The cookbook market defies predictions

cookbook collage

Just a few years ago, cookbook industry professionals predicted a doom and gloom scenario for the genre. Lorena Jones, vice president and imprint publisher at Ten Speed Press, called it "a prevailing sense of doom." With the rise of iPads and eBooks, publishers thought hardcover books sales would plummet. A few holdouts weren't convinced the end of cookbooks was nigh, and it turns out that they were correct. Instead of a downturn in cookbook sales, the industry experienced a surge. Recent statistics show the trend continuing: Michael Solomonov's Zahav sold more than 60,000 copies, and last week, Ina Garten's Cooking for Jeffrey was holding the No. 8 spot on Amazon - in all categories, not just food and cooking.

So why did cookbooks buck the predictions? A variety of reasons are offered. For one, the multiple types of eBook platforms led to inconsistencies in the readers' quality experience. Some eBooks work well, but many others are difficult to navigate - especially frustrating when you're in the middle of a recipe and can't find the sub-recipe or critical instructions. Another theory is that as people turn to digital devices for so many daily tasks, they want a respite from the screens, and physical cookbooks offer a welcome retreat.

The tactile and visual experience plays a big role in a cookbook's success, which is why the trend has been toward oversized books stuffed with gorgeous photos, as well as textured surfaces and matte pages. An additional assessment is that the quality of recipes in high-end cookbooks is better than what's found in many online resources. Cookbook recipes, as a rule, are more thoroughly tested and edited. Whatever the reasons, cookbook sales continue to thrive, and publishers like Ten Speed Press and Phaidon have dozens of new offerings in the works.

1 Comment

  • raowriter  on  11/11/2016 at 5:52 PM

    I've turned to eBooks for work-related research, and for my fruit and vegeatable garden, while audio books have replaced print novels and all my magazines are digital. However, I can't learn to love digital recipe books. I do have some, mainly cheaper ones or books I wasn't sure about. But I don't relish them as I do the print versions: the look and 'feel' just aren't as engaging.

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