As we reflect upon the year 2023, it stands out as a year marked by anxiety in the literary world. Despite the gradual return to in-person events, the shadow of COVID-19 still loomed large, making crowded rooms an eerie experience. The world of books faced a series of challenges and uncertainties, carrying over some of the themes from the previous year.
Continuation of literary trends
In 2022, certain literary trends prevailed, and many of them continued to make headlines in 2023. Colleen Hoover, a prominent author in the romance genre, maintained her domination of the literary scene. Questions surrounding the potential buyer of Simon & Schuster persisted, leaving industry insiders speculating about the future of publishing giants. Indie publishers, booksellers, and authors continued to exert their growing influence in the literary landscape. However, 2023 brought forth its unique set of concerns, adding to the overall unease.
Economic challenges and creative industry
The year 2023 saw inflation and interest rates on the rise, contributing to a sputtering economy that affected writers, publishers, and editors alike. The creative industries faced an additional layer of uncertainty with the increasing impact of AI technology. As AI continues to evolve, its potential effects on the creative process and job landscape remain unknown. These economic and technological challenges added to the anxieties of those in the literary world.
Geopolitical unrest and Its ripple effects
The geopolitical stage also cast a shadow over the literary landscape in 2023. The Israel/Gaza conflict had a significant impact on writers, publishers, and editors across the globe. The repercussions of this conflict reverberated throughout the industry, influencing the themes and narratives explored in many books.
Print book sales decline
One notable trend in 2023 was the decline in print book sales. According to BookNet Canada’s mid-year review, sales of print books in the first six months of 2023 were down by 12 percent compared to the same period in 2022. The entire Canadian book market experienced a decline of $10 million in sales during the first half of the year. English trade print books reached $459,644,006 in sales during this period.
Preference for print over Ebooks
Interestingly, despite the decline in print book sales, people showed a preference for physical books over ebooks. Seventy-seven percent of all books purchased during the first half of the year were either paperback or hardcover, while ebook sales saw a significant drop of 23 percent year-over-year for the same period. This shift in reading preferences underscores the enduring appeal of traditional printed books.
Top books of 2023
In the realm of fiction, Colleen Hoover continued her reign as a literary powerhouse. She secured the top two spots on the Original Fiction lists for the second consecutive year with “It Starts With Us” and “It Ends With Us.” Remarkably, she also claimed the 15th spot on the list, although this marked a slight decrease from the previous year when she had seven books in the top 20.
Canadian author Carley Fortune had an exceptional year, topping the Canadian Fiction bestsellers list with her second book, “Meet Me at the Lake.” Fortune’s success received an unexpected boost when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Archewell Productions announced their plans to acquire the screen rights for her title. This announcement catapulted Fortune into the spotlight, leading to various high-profile appearances, including her role as a Cannon Doll in the National Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” in December.
In the realm of non-fiction, Prince Harry’s memoir, “Spare,” claimed the top spot on the Original Non-Fiction list for the year. His memoir led the way in a parade of celebrity memoirs, which also featured notable releases from Britney Spears, who secured the second overall non-fiction bestseller spot for 2023, as well as contributions from Barbra Streisand and Geddy Lee. These celebrity memoirs became the coveted bestsellers that booksellers nationwide hoped for during the holiday season.
2023 unfolded as a year of living anxiously in the literary world. The return of in-person literary festivals, ongoing trends in the industry, economic challenges, and geopolitical unrest all played their part in creating an atmosphere of uncertainty. Despite the decline in print book sales, the preference for physical books over ebooks remained strong. Colleen Hoover and Carley Fortune shone as standout authors in the fiction category, while celebrity memoirs dominated the non-fiction lists. As the year drew to a close, the literary world remained on edge, navigating the complex terrain of an ever-changing industry.