To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps his Department is taking to encourage reading during the covid-19 lockdown announced in January 2021.
Many people have sought comfort in reading during this pandemic period. Before libraries physically closed their doors last March, public libraries allowed people to take out many books, suspended late fines and then moved swiftly to digital and online services, investing in ebooks and audio. During March 2020 new registrations to access libraries econtent increased by over 600%.
Through national regulations Government has enabled public libraries to continue to offer an “order and collect” provision, as well as home lending services for vulnerable users. We are also pleased to support The Reading Agency’s new campaign: Read, Talk, Share - which will combat loneliness and promote wellbeing through bibliotherapy, working closely with local libraries to reach struggling communities.
In addition we have worked with the Department for Education to remind parents and children that libraries continue to provide free access to reading material, both physically and digitally, through library membership.
Beyond libraries, the Government has supported the publishing industry during the pandemic, to help ensure readers can continue to enjoy the benefits that come with a thriving UK publishing sector. This support has included introducing a zero rate of VAT to e-publications, which was brought forward to 1 May 2020, which ensures e-publications are entitled to the same VAT treatment as their physical counterparts.