New survey says reading connects a nation in lockdown

23 April 2020

  • Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) of people are reading more during lockdown
  • Particular spike among young people (18-24) where almost half (45%) are reading more than before lockdown
  • 7 in 10 have been reading fiction
  • Crime and Classics very popular categories
  • Books about fictional epidemics including The Plague by Albert Camus and The Viral Storm by Nathan D. Wolfe (up 1393.2%) are seeing huge sales
  • Survey results by The Reading Agency to mark World Book Night, celebration of books and reading

The Reading Agency has revealed that the nation is reading more during lockdown with 1 in 3 adults reading more, rising to almost one in two (45%) 18-24 year olds.

Announced on World Book Night, the annual celebration of reading, The Reading Agency is pleased that the survey shows in these difficult times that more people are enjoying the pleasure of a book – in print, in e or in audio.

31% of UK people surveyed (Populus Omnibus survey, 15-16 April, sample 2,103) were reading more since the lockdown began, 51% surveyed said they their reading habits hadn’t changed, and only 3% were reading less.

Many people cited reading as a form of release, escapism or distraction and many people also said that having more time was the key driver for increased reading during the lockdown.

Debbie Hicks, The Reading Agency, said:
“This year’s World Book Night celebrations provides the perfect opportunity to showcase the proven power of reading to connect people through reading. Never has this connectivity been needed more than at this anxious time of social distancing. Talking about reading and sharing book recommendations on April 23 as part of #Reading Hour will bring individuals, friends and families together to connect a nation in self isolation, whilst also stimulating learning and creativity and providing escapism and relief.”

Responses from people surveyed included:

“I can lose myself in a book and it sort of keeps me company as my partner and I live in different places and we have to be on lock down in our own homes many miles apart.”

Female, 75

“It has been something I have gotten into, wanting to read on for excitement. It passes the time and I’m learning new things.”
Female, 20

“It takes me to another, better place and allows me to escape the current situation for a while.”
Female, 67

Other stats revealed include:
• 65+ were the most likely to say reading was beneficial for them (56%)
• Regionally, respondents in Northern Ireland were most likely to say they are reading more since the lockdown began – 39% reading more, followed by:
• London – 34% reading more
• Scotland – 30% reading more
• North East – 33% reading more
• Wales – 31% reading more
• East Midlands – 31% reading more
• South East – 32% reading more
• East – 30% reading more
• Yorkshire & Humberside – 27% reading more

Genres being read:
• The survey showed that people indicated they were reading the same genres as previously, just increasing amount of books.
• Publishers have reported large rises in classic literature e.g. Penguin Classics sales increased 64.5% on the week before lockdown – books were stockpiled too.
• Literature about fictional epidemics including The Plague by Albert Camus and The Viral Storm by Nathan D. Wolfe (up 1393.2%) has done very well.
• 18-24 year olds reading non-fiction (36%), crime fiction (20%) and classic literature (16%)

Looking for your next read? The World Book Night booklist has something for everyone.

Join in the #ReadingHour from 7-8pm on 23 April. Read alone, aloud with someone else, or call a friend to swap recommendations. Share what you’re doing on social media using #WorldBookNight and #ReadingHour.


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