There can be few of us who aren't wishing for the Covid-19 pandemic to be over so we can go about our lives again. But when will that be? And will things go back to the same as they were or will there be a "new normal"?

This was one of the topics we explored for our just published "Book Clubs in Lockdown" report based on an October 2020 survey of more than 3,400 book club members, 90% of whom live in the USA. You can download the full report for free at bookbrowse.com/wp/lockdown.

At the time of the survey, three-quarters of respondents were in groups that were currently meeting (and had been doing so through most of the pandemic) but they were meeting very differently from how they did before. Whereas the great majority said their primary book club used to meet in person and indoors, now two-thirds are meeting virtually (almost all on Zoom), and of the remainder, half were meeting outside at the time of the survey (with many eyeing the weather and looking to make new winter plans).



where book clubs are meeting in 2020 compared to 2019

I'll talk more about the experience of meeting virtually in future blogs, but suffice to say it's proven to have good and not so good aspects depending on who you talk to. However, the one thing that the majority of book club members agree on is that meeting on Zoom is a great deal better than not meeting at all. In fact, a third of those currently meeting virtually are so enamored with the format that they expect to retain a virtual element even after it's possible to meet in person again without restrictions.

Most of these expect virtual meetings to supplement their in person experience. For example, a member who was home sick would be able to join virtually, and sometimes the entire meeting would be virtual such as when the weather is not conducive to driving or when many of the membership are away from home.

  • I like being able to Zoom from home, and we plan to keep that as an option for anyone not wanting to venture out but who still wants to participate.
  • Now we're old Zoom hands, we'll be able to use it in case of inclement weather where people would previously have wanted to cancel or postpone.
  • People that don't drive at night will be able to attend virtually.
  • I hope we can manage to include hybrid meetings so that those of us who don't want to meet can still participate.
  • 'Snowbirds' will be able to join us during the winter months.
  • I will not be surprised if we meet every other month via Zoom or meet this way during the summer when so many are traveling.

Three percent plan on staying all virtual; while this might not sound like a lot, it seems likely that this will grow somewhat over time. Most of the groups that plan to stay virtual are ones that have formed during the pandemic as a way to stay in touch with friends, and these friends are not necessarily all local. Added to this, we found in our previous research (Inner Lives of Book Clubs, 2019) that four out of ten of those who wanted to be in a book club but weren't in one said they were unable to commit to a group for a variety of reasons, many of which would be resolved by a virtual book club, such as issues with childcare, frequent travel, disabilities or lack of transportation.

Book clubs meeting virtually that expect to continue meeting virtually in the future

Of course, not everyone has access to the technology to be able to meet virtually, but many do. Also, a virtual book club might be an attractive option for the remaining 60% of people who wanted to be in a book club but weren't in one who said they either didn't know of any groups to join or didn't want to be in any of the groups they knew about.

But when exactly will we all be meeting again in-person without restrictions? At the time of the survey in October, over a third of respondents simply weren't going to be drawn into giving an opinion; of the remainder, more than half reckoned it would not be until the third quarter of 2021. With vaccines starting to come through the pipeline, perhaps it will prove to be sooner. I, for one, hope so, but suspect they are right.

When book clubs expect to meet again

I'll be posting more findings from our "Book Clubs in Lockdown" survey over the coming weeks, but you don't have to wait for the posts, you can download the full report for free. And when you do, please do share with your book club friends!

Davina, BookBrowse Publisher



The findings in this article are mostly taken from our published research: The Inner Lives of Book Clubs and/or Book Clubs in Lockdown. More about both at bookbrowse.com/wp.

You can see more articles in The Inner Lives of Book Clubs section of this blog; and receive future articles in your mailbox by subscribing to our newsletters, in particular Book Club News or Librarian News.

And if you're looking for an expert on book clubs for interview, please contact us!

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