Canada’s second annual National Book Count, a snapshot of books bought and borrowed from libraries in one week in January, offers a picture of “a nation of readers,” its sponsors say. And counted for the first time, e-books were 10% of the English books Canadians were reading.
A total of 3,405,687 books were counted as being sold or circulated. That’s five books for every second in the week, says Jamie Broadhurst, spokesman for the Book Count, who noted that Canada's population is about the same as California's. The count is sponsored by the National Reading Campaign, a coalition of readers, parents, writers, editors, librarians, bookstore owners, teachers, publishers and distributors that has been working together since 2008 to assess the changing reading habits of Canadians. Their third and final summit is scheduled for May 2 to 4, 2012 in Vancouver during which a draft plan for a national campaign to promote reading will be unveiled.
This year’s count for English print book sales was 1,153,081, an increase of 4% over 2011’s count. Of that number, 111,053 were e-book sales. Since this is the first time e-books have been counted, the growth in e-book popularity in Canada cannot yet be measured, but estimates of e-book sales from publishers last fall for PW’s annual Canadian report ranged from about 5% to 12%, with a minority of publishers at the high end of 10% to 12%.
French language print book sales increased 35% over 2011's count, but the organizers noted that this was primarily because the count increased its coverage, and there was not necessarily a surge in book purchases. French e-books were not counted this year
There were 2,141,553 print books borrowed from participating public libraries. They reported that 3% of circulation was in digital formats. There were 63,196 e-books downloaded. According to the report, “Canadian libraries saw an 8% increase in print circulation and a 50% increase in digital circulation for an overall increase of 9% total circulation for libraries that participated in 2011 and 2012.”
Book sales from retail chains, including giants Indigo Books & Music and Amazon.ca, and more than 260 independents, were counted for the week of Jan. 23 to 29. The National Reading Campaign says that its numbers represent 80% of the English retail book market and 45% of French market. The Canadian Urban Libraries Council tracked circulation in 28 participating public library systems across the country, which serve about 13.7 million Canadians.
Although the National Reading Campaign’s coalition formed around a common belief that “more needs to be done to foster pleasure reading and a passionate civic engagement that comes from reading,” Broadhurst says a report that shows a healthy reading culture in Canada supports the coalition’s goals. “Part of the strategy of the National Reading Campaign is to stress the fact that reading is a
widespread and valued activity…. The more that civic, business and political leaders recognize there is powerful constituency of readers in Canada the more likely they are to promote policies that will encourage reading."
On the other hand, said Broadhurst, who is also vice-president of marketing for Vancouver’s Raincoast Books, "The National Reading Campaign members are well aware that there are large sections of the country who are under-represented in this passion for reading: aboriginal communities, new Canadians, people of lower economic status, to name a just few groups. One of the major themes of the National Reading Plan that will be unveiled, discussed and debated in Vancouver in May will deal with how to preserve and promote our reading heritage and make it deeper. The need for school librarians to promote pleasure reading and early reading programs , both for children and their parents, will be two clear pressure points we will want to promote."