A plunge in most consumer goods – but, not in books…


Bookbarn International stocks 5 million titles in 2nd-hand books
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Some people are seeking explanations for the global economic crisis. Others want to escape into the fanciful world of vampires. Still others are just looking for a nice plate of comfort food.

Whether they are picking up “La Crise, et Après?” by the French economist Jacques Attali, one of umpteen translations of the American author Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, or “Jamie’s Ministry of Food,” by the British television chef Jamie Oliver, they are buying books. As the recession leaves other media industries in tatters, the oldest mass medium of all is holding up surprisingly well.

“It’s a happy message,” said André Breedt, research and development analyst at Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks book sales. “People have been reading and they will keep reading, no matter what happens…”

Publishers and analysts offer a variety of reasons why books have done better, at least so far, than many had feared. Compared with a new television or video game console, books are inexpensive. With unemployment on the rise and working hours in decline, people may simply have more time on their hands. After the excesses of recent years, reading is an activity well suited to a more contemplative era.

“Books are a very cheap treat,” said Helen Fraser, managing director of Penguin Books in London. “When you are reading all this dreadful news in the paper, a lovely 500-page novel by Marian Keyes or a classic by Charles Dickens takes you right away from all that.”

But downturns have also created opportunities for publishers. Penguin was founded in 1935, during the Great Depression, by the publisher Allen Lane, who wanted to sell quality books for roughly the price of a pack of cigarettes.

First thing I did after acquiring more spare time when I retired – beside adding a commitment to a second blog – was reserving one day a week as my reading day. It makes nothing but good sense to me.

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