Books in the Time of COVID: The Panorama Project Report

Last year was a difficult one for retailers and consumers alike. Lockdowns, vital restrictions on the public, job loss and business closures, and more–coupled with the ever-present fears for health and safety in the face of a deadly global pandemic–led to a lot of financial anxiety in every industry. But a new report not only unearthed some positive news about books and publishing, it also shed some much-needed, long-overdue light on the industry as a whole.

The report is based on a survey of over 4,300 respondents who were asked about their book consumption habits. Sadly, the researchers’ findings tell a tale that consumers and industry watchers have been saying for quite some time, information that continues to fall on deaf ears. Here are just a few of the findings that are not-at-all surprising to people who actually read (as opposed to publishers):

  1. Black and Latinx respondents are highly engaged with books in even higher numbers than their percentage of the general population. The report even stated in no uncertain terms that publishers are “leaving money on the table” by not fostering diverse voices in far greater numbers.
  2. Libraries are a huge source of discovery for readers who then go on to purchase books in bookstores. In fact, as many as 30% of the respondents said they will simply buy a book if there’s a waiting list for something they want.
  3. “Showrooming,” or browsing a physical store then buying the item online, is not as prevalent as many industry watchers believe; in fact, the opposite is true in equal numbers. For every consumer who finds a great book in a store then orders it online, there is another consumer who finds great reads on Amazon then gives their business to a brick-and-mortar.
  4. Millennials (note, NOT teenagers/college students) are one of the single biggest markets for all book buying.

Here was one of the most compelling findings from the report: there is still no single source of book discovery that outshines other methods. Respondents reported discovering books from word-of-mouth, by following their favorite authors for updates, even browsing online bookstores or brick-and-mortars.

What did matter for discovery? Genre. Almost 40% of respondents tend to look to their favorite genres for finding their next great read.

For a complete look at the 2020 report, visit the Panorama Project by clicking here.

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