Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What Reading Crisis?

When confronted with so many books on my review and reading pile I sometimes wonder exactly who is reading these books? Then I see many bookstores closing, supermarket chains pumping out discounted bestsellers, and I worry about literacy. I recently spoke with bestselling author Lee Child, a confirmed bibliophile, about the reading crisis, but he has a much more positive spin on things:
I don’t want to sound like Pollyanna, but I have a vague feeling that reading is going to come back big-time. The thing that took people away from reading is pretty much saturated now--games, the Internet, DVDs, etc. Reading is like a virus that sleeps gently in the soil, undisturbed, and it will come back in a big way, probably with the younger generation using these new reading devices like the Kindle.
This week Business Wire issued a report that seems in part to support Child’s viewpoint based on a Harris Poll they commissioned:
For years, people have been crying about the death of the book. While reading books may be declining, Americans are reading. Just one in ten (9%) say they typically read no books in an average year. About one-quarter (23%) read between 1 and 3 books, while one in five (19%) read between 4 and 6 books and 13 percent typically read between 7 and 10 books. And, over one-third (37%) of Americans say they read more then ten books in an average year.

There are certain groups who are more likely to read more than ten books in an average year. Looking at the generations, almost half (47%) of Matures (those aged 63 and older) say they read more than ten books compared to just one-third (33%) of Baby Boomers (those aged 44-62). Women are also more likely to read more than men – 44 percent of women read more than ten books a year compared to three in ten (29%) men. Candidates may not want to try books to reach their partisans, but they may be a good way to reach out to Independents. Just one-third of Republicans (33%) and Democrats (35%) say they read more than ten books in a year compared to 44 percent of Independents.
However it’s not all good news. The report indicates that readers are buying fewer books, and many cite lack of time in today’s world as the major reason for lack of reading. Even so, the boom and crime and mystery fiction continues:
In looking at the different types of books people read, non-fiction and fiction are almost even (82% and 80% respectively). The largest single genre is mystery, thriller and crime (48% read) followed by history (35%), biographies (31%), religious and spirituality (28%) and literature (27%). Men and women have different tastes in the type of books they read. Women are more likely to read mysteries (57% versus 38%), religious books (32% versus 24%), and, perhaps not a surprise, romance novels (38% versus 3%). Men, on the other hand, are more likely to read history (44% versus 27%), science fiction (34% versus 18%) and political (22% versus 9%).

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Anonymous Mark Thwaite said...

I'm with Lee.

Actually, seems to me like reading (lots and for leisure) has always been a rather niche activity...

100-odd thousand books published in the UK last year alone: someone is reading them!

Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 3:08:00 AM PDT  

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