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Australia’s latest isolation trend: escapism through books

I am a renowned nerd and bookworm, but my life is so busy that I struggle to carve out time to finish my forever-growing unread pile of books on my bedside table. Since isolation began, I’ve powered through 10 novels (most of them written by Sarah J Maas, seriously check out some of her work)!


Even with social distancing restrictions easing slowly in Australia, a lot of us are choosing to stay home unless we need to leave the house for something. This leaves a lot of free time on our hands and has led to a huge trend of online book purchases throughout Australia.


This trend makes me infinitely happy considering people were saying the book industry was dying not too long ago. On just eBay alone, Australians have bought a combined total of more than $9 million worth of books. This equates to around 360,000 books being bought since COVID-19 left us bored at home. Something else that makes me pleased is the huge spike in sales of erotic fiction (423% to be exact!). eBay Australia’s Sophie Onikul said: “while books are very much back in vogue, it’s also clear we’re a sheepish nation that prefers to purchase erotic fiction online rather than have to face the person behind the counter at the book shop!”


However, I’m a little disappointed that 50 Shades of Grey is at the top of this list seeing how problematic that franchise is. This trend of erotic fiction being popularised does suggest that people are exploring their sexual boundaries and becoming sex-positive, but it’s important to remember that even when living out fantasies from fiction (for instance in BDSM) to always have the consent of your partner and to stop the encounter immediately if they become scared, uncomfortable or too hurt to continue.


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Besides the spike in escapism to erotic fiction, there has also been an upwards trajectory for all book sales including a 79% increase of sales of non-fiction books, 101% increase in the sale of cookbooks and 113% sale increase on self help books. This trend may suggest that people are using isolation as a time to reflect and learn more about themselves and take the time to learn new skills.


Another trend in book sales is the return of classic favourites such as the Harry Potter series (my personal favourite) which has seen a rise of 65% in purchases since the release of the audiobook which had Daniel Radcliffe kicking off with reading the first chapter (I’ve been listening to the audiobook via Spotify if you want to have a listen). In news less exciting (or at least to me), it looks like we may see the internet overtaken with Twilight fever over Team Edward or Team Jacob again. Since the announcement of the new instalment Midnight Sun by Stephanie Myers, the sales of the original Twilight series have surged by 108%.


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However, on the very tippity top of the best sellers list during isolation sits: ‘The Barefoot Investor 2019 Update: The Only Money Guide You’ll Ever Need’ by Scott Pape, ‘A Bigger Picture’ by ex-Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, ‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney and ‘Duck! Rabbit!’ by Amy Krouse Rosenthalrose (this one topped the charts after Meghan Markle read it to baby Archie on his first birthday).  Seeing The Barefoot Investor top the charts is unsurprising seeing as COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the economy and many people’s personal finances.


Another large spike in book sales is the genre of children’s books which increased by 88% in April with some top sellers being old time favourites The World of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter and The Wonderful World of Dr. Seuss.


As a self-confessed bookworm, it’s hard not to take a little bit of joy in knowing that books are making a comeback – even if it took Australia getting hit by a huge pandemic and everyone being forcibly quarantined inside their homes to realise that using this medium is a fantastic way to ‘escape’.