When it comes to reading books, the vast majority of Canadians continue to read hardcover and paperback novels. In 2020 and the first few months of 2021, 75% of purchases were print books, while digital books made up about 25% of purchases. Paperback purchases trended slightly down from 2018 to 2020. Hardcover purchases were mostly flat, with increases in Q4 each year, corresponding to the holiday shopping season in December. Audiobook purchases hovered between 2% and 8%, trending slightly upwards over the last few years.
Are Canadians making online purchases? It depends on when the purchase was made. Online and in-person purchases were split exactly 50/50 in the second quarter of 2019, while in the first quarter of 2018 there was a difference of 7% between the two channels. At the end of 2019, online purchases were trending slightly down. However, purchases made in March 2020 began to move more online. Which makes sense considering that many physical stores closed, or were closing, because of pandemic-resulted lockdowns. At the end of 2020 in December, online purchases rose to 65%, a 24% increase from the fourth quarter in 2019. Overall in 2020, 64% of purchases were made online, with 36% of purchases bought in person.
In 2020, 50% of purchases were bought via an online retailer, 23% at a bookstore, 12% from a general retailer or grocery store, and 7% from both mobile apps and ebook/audiobook stores. About three quarters of Canadians bought where they did because of the price (74%). They also bought because the book(s) were in stock or available immediately (71%) or it was a convenient place to shop (69%).
This data comes from Booknet Canada via the Canadian Book Consumer survey, which is fielded quarterly. They surveyed 12,000 people in April, July, and October 2020 and January 2021.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.