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Book sales flew off the shelves during last year’s lockdown as many of us were stuck at home.

Figures from the Publishers Association show demand for fiction rose by 16%, non-fiction by 4% and children’s publications by 2%, as online purchases kept the industry going when bookshops were forced to close.

It helped UK publishers of books and journals make £6.4 billion, up 2% on 2019.

Stephen Lotinga, chief executive of the London-based trade association, said the industry remained resilient despite the challenges posed by Covid.

“It’s clear that many people rediscovered their love of reading last year and that publishers were able to deliver the entertaining and thought-provoking books that so many of us needed,” he said.

“Despite the positive overall performance of the publishing industry, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that it’s been a particularly challenging year for education publishers and many smaller publishers.

Online sales helped many bookshops survive during the pandemic

“It’s also been a hugely difficult time for many booksellers and authors whose livelihoods have been enormously disrupted.”

However, with bookshops starting to reopen and physical events returning Mr Lotinga remains optimistic for the future adding: “We need to harness this return to reading and build on the huge opportunity this presents to everyone.”

Darion Goodwin, owner the Kemptown Bookshop in Brighton, was more cautious about the post-pandemic recovery.

“Customers have been coming back, we did experience some pent-up demand, but it has been relatively quiet over the last few weeks,” he said.

“We suspect that people are still nervous about coming out.”

The award-winning bookshop, on St George’s Road, is on the verge of launching an e-commerce site after customer requests kept some income flowing during the lockdown.

The Kemptown Bookshop in Brighton. Picture: Google

“We had many local loyal customers send us emails and where we could we fulfilled,” said Mr Goodwin.

“We also did a few school and college orders, had quite a number of orders for our shop vouchers and for book tokens and we sent a number of books to customers abroad.

“But the service we were able to offer was much reduced. The wholesalers were open, but you need to make a minimum order and this was difficult to do.

“Hence, what with staffing costs, it was better for us on the whole to be closed.”

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