 13% year-to-date on 2020, and Adult Fiction, Non-Fiction and Children’s, YA and Education all experiencing year on year growth in Q1 of 2022.

Fiction Dominates, with TikTok Boosting Backlists

While in 2019, non-fiction titles were leading the pack, readers turned to fiction in 2021, with 26 adult fiction titles taking the top spot on the bestseller lists in 52 weeks. This boost was helped by the growing popularity of book content on TikTok, with trends on the social platform helping backlist titles by authors such as Colleen Hoover, Adam Silvera, James Clear and Karen M McManus return to the top of the charts. This focus on backlist titles meant that books published over two years before accounted for around a third of the top 1,000 bestselling books in 2020 and 2021.

Chilling Mysteries Replaced by Cosy Crime

Within fiction, data from the last year points to readers switching chilling, violent crime novels for cosier fare, with titles categorised as lighter-hearted mysteries accounting for 12% of sales within the wider crime genre. Richard Osman’s record-breaking The Thursday Murder Club series leads the charge when it comes to cosy crime, with the popular author taking the top spot on the bestseller charts for 12 weeks.

Celebrity Memoirs Reach Highest Peak in Over a Decade

After a relative lull in the late 2010s, celebrity memoirs have experienced a jump in popularity too, with autobiographies by Dave Grohl, Bob Mortimer, and Miriam Margolyes boosting sales for the genre. 2021 saw arts biographies and autobiographies, take a share of over 40% of all biography & autobiography sales, a percentage not reached for over a decade, in 2010.

Manga Grows in Popularity

One of the other notable trends in book sales was the rise in popularity of manga, with the Japanese graphic novel format selling £19.2m in just 42 weeks in 2021, an increase of 111% on the total sales through the whole of 2019. This trend was helped by bestselling manga titles including Assassination Classroom by Yusei Matsui, The Cat and the City by Nick Bradley, and My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi.

Andy Ventris, Director of The London Book Fair, said: “So many of us turned to books during the pandemic for comfort and escape, and it is heartening to see how much the publishing industry thrived during such a difficult two-year period. It is fascinating as ever to hear from Nielsen Book on the trends powering the industry, with manga, cosy crime and celebrity memoirs shaking up bestseller lists and bookshop shelves alike.

“With different book formats flourishing, and TikTok catapulting books from past years back into the spotlight, there is plenty to be excited about when it comes to the future of publishing. We look forward to discussing further at The London Book Fair this year, as the global publishing industry comes together in person for the first time since 2019 to explore what has shaped reading habits during the pandemic, and what is going to engage readers next.”

Hazel Kenyon, Director of Book Research UK, Nielsen Book, commented: “It’s a joy to report on the many books being purchased across all formats and genres as we emerge from a very difficult two years. The book trade continues to demonstrate its resilience, tenacity and innovation, from entertaining children and adults during and post-lockdown to providing a source of truth on the most pressing matters of importance.”

Publishing trends, fiction, technology, bookselling, and crime writing sessions at The London Book Fair (5 – 7 April) include:

  • Covid-19: What’s next for publishing? (Tues 5th April, 11:45 – 12:30, Main Stage)
  • Trending on TikTok= book sales: the perfect equation? (Tues 5th April, 12:10 – 12:55, Author HQ)
  • The Power of the Bookshop: The Role Booksellers Play in Championing Your Book (Tues 5th April, 13:15 – 13:45, Buzz Theatre)
  • How the Next One Billion Internet Users Will Read Our Books (Tues 5th April, 14:15 – 15:00, Main Stage)
  • KL Slater in Conversation: Writing for Audio (Wed 6th April, 11:00 – 11:30, Author HQ)
  • The UK book market: Pandemic effects and the picture in 2022 (12:00 – 12:45, Main Stage)
  • From Book to Screen: Crime and Thrillers (Wed 6th April, 12:45 – 13:30, Author HQ)

*Source: Nielsen BookScan

If you are not able to attend the fair in person, you can register to access the LBF On-Demand content (available 11-29 April).

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