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The 2022 Rakuten Kobo Book Report: Digital Reading in a Post-COVID World

November 15, 2022

A look at how Canadians read this year: TikTok recommendations on the rise, travel on the mind and inspiration from TV

TORONTO November 15, 2022 – Rakuten Kobo announces the results of its annual Kobo Book Report, sharing the latest Canadian trends and notable reading habits that dominated 2022. From bestselling books, to the time of day when Canadians turned the most pages, to how global events impacted reading choices, this year’s Kobo Book Report is a snapshot into how Canadians read in 2022.

2022 was a big year for books, with Canadians reading for the equivalent of nearly 8,000 years. That’s a slight seven per cent dip from last year, understandable given relative freedom from lockdowns and an easing of pandemic restrictions. Readers had an affinity for local content, with three Canadian authors – Nita Prose, Michelle Good and Louise Penny – in the top 10 best-sellers for the year.

When it comes to the times of day people are logging the most reading time, that varied depending on what part of the country you live in:

  • Montreal, Edmonton and Winnipeg read most in the afternoon
  • Toronto and Ottawa turn their pages after dinner
  • Vancouver, Calgary and Regina readers hit the books before bed

“The last couple of years have been a wild ride for both readers and booksellers. In 2022, COVID restrictions eased, readers were able to leave the house, and Kobo – as a global digital bookseller – has witnessed some interesting shifts and trends in reading behaviours around the world,” said Michael Tamblyn, CEO, Rakuten Kobo. “When it comes to our Canadian readers, we continue to see a love for local and Canadian authors and stories, a growing interest in self-published authors, a resurgence in travel-related reading and a bittersweet nostalgic trend for reading about the monarchy following the passing of the Queen. We’re excited to see what plot twists 2023 has in store.”

Restrictions relaxed and Canadians got the travel bug:

With COVID restrictions easing, Kobo saw a change in how Canadians read. While books were still a favourite pastime, there was a renewed interest in certain genres that had dipped drastically during extended lockdowns. Most notably, Canadians were keen to dive back into travel related books, with an over 67 per cent rise in sales compared to the previous year. The most popular destinations among Canadian readers were Italy, Spain, Portugal and France. After two years of lockdown Canadians had trip-planning on the brain, with books on museums, tours and local landmarks increasing 224 per cent since 2021.

Saying “farewell” to Queen Elizabeth II had people turning pages about the monarchy:

Following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, Kobo users flocked to books about the royal family. In September, books about the monarchy spiked globally 2,065 per cent year-over-year. Canada was one of the most nostalgic countries, with reading about the queen increasing 1,548 per cent versus 2021. The most popular titles centered around Queen Elizabeth II herself, particularly her wit and steadfast dedication to duty. Karen Dolby’s The Wicked Wit of Queen Elizabeth II, Marc Roche’s Elizabeth II: Une Vie, un Règne and Ben Pimlott’s The Queen: Elizabeth II and the Monarchy were among the most read by Kobo readers.

BookTok is driving reading trends:

TikTok continues to take the publishing industry by storm, with recommendations from BookTok influencers on the social media platform driving reading trends in Canada. Interestingly, the books shared go beyond the latest round of new releases and dig into the backlist, exposing a second wave of readers to older titles. The most popular trending author Kobo saw by far was Colleen Hoover, with year-over-year sales of her books It Ends With Us, Verity, Ugly Love and November 9 increasing between 305 to 456 per cent. Starting as a self-published author, Hoover’s books have been propelled into the spotlight and onto the bestseller list years after their release by voracious fans on social media, highlighting how drastically the industry is changing. Hoover is a book world phenomenon and currently outsells the Bible, Dr. Seuss, and James Patterson and John Grisham combined according to the New York Times. Other TikTok trending books among Kobo users include:

Books adapted into TV shows and movies seeing a second wave of readers:

The trend of streaming to reading continued this year, with TV series and movie adaptations introducing a new audience to older books. Following the release of a book adaptation, the title sees a flood of new readers as people take the story from the big screen to the book page. The standout success of the year is Heartstopper by Alice Oseman. Following the release of Netflix’s viral Heartstopper adaptation, sales of the graphic novel grew over 1,700 per cent year-over-year. But Oseman’s book isn’t alone – here are some other adapted books that saw a mass of new readers this year:

Kobo Writing Life celebrates its 10th birthday:

Kobo’s self-publishing platform, Kobo Writing Life (KWL), celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Since its inception in 2012, KWL has helped independent authors reach audiences globally through Kobo’s digital bookstore. Self-publishing has drastically grown in popularity over the last decade and represents one of the largest publishers in Kobo’s catalogue. In many English-speaking markets, one in five books sold by Kobo is a KWL title and one in four self-published generally. “Through KWL, we are able to give voice to authors who might not have made it through the gatekeepers of traditional publishing houses,” said Michael Tamblyn, CEO, Rakuten Kobo. “But once they reach Kobo’s community of readers, they find new audiences all over the world. Having a strong self-publishing catalogue for readers who read broadly, across a range of genres, and being able to help writers reach new audiences globally are points of pride for us.”

Kobo Plus subscription expands offering by adding audiobooks in Canada:

While the Kobo Plus all-you-can-read eBook subscription for just $9.99 per month has been in Canada since 2020, today the service expanded to audiobooks and now features read, listen, and read and listen options. “With Canadians out of the house and on-the-move, we’re excited to expand the Kobo Plus subscription offering to include audiobooks so Kobo users can fit reading into more places and more moments throughout their day,” said Bart Robers, Director, Audiobook and Subscription, Rakuten Kobo. “We know life is busy, but there is always time for reading. Whether you’re cleaning the house, walking to the office or standing in line at airport security, Canadians can now enjoy unlimited reading and listening for a low monthly fee.”

The catalogue includes contemporary fiction by beloved authors including Ian McEwan, Elena Ferrante, Alice Hoffman and Cherie Dimaline; classic mysteries from M. C. Beaton, Patricia Highsmith and Elizabeth Peters; self-help bestsellers from Gary Chapman, Stephen Covey and Deepak Chopra, and many more. While Kobo Plus subscribers enjoy limitless reading and listening, authors included in the catalogue see a range of benefits as well. Typically, following the launch of a book, revenue tends to decline with age as new releases hit the shelves – but inclusion in the Kobo Plus subscription continues to drive the revenue of a book as it’s discovered by new readers in the service, generating sales for a longer period of time with no decline in individual eBook or audiobook sales. Readers are also willing to try more new authors and read more widely across both new releases and backlist, as all-you-can-read removes the risk of trying something new.

Canada’s top 10 bestselling books of 2022:

Whether it’s trending fiction titles, the latest popular romance or the most talked about thriller book, this year Canadian readers were craving female voices, with all of the top 10 bestselling books of the year authored by female writers. Here are the top books in Canada this year:

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
  1. Verity, Colleen Hoover
  1. It Ends With Us, Colleen Hoover
  1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid
  1. The Maid, Nita Prose
  1. Abandoned in Death, J. D. Robb
  1. Five Little Indians, Michelle Good
  1. The Diamond Eye, Kate Quinn
  1. State of Terror, Louise Penny and Hillary Rodham Clinton
  1. Book Lovers, Emily Henry

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About Rakuten Kobo Inc.

Rakuten Kobo Inc. is the world’s digital bookseller created by and for book lovers. Owned by Tokyo-based Rakuten Group, Inc. and headquartered in Toronto, Rakuten Kobo’s millions of worldwide users can read anytime, anywhere, and on any device. With a mission to make reading lives better for all, Rakuten Kobo connects readers to stories using thoughtful and personalized curation of eBooks and audiobooks, and the best dedicated eReaders and apps for reading. With the singular focus of making reading lives the best they can be, Kobo’s open platform allows people to fit reading into more moments in their busy lives.  

To learn more about Rakuten Kobo, visit www.kobo.com. 

Press contact

Erin Ierullo 

Senior Manager, Global Communications 

erin.ierullo@rakuten.com 

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