Guess which kind of books are flourishing in the bad economy?
Canadian-based Harlequin told the Vancouver Sun this week that profits were up 11 percent in 2008, and revenue rose to $473 million. "The books have been doing very well in this recession," says Marleah Stout, senior manager of publicity for the Toronto-based company.
The success comes despite a poor 2008 for books overall. Total sales at Borders in 2008 were down 8.8 percent from the year before, with fourth-quarter sales falling 12.9 percent, according to numbers released by the company Tuesday. Bookseller Barnes & Noble says its sales fell 6 percent in the fourth quarter - with online sales dropping 10.4 percent.
But while most book genres were flat or down in 2008, sales for romance novels improved. "Romance was strong for us in 2008 and continues to be strong," Borders spokeswoman Mary Davis tells the Squeeze.
What other categories have, um, kindled the passion of readers? Besides Politics and Government titles, thanks to the election, Borders also saw an increase in science fiction, fantasy and humor.
Says Bob Wietrak, a vice president of merchandising for Barnes & Noble Booksellers: "In the fiction world, the fantasy, sci-fi and romance genres are doing very well."
The lesson here: A little escapism sells well in hard times - even if a bodice or two gets harmed in the process.