What We Did in 2020: Read Books


The book publishing industry was preparing for a crash in business when stores locked down around March, according to Jim Milliott, Editorial Director of Publisher’s Weekly. But then an interesting thing happened: the opposite.

People started reading while they were entrapped in their homes, and buying books. Non-fiction children’s books were suddenly popular as parents struggled to supplement virtual learning. A newfound curiosity about race relations propelled sales through the summer, and books about President Trump – pro and con – were finding a ready audience. We’ve become a nation of bookworms during the pandemic.

When not reading, people listened. “Audio has been growing for the last 3-4 years at a double digit rate, by far the biggest growth area for book publishers. But it looks like through October, the latest date we have numbers for, audio was up about 15%,” Milliott tells KTRH News.

Amazon is making a fortune. The corner independent bookstore is suffering, reinventing itself in many instances, turning on a plot point. “That is probably the biggest worry heading into 2021,” adds Milliott.

In Houston, the iconic River Oaks Bookstore is in its final days, still open for a few weeks in January before shuttering for good. Others, including Brazos Bookstore, Murder by the Book, and Blue Willow Bookshop have revved up their websites and are getting by with online sales. Some are the organizers of book clubs, some hosting virtual events.

If your love of reading has been reawakened during the tumult of 2020, now is a wonderful time to support local business.It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

photo: Getty Images


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