Dianne Jacob on the future of cookbooks


Despite the popularity of food television shows, Instagram posts involving food, and the continued strength of cookbook sales, Americans are cooking less.  Food writer and former editor Dianne Jacob takes a look at this trend, and asks an important question: what does this mean for the cookbook industry?

Jacob notes that 2015 was the first year that Americans spent more on eating out than they did on groceries, and during the last few years several news articles have reported on a decline in home cooking. So why do cookbooks continue to sell briskly? There are a few answers to this conundrum, says Jacob. First, people may buy cookbooks "for other reasons than cooking. They might aspire to cook from them, but then don't. They might think cookbooks are beautiful enough to display as art," she notes. 

Another well-established trend is that the most popular cookbooks are personality-driven rather than recipe-driven. This comports with the recent discussion on the EYB blog about bestselling cookbooks being those that told a story rather than just the books that contained a collection of recipes. People seem to want to read about food more than cook it. 

All of these developments lead Jacob to wonder what cookbook publishers could do make readers want to cook more.  She leaves us with this question: "Do cookbooks need to change, fundamentally?" What do you think?


  • Jane  on  12/15/2016 at 10:05 PM

    Well obviously I think people would cook from their cookbooks more if they joined Eat Your Books!

  • Elizabethan  on  12/16/2016 at 3:09 PM

    There is something salaciously delicious about flicking though a glossy, beautifully presented cookbook .. many of us collect them .they tell a tale of cookery through the ages... I've got cabinets full.. trouble is , trying to remember "just where is that recipe again?" Can prove difficult at times!!!! Cookbooks are a forever I say .,.,.,.,.

  • ellabee  on  12/16/2016 at 7:30 PM

    :: 2015 was the first year that Americans spent more on eating out than they did on groceries :: Disappointing if true. I'd hoped that there'd be a turnaround, fueled by the recession. Didn't last.

  • RickRodgers  on  12/18/2016 at 10:04 AM

    Blue Apron, the big meal kit company, is doing a huge cookbook project. They totally get the nostalgic comfort value of holding a big thick cookbook, and they are positioning themselves to be next JOY OF COOKING or Betty Crocker, instantly recognizable brands that their audience will relate to. Does a 25-year-old novice cook even know these two venerable names? Blue Apron is betting that they don't, they don't care, or that they want their own brand that is different from their parents'.

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