How Well Do Books Compete with Your TV set?

As Covid-19 struck, did the amount of books Americans buy go up or down? The options in this pop quiz are a) down 10%, b) flat, no change from 2019, and c) up 10%

The correct answer to this week’s quiz is number 3) because sales rose 8% compared to 2019 book sales.  That’s the “good news,” as people were generally stuck at home while the pandemic raged. The bad news, if you’re a bookstore owner or employee, is that bookstore sales were down 23% versus 2019 given that they were either shuttered or often had limited operations. The bigger picture “bad news” for the book industry is that the percentage of people who read a book on a typical day has declined from 26% to 19% from 2003 to 2017. In comparison, TV / streamed viewing is an activity consuming 10x more of people’s time than cracking open a book. The fear that books may become less relevant in a world driven by TV et cetera was, Joanna Scott says, one of the underlying concerns motivating her latest book, a collection of short stories about the often blurry line between fact, fiction, and the fantasies that play in our heads.

Released today: a pair of podcasts. Episode #56 of my podcast series “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” features Joanna Scott, the author of Excuse Me While I Disappear. Click here to get to the new episode. While on the web site, slide over into the Biography channel to listen to my episode with author Nelson Johnson regarding his book Darrow’s Nightmare: The Forgotten Story of America’s Most Famous Trial Lawyer.

Joanna Scott is the author of 12 books, including Arroganceand Various Antidotes, both PEN-Faulkner finalists, and The Manikin, a finalize for the Pulitzer Prize. Her awards include a MacArthur Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She teaches at the University of Rochester.  

Nelson Johnson is a retired New Jersey Superior Court Judge and the author of four previous books including Boardwalk Empire, which inspired the HBO series about Atlantic City.

Image of New Books network and Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight podcast logo

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.