Fiction sales surge during Covid lockdown as Britons rediscover books

The growth of fiction sales, to £688 million, was on the back of releases by Richard Osman and Charlie Mackesy.

Sales of fiction grew by 16% in 2020 as Covid lockdowns meant people “rediscovered their love of reading”, the Publishers Association said.

New figures from its Publishing In 2020 report show audiobook sales also ramped up last year, increasing by 37% to £133 million.

Other data shows print sales fell last year to £3.4 billion, down 6%, with bookshops among the businesses forced to shut as Covid restrictions were brought in, while digital sales were up 12% to £3 billion.

The growth of fiction sales, to £688 million, came on the back of releases including The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, and The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse by Charlie Mackesy.

Stephen Lotinga, chief executive of the Publishers Association, said: “Publishing has proved incredibly resilient throughout the significant challenges of 2020.

“It’s clear that many people rediscovered their love of reading last year and that publishers were able to deliver the entertaining and thought-provoking books that so many of us needed.”

Education publishing income was on the wane with schools also closed due to the pandemic, falling 21% to £528 million.

Mr Lotinga added: “Despite the positive overall performance of the publishing industry, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that it’s been a particularly challenging year for education publishers and many smaller publishers.

“It’s also been a hugely difficult time for many booksellers and authors whose livelihoods have been enormously disrupted.

“With bookshops now able to reopen, and physical events returning, we are optimistic that people will soon be able to enjoy books together again.

“We need to harness this return to reading and build on the huge opportunity this presents to everyone.”

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