Does the magic of cinema apply to selling and borrowing books?

To choose which films to work on, the BookNet Canada team relied on the average ratings as well as the number of reviews posted on IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic for each film. They have thus selected the 30 best adaptations for each of the years 2020 and 2021. For 2020, we find titles as varied as Birds Of Prey, The Devil all the time, Enola Holmes, Demon Slayer or Artemis Fowl. For 2021, we can note the unforgettable Dunesbut also nomadland, House of Gucci or Nightmare Alley.

BookNet Canada has compiled and compared data from the national sales tracking service for the Canadian English-language book market, SalesData. As well as the national library collection and circulation analysis tool, LibraryData.

In order to compare the sales of Canadian books and the circulation of these same works in Canadian libraries, the ISBNs linked to each adaptation were first extracted from the data clusters of LibraryData. This same ISBN list was then used to collect data from SalesData.

Because the ISBN storage system differs from one database to another. While SalesData collects data for each ISBN individually, LibraryData works with groupings of ISBNs. These can contain an unlimited number of ISBNs linked to a title or a series of books.

These 60 book-to-film adaptations represented a total of 933 ISBNs, with a single adaptation linking to any number between 2 and 100 ISBNs with an average of 16 associated ISBNs per film. Once the ISBNs had been correctly extracted, all that remained was to compare the differences in results between sales and library circulation of titles linked to the film adaptations.

From screen to page

While book lovers are known to say that ” the book is better than the movie “, one thing is certain, the film will have made viewers of the 60 adaptations want to read the books. The graph below shows the evolution of title sales from 12 weeks before to 12 weeks after the release of their respective films. Quite self-explanatory, it shows a significant peak increase between a week before and after the release of feature films.

For circulation in libraries, things happen slightly differently, since an institution’s distribution capacity is limited to the number of copies it holds in its collection. This is why it is better to focus on the reservation figures rather than the loans themselves, which is shown in the graph below. And indeed, while loans remained relatively stable, reservations jumped 89% over the entire period. However, there is a small lag: reservations begin to increase 4 to 5 weeks after the cinema release…

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The consequences of the pandemic

The years 2020 and 2021 were marked by multiple confinements and restrictions, for bookstores and cinemas. For what impact on the sales and circulation in libraries of titles adapted into films? This is what the graph below shows us with regard to sales. If the evolution seems to follow the same course, sales jump 127% after the first week in 2021 compared to only 52% in 2020.

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As shown in the graph below, the effect is substantially identical for library reservations. We note a regular increase in both cases, reaching 53% in 2020 and up to an additional 133% in 2021. It should be noted, however, that the prolonged closure of establishments and the difficulties of access during the pandemic may also explain this lag.

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The importance of gender

Among these sixty film adaptations, several genres were represented. 42% of the titles were similar to adult fiction, 32% of them to children’s and young adult literature and finally the remaining 27% were non-fiction. And, again, there are slight differences in sales of the sequels to their adaptations on the big screen.

Indeed, fiction titles experienced the greatest success the fastest after release as they peaked at +589% in the first week. Then come children’s books and young adults whose sales increased by 155% during the first week as well. For non-fiction, you have to wait until the third week after their theatrical release to notice a constant increase of 283%.

For library circulation, as shown in the graph below, reservations are much later. In particular for fiction titles which gain 70% between the 8th and 9th week after their theatrical release.

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Whether a film is adapted from a series of books or an individual title also makes a difference. Here, 73% of the films were adapted from individual titles and 27% were adapted from the book series. And despite this, book series have outsold, even seeing several spikes in the 12 weeks since release, than individual titles, as the chart below illustrates.

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If that remains to be proven, we can therefore say that the film adaptation does have an impact, and one of the most positive, on the sales and loans of the text from which it is taken.

Photo credits: illustration – Krists Luhaers / Unsplash