BookNet Canada survey finds that a majority of books purchased in 2020 were sourced online; three quarters of books bought were print

Graph of online vs. in-person book purchases
In 2020, 65% of book purchases were made online (Source: BookNet Canada)

The results of BookNet Canada’s annual survey of domestic purchasing habits have been published, and they shed some insight into how COVID-19 affected Canadian book buyers.

Not surprisingly, online sales were strong last year, presumably in response to the patchwork of COVID-19 lockdowns that were in place across the country. The survey found that online purchases accounted for 65% of sales in 2020, with just under 30% of books being bought in person. There was a 75-25 split between sales of print books versus digital books, with paperbacks accounting for approximately 50% of purchases across all formats.

As for why they chose a particular seller, 74% of the survey respondents said that price was the motivating factor, and 71% went for books that were in stock and available immediately. Distressingly, only 14% of respondents identified loyalty to a vendor as a reason for purchasing from a particular place.

The BookNet survey provides a useful snapshot of purchasing trends, though fans of literary fiction and poetry will be typically dismayed; the top three genres of fiction bought in 2020 were thrillers, fantasy, and mystery. (This is also perhaps unsurprising; the effects of COVID-related stress are well documented and it’s understandable that most readers would want an escape rather than something that would challenge or upset them.) Biography and memoir naturally top the list of nonfiction genres.

The survey is run quarterly; readers were contacted about their purchases over the months of March, June, September, and December 2020.

BookNet Canada survey finds that a majority of books purchased in 2020 were sourced online; three quarters of books bought were print
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