OPINION: Pandemic sparks renaissance for leisure reading

Sep 30, 2022 | OP-ED, Opinion

Growing up I was an avid reader, on school nights I’d turn on my night light, grab my Geronimo or Thea Stilton books, tuck myself into my warm bed and read way past my bedtime.

Back then kids barely read books because they wanted to, most only read if forced to by their English teacher.

But recently, the topic of books has taken social media and people by storm, all thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and accessibility to social media platforms.

The pandemic truly felt like a dystopian book coming to life, a grueling time all around the world. And while the majority of people wanted life to go back to “normal”, many also sought to find an escape.

New interests in baking, cooking, knitting, painting, and whatever you can think of occupied the imagination of millions for a variety of time. But one thing that really took hold was an old classic — reading.

It was the escape many were seeking.

A survey conducted by BookNet Canada, suggested that out of the 748 Canadians surveyed, 450 of them read or listened to a book at the height of the pandemic.

The survey also mentions that of the 450 Canadians, 58 per cent are reading more while 39 per cent are reading the same amount as they were before the pandemic.

The role social media played in this reading for leisure boom cannot be understated, especially TikTok.

The platform has the popular hashtag #booktok where people share their reviews on books and recommend them to others, which has reignited a passion for books again. In essence, TikTok has allowed for a new form of a “virtual book club.”

Authors have even used TikTok as a way to promote their books because of the vast exposure the hashtag provides. The hashtag has been viewed 79.1 billion times on the app.

The pandemic and social media helped the U.S. print industry rise by nine per cent, and the print volume 825.7 million units, higher than the year before COVID-19 according to NPD Books. Reading in the form of e-books in Canada increased during the pandemic.

While bookstores closed during the pandemic and people couldn’t get their eager hands on physical copies, it didn’t slow down the trend. A StatCan study released showed internet sales of print books rose to 23.4 per cent, while e-book sales increased by 31.4 per cent in 2020, the most recent data available.

The itch for reading hasn’t wavered now that the pandemic has supposedly subsided.

Social media platforms have taken up the mantle as the main reason why people are continuing to read books. On every platform, there’s a niche audience using it for book-related content. There is Bookstagram, BookTok, Booktwt (Twitter), and BookTube.

Social media and its ease of accessibility has made it easier for people to start reading for leisure, something that was once thought to be an activity of a bygone era.