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The 2021 Rakuten Kobo Book Report: How Canadian reading habits have changed since COVID

December 09, 2021

From Barack Obama’s A Promised Land, to Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton Collection, 2021 saw Canadians read to escape and to reflect

TORONTO – December 9, 2021 – Rakuten Kobo is proud to share the 2021 Kobo Book Report, where we explore emerging patterns, the top novels or the year and the biggest trends in reading.

Canadians read voraciously through the COVID pandemic with the average time spent reading increasing by 33.7 per cent since 2019. When it comes to the kind of books Canadians are reading, two strong themes emerge: reading to escape, which is understandable in the circumstances; and reading to reflect and educate themselves.

2021-A-Glance: Canadians are some of Kobo’s most active readers

  • Canadians continue to love reading on Kobo even as lockdowns unlock. Canadians spent on average 21 per cent more time reading in 2021 versus the global average – the equivalent of more than 3,300 years reading!
  • Summer months (July & August) continue to be primetime for reading, with Canadians spending over 1.8 billion minutes reading in the peak of summer
  • One in every five eBooks sold in Canada were written by an independent author and published through Kobo Writing Life (KWL), Rakuten Kobo’s independent publishing platform, effectively making KWL one of the largest publishers in the world.

More and more Canadians are exploring new formats for reading. According to a BookNet Canada study, approximately 1 in 10 people read every single day with an almost equal likelihood of reading print books (12%), eBooks (11%) or audiobooks (9%)*. The gap between these formats has progressively closed over the past few years as more and more Canadians are adopting digital reading habits.

Canada’s top 10 bestselling books of 2021

The books we read help define us. In a year of great societal change, what are Canadians reading? Everything from fictional romances to escape the challenges of daily life, to hopeful biographies and heart-wrenching reflections on the human condition. The top bestselling books of 2021 in Canada are:

With the launch of the globally popular Netflix series, Bridgerton, it’s no wonder the full collection of Julia Quinn novels was a bestseller in 2021. Other notable bestsellers include The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, an emotional family story and brilliant exploration of the American history of ‘passing’, and Five Little Indians—written by Kobo Emerging Prize-winning author, Michelle Good—which follows the lives of five residential school survivors and was published just as Canada was rocked by revelations of mass graves at school sites.

The books Canadians actually finished reading

The growing stack of books on nightstands across the country proves that what we booklovers buy isn’t always what we read. But in 2021, Canadians were making a dent in their ‘To Be Read’ piles—with a few surprises. Some of the most read books of the year, such as The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave or Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon (author of the novels behind the hit television show, Outlander), weren’t in the top-ten bestsellers. Below are the top ten most read books in Canada this year:

Alright, alright, alriiiight: Canadians are listening to autobiography and fiction audiobooks

We like to say “listening is reading” and these audiobooks consistently ranked in the top 5 sold across Canada in 2021:

Audiobooks are widely considered one of the fastest growing segments of the publishing industry. In fact, over 50% of audiobook listeners sampled in a Kobo research study reported to listening to more audiobooks over the past year, namely due to COVID and discovery of the convenience of the audiobook format**. That same study found that booklovers most often listen to audiobooks when completing household chores (54%), driving (44%), or going for walks or runs outside (41%).

You can find all of the best-selling and most-read titles, plus much more, at kobo.com.


* BookNet Canada: Canadian Book Consumer Survey, Nov 2021

** Rakuten Kobo CSAT Audiobook Study, 2021

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