Digital shmigital: Cookbook sales are up 25 percent

Dec 18, 2018, 6:01 PM | Updated: Dec 19, 2018, 9:41 am


Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

I love cookbooks. I like to take them to bed and read them like novels. I like to roll around in the fantasy that I’ll cook all of the dishes captured in the glossy, perfectly styled photographs. I may never make a single dish from a cookbook, but I love the book just the same. And I am clearly not the only one. Cookbook sales were up 25 percent this year, according to the research group NPD.

“We had our single biggest month in seven years in October. We’re having our best year that we’ve had so far,” said Lara Hamilton, owner of Book Larder, an all-cookbook store in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood.

Jenny Abrami is the sales director for Sasquatch Books, which publishes a lot of cookbooks from northwest authors.

“I think, generally, some of that growth is celebrity driven. It was a really big year for Ina [Garten] and Reese Witherspoon had a really great cookbook.”

Supermodel Chrissy Teigen put out a highly anticipated book, as did London based, Israeli born, celebrity chef Yotam Ottolenghi.

Even though there are millions of recipes available online for free, people still want to own a cookbook. Beyond the aesthetics, it’s safer to spill splotches of homemade marinara on a page than a tablet.

“If you just want to get straight information for a recipe, you can just download that from the Internet,” Abrami said. “But cookbooks are such a pleasurable thing and we think so carefully about our design. For me, online is great for getting work done and getting information quickly but if you really want to have an enjoyable experience, I feel like the cookbook is a much more pleasurable way to spend time and think about food. Especially if you’re like many of us and you’ve been staring at a screen all day. People like to display them in their kitchens. Some people use them as coffee table books.”

A modern cookbook era

Cookbooks are different than they used to be. They have personality. Authors usually include a story with each recipe, the photography is gorgeous and there is something for everybody.

“I think that this trend back towards home cooking is welcome,”Hamilton said. “When the store first opened, the big books that everybody talked about tended to be very cheffy coffee table books. And the ones that really get a lot of buzz now, and that people are really buying in greater numbers, are these ones that are really geared toward people who want to put a good meal on the table.”

She says Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” remains a very popular book.

“The hardcover outsells the paperback hands down. Because that’s just something people feel they have to own or they really want to give to someone as a gift and share. Recently it’s been books like Joshua McFadden’s ‘Six Seasons,’ Samin Nosrat’s ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’ Melissa Clark’s ‘Dinner’ and I think all three of them are establishing themselves as classics.”

Persian, middle eastern and vegetarian books are also selling well and Hamilton says they have a lot of new books exploring Filipino cuisine.

“‘Avocado a Day’ is currently one of our best selling cookbooks,” Abrami said, who says they strive to make beautiful, but affordable books that sell for $19.95. “It’s single subject, all about avocados.”

Book Larder has very smartly positioned itself as more than just a book store. They teach cooking classes and host author events featuring some of the world’s most popular cookbook authors and food personalities. This brings more people into the store and, in turn, sells more books.

Rachel Belle

Rachel Belle...

Rachel Belle

Belle: This isn’t goodbye, it’s see you later

After 20 years in news radio, I'm leaving my post at KIRO Newsradio to focus on making my podcast "Your Last Meal" full-time!

7 months ago

emily post etiquette...

Rachel Belle

Emily Post’s “Etiquette” goes modern: Advice on pronouns, hugging

In 1922, Emily Post published her very first etiquette book. Since then, 18 editions have been published by five generations of Posts.

7 months ago


Rachel Belle

Combat winter blues with friluftsliv, the Nordic tradition of being outside

Friluftsliv is part of the culture in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Denmark, places that are darker and colder than Seattle in winter.

7 months ago

small talk...

Rachel Belle

Most Americans hate small talk, but Seattleites continue talking about weather

Out of 1,000 people surveyed, 71% said they prefer silence to small talk and 89% of Gen Z use their phones to avoid making small talk.

7 months ago

(Igordoon Primus/Unsplash)...

Rachel Belle

Seattle sperm bank in desperate need of Black donors

Only 2% of American sperm donors are Black men, which is causing a lot of heartache for women specifically looking for a Black donor. 

7 months ago

Photo courtesy of Rosie Grant...

Rachel Belle

Woman cooking recipes engraved on gravestones says they’re all ‘to die for’

You know that recipe your family requests at every holiday, potluck and birthday party? What if you had it engraved on your tombstone?

8 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Men's Health Month...

Men’s Health Month: Why It’s Important to Speak About Your Health

June is Men’s Health Month, with the goal to raise awareness about men’s health and to encourage men to speak about their health.

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Digital shmigital: Cookbook sales are up 25 percent