In elementary school, I was the kid who skipped recess to sit in the classroom and read — I loved exploring new worlds and experiencing fantastic realities different than my own. Throughout high school, however, school and extracurriculars saturated my schedule, pushing reading out of my life. In this age of self-isolation, however, I and many others are using the free time as an opportunity to take up reading as a hobby. Amid the tragic circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, books are becoming more accessible, and people are buying and reading more books than ever.
As people are turning to reading as a quarantine hobby, book sales and the number of readers across the word are skyrocketing. In addition to a rise in paperbacks novel sales, children’s educational books sales have jumped 234 percent, and “juvenile” book sales have increased 80 percent. It seems likely with this boost in book sales that the number of readers has surged with it, which in turn has exciting implications for the progress of society. Frequent readers tend to be more successful because of their long attention spans, they acknowledge different perspectives, and have heightened creative talents. As quarantine pushes more people to pick up a book or two, the world’s collective intellectual capability expands.
In addition to physical books, e-books, a more accessible form of literature, are also thriving during quarantine. Because people can easily read something digital without ever leaving their home, companies like Waterstone have been selling four times more online books than they did before the pandemic. Meanwhile, many online services like JSTOR and Scribd are opening their digital libraries up for free, providing the public with thousands of e-books and audiobooks. The general public now has access to literature in a way they have never had before. This is an opportunity to explore new books online and learn new information in a way that is more convenient and cheaper than ever.
Beyond digital books, independent bookstores are working hard to remain accessible. Before this age of isolation, independent bookstores created a real-world hub where like-minded readers came together to seek new books and share ideas. Now, these “nonessential” bookstores are hurting from both physical closures and the rise and accessibility of e-books. Despite these setbacks, many independent bookstores are still finding ways to continue providing the public with books and earn enough funds to stay open post-pandemic. For example, programs like Bookshop are working to keep independent bookstores alive by giving them a platform to continue selling books online for full profit. Amid the pandemic, Bookshop’s sales have increased forty-fold — they are now making around $150,000 in daily book sales. That money, in addition to the funds of the #SaveIndieBookstores initiative, is helping independent bookstores stay afloat. The #SaveIndieBookstores movement has raised over $750,000 and continues to collect donations. Despite their exceptionally difficult circumstances, independent bookstores are still finding ways to keep selling books and contribute to the rise of reading. Whether or not these bookstores are open to the public, they are a hub for the rise of knowledge throughout communities.
Book sales of all types are rising which means knowledge is flourishing. During the tragedies of the COVID-19 pandemic, books can be a silver lining among the increasing population of readers. While everybody remains inside, reading is a way to continue exploring new places and expanding your mind.
Whether it’s flipping through paperbacks or appreciating a free online audiobook, if you can take an opportunity to read, do so. You will be contributing to a more well-read and insightful world.
Artwork by Angela Liang of the UCSD Guardian Art Department.