Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (LON:BMY) has revealed that Britons’ reading habits have changed in the current lockdown from the first one.

The independent publishing company, in a press release one day after World Book Day, said that during the first lockdown (between March and July 2020), gardening and cookery books were popular as people boned up on activities they could do at home.

This time around, in 2021, people seem to be preparing for a resumption of the rat race, with books on running and career development proving popular.

2020 also saw a surge of interest in social justice, spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement during the summer, Bloomsbury said, with Reni Eddo-Lodge’s “Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race” featuring on Bloomsbury’s 2020 bestseller list.

The 2021 lockdown, however, has seen escapist fantasy fiction high on readers’ lists, thanks to Sarah J. Maas’s “A Court of Silver Flames”, which is currently number one in many countries (and coincidentally is published by Bloomsbury).

Since the first lockdown a year or so ago there has been a surge in interest in reading, which has benefited publishing companies such as Bloomsbury.

At times over the last 12 months it has not been possible to pop out for a leisurely browse in the local bookshop (if you still have one) and this has led to a sharp uplift in online book sales and e-book revenues.

Bloomsbury said in its interim results statement (covering the six months to the end of August), that online book sales and e-book revenues were up significantly year-on-year.

That includes academic e-books, which probably should not be surprising given the amount of “distance learning” that has taken place during the lockdowns.

Bloomsbury added that it has seen an increase in sales of books on teaching and education as parents switched to teaching their children at home, with The National Curriculum Outdoors series for differing age groups among the most popular titles.

According to the World Book Day charity, many children embraced reading at the beginning of the pandemic. The majority looked online for reading inspiration, with YouTube (45%), social media (28%) and friends (31%) cited as a key source of ideas.

Young people reported that reading helped them relax (40%) and made them feel happy (35%).

Access to books remains a serious issue, particularly amongst disadvantaged children and families, the charity said. Despite many schools implementing quarantine schemes and delivery services, 40% of primary-level children were unable to take books home, it reported.

One year into the pandemic reading has decreased slightly in 2021, according to the latest research from Nielsen Books.

“It’s clear that as people’s lifestyles have changed during the pandemic, so has their media consumption. Books are playing an important role for many right now, and we can see that people’s reading tastes are changing depending on their circumstances,” said Nigel Newton, the chief executive of Bloomsbury.

“On the other side of lockdown, books are proving to be invaluable sources of help to assist parents in home schooling or providing an hour or so of escape from the stresses of lockdown. No matter what people’s needs are, books have been there to support them during these difficult times,” he added.

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