Cookbook Usage

I index a lot of cookbooks. In fact, 30% of my projects in 2018 were culinary books – everything from alpine cuisine to those easy food-preparation appliances that were on so many Christmas lists this year.

I also spend a lot of time monitoring the latest statistics on book sales, especially digital formats versus traditionally printed books. What has me interested lately is how folks get new recipes. I wonder who buys a good old fashion book when it is easy to skim Pinterest for a plethora of dinner ideas.

The answer surprised and delighted me.

According to NPD Bookscan, who tracks purchases at the point-of-sale from all major retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Target, independent bookstores, and more, cookbook sales in the first half of 2018 were up 21 percent from the first half of 2017 with the upward trend extending into 2019.

Allison Risbridger, an NPD book industry analyst, suggested a few reasons for our continued love of cookbooks.

The first relates to my aforementioned project of the kitchen gadgets. We tend to love anything that can make life easier in the kitchen. Can it fry without oil? I want one! What? It can cook faster than my slow cooker? Count me in! And, by the way, I don’t know how to use it so I’ll need a few cookbooks as well.

Healthy eating trends also assist the sales in this category. According to NPD, low-carb cookbooks alone increased 228 percent in the first half of 2018. Also popular were ketogenic diets and ethnic cookbooks. The Food Network predicted 2019 nutrition trends to include plant-based snacking and potatoes for performance, so expect cookbooks on those topics to follow.

Finally is the reason that makes me smile. As a nation, we just seem to love to have cookbooks. Mom had them, and so did Grandma, and they evoke a sense of home. We love to get stains on the pages and write in the margins. We dog-ear pages with the recipes that have been made for generations or the new ones we know will become favorites. We pass them down and cherish the handwriting from years past.

Actual cookbooks have often been woven into our heritage and traditions in a way on-line recipes just can’t.

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