By Matthew Lomas
2020 has come and gone, but we continue to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. It has not been easy, as we have each had to radically change the way we live. I have found myself more glued to my computer and phone in order to maintain contact with friends and find entertainment. Scrolling through social media over the last year, I began to notice an increasing number of people posting about the last thing that I would expect my generation to ever post about: books. Specifically, they were sharing thoughts on the books, as well as goals for how many they planned to read.
According to a poll done by Independent UK, “Respondents generally reported that they were reading more than usual. This was largely due to having more free time (due to being furloughed, or not having a commute, or the usual social obligations or leisure activities).” (Boucher). The Conversation provided similar findings about US readers, stating, “While many people are finding more time to read due to Covid-19, not everyone has access or money to buy new books. Some people also took to re-reading books because the stories were familiar. In a world where things are continually changing and fear fills our lives, it can be nice to find solace in the familiar. Re-reading a loved book helps the reader avoid any suspense or unwelcome surprises. The pandemic has certainly changed America’s reading habits, but it remains to be seen whether it will continue once the pandemic passes.” (Contributing). Such a result bodes well for published works, libraries, and people’s perception of books overall. For most of my life I have often heard that my generation could be the one that begins the end of the book industry. However, this pandemic (despite all the bad it has brought to the world) appears to be proving that books and other written forms of literature are just as important as ever.
I work at a library near my home, and we were forced to shut down our building during the beginning of the pandemic due to state laws. After three months, we began to reopen slowly to the public with limited services. While we are still limited in what we offer to the public, we have had an enormous amount of people from all over Delaware County come to visit us. I remember one day, I had a dozen customers come in within two hours asking to sign up for a library card. This has led to a boom in the number of items checked out, as well as the amount of library accounts that have been opened in the last year.
What I find most fascinating about this sudden change in the amount of reading is what people are putting in their hands. BookBub reports that “Others are looking for books to bring them comfort. “11 Feel-Good Books to Read Right Now” is one of the most popular recent articles on BookBub, and Barnes & Noble’s “Feel Good Fiction” list, which includes similar lighthearted, uplifting novels, is also trending, according to Flareau. Draft2Digital reported an unusual bump in romantic comedy sales, particularly compared to March-April 2019, and Google searches for topics like “uplifting books” and “happy books” have increased.” (Robertson)
The question that I have is simple: Will this trend continue beyond the pandemic? Free time is a major contributor to this wave of reading, but once our schedules go back to normal,
will people still be willing to pick up a book on a Sunday evening? Only time will tell. For now we will have to continue to cuddle up with good books and wait this virus out. Why not check out Ciana Bowers’ article on John Gardner’s classic The Art of Fiction?: https://widenerblueroute.org/2021/01/21/fictional-dream/
Independent UK article mentioned above (Reading between the lines: How our bookish habits have changed during the pandemic) https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reading-habits-changed-coronavirus-lockdown-b882662.html
AZBig Media Article mentioned above (How the pandemic has changed American reading habits) https://azbigmedia.com/lifestyle/how-the-pandemic-has-changed-american-reading-habits/
BookBub Article mentioned above (How Reader Behavior Is Changing During the COVID-19 Crisis) https://insights.bookbub.com/reader-behavior-changing-covid19-crisis/
I just publishing poetry as a hobby a couple months ago as preluded to publishing an anthology of short stories. One thing I’ve noticed between what I learned in school some 30 years ago and now is the word count differences between a novel, novella, and a short story. It used to be less than 10,000 words was a short story and over 50,000 was a novel. Novellas were in btween 10,000 and 50,000 words.
Now it seem that range has shifted down and novella’s start at 3,500 words and novels at 25,000. In part, I think the shift is to due the average reader will only spend a few minutes reading.
Also, I came across an article somewhere (Writers Digest I believe) that even suggested keeping short stories under 3,500 words. This was because most readers are now reading on mobile phones.