Flip the Page for a New Chapter: Reading Trends
In this article, we focus on book reading habits among respondents. The topic was approached through an online survey conducted on the questia.ro platform. The research study was active between December 4th and December 5th, 2018 and covered 1004 respondents, with a +/- 3% margin of error when reported to the Romanian online population.
A New Page of Data
Books encompass the joy, the sadness and the wisdom of the whole world. With books, time is not an issue anymore. You can travel in the past, stay in the present or even adventure in the future. The sky is not the limit anymore, only imagination.
The habit of reading is on a descending path lately, not because readers read less but because less people spend their time reading books. It seems that the main distractions that keep people from reading consist of watching TV, playing games, surfing the internet for fun, and… Netflix. According to a German study, that surveyed 25k people, it seems that the number of Germans buying books has decreased by 18% between 2013 and 2017, now that they spend more and more time on the internet and replaced books with streaming services such as Netflix: “There's growing social pressure to constantly react and be tuned in so you don't get left behind”, as Alexander Skipis said in a statement accompanying the study. Decrease rates have also been registered for those who read e-books, with an 8% decrease between 2016 and 2017, but the amount of titles purchased per person went up.
According to Department of Labor’s American Time Use Survey, it seems that American women generally read more than men but time spent reading has declined for both genders. The same goes when considering employment status (with the unemployed reading more than part-time or full-time employees), age splits (with youngsters reading more than mature adults or elders), and income (with wealthier people reading more books) – but they all read less and less every year.
The technology era resembles in Europe, as well, as Europeans read less and spend less money on books. According to Eurostat data, the household expenditure on books accounted for 1.8% in 1995 while in 2016 declined to 1.1%. The European countries where households spent the most on books in 2016, are Slovakia – 2.1%, Germany – 1.6% and Poland – 1.4%. At the opposite end, the lowest shares were registered in Bulgaria and Greece – both 0.6%, The Czech Republic, Spain and Malta – all 0.7%.
An article in The Guardian, reports European Nordic countries as the top most literate ones, not based on the population’s ability to read but rather looking at their literate behavior characteristics, meaning “everything from numbers of libraries and newspapers to years of schooling and computer availability in the countries”. Finland comes on top as the most literate country in the world, due to its focus on literacy projects. Norway comes in second, and Iceland, Denmark and Sweden rounding out the top five. John Miller, who conducted the study, said that the Nordic countries took the five top slots because “their monolithic culture values reading”.
According to Eurostat, European households spent over 90 billion euros on books, newspapers and stationery in 2016, which resembles 1.1% of their total consumption expenditure or about 200 euros per inhabitant. Romania’s 2015 share of newspapers, books and stationery in total household expenditure is lower than 1%. Moreover, Romania seems to be on the list of the countries with the lowest share of respondents reading books (6.2%), among Belgium (7.9%), Austria (7.2%) and France (2.6%).
According to some studies (1, 2), it was found that people who read live longer, with those who read 30 minutes per day living on average 23 months longer than those who do not read. The reason seems to lie in the fact that reading creates cognitive engagement that improves thinking skills, vocabulary and concentration, affects empathy and emotional intelligence. All these changes seem to contribute to helping people live longer.
First, we asked the respondents how they like to spend their free time. It seems that most people prefer to stay connected to the media, as 80.4% say they spend their time on the internet, and over 67% prefer to watch TV, movies or TV shows. However, more than half of the respondents (62.1%) answered they read in their leisure time. The high percentage of reading should be interpreted in the key that respondents prefer to declare a positive behavior, even when it is not necessarily happening in real life. Moreover, the online population characteristics differs than the general population.
As Frank Zappa said, “So many books, so little time”, we next delved into how often respondents read. More than half of them (61.1%) declared to read multiple times per week, with 29.3% reading daily or almost daily while 31.8% saying that they read a few times per week. One quarter of respondents (25%) usually spends time reading a few times per month, 12.3% rarely do it and 1.6% reported they haven’t read any book in the past year.
According to Eurostat, based on a survey carried out between 2008 and 2015, it was revealed that the average time Romanians spend for reading books is 5 minutes per day.
From where are respondents procuring their books? As it seems, a little more than half of the respondents (55.9%) buy their books online, while almost half (47.9%) purchase their readings from bookstores. A quarter (25.3%) borrow books from their friends while 21.8% shop for them in libraries.
Next, we were interested in finding out how often respondents buy new books. The avid-readers (30.4%) tend to buy new books often and very often, while casual readers (44.5%) do so more rarely. One quarter of respondents (25.1%) say they never buy new books or do it very rarely.
Friends seem to have the highest influence when choosing what books to read, as almost one half of respondents (45.9%) base their decision for their next reading on the recommendations received from their friends. To 34.6% the author matters as well when selecting a book, while 34.5% get inspired from the suggestions from online stores, blogs or other websites. A little more than one quarter (26.9%) choose what they’re reading based on the topic, title or the bookcase. Some respondents (19.6%) read spontaneously, picking whatever they can get their hands on.
There’s no better place like home… to read, for most users (95.7%) as they prefer the comfort of their own home to delve into reading. Some people (18.8%) tend to read outside, surrounded by nature while 15.3% also like reading while travelling, being on the road.
We’ve seen in our previous research, Motivation Is Born on New Year’s Eve, that almost one quarter of respondents (24%) created a resolution for 2018 out of reading more. Now we wanted to find out how many books respondents have actually read during 2018. Almost half of respondents (49.6%) said they read between 1 and 5 books during last year, which merely means 1 book every 2 months. The top motivated ones (11.5%) read over 15 books in 2018, meaning a little more than one book per month. However, 8.6% didn’t read any book. However, the answers for this question might be biased as respondents might not remember exactly how many books they read last year and many might exaggerate, to seem smarter.
Moreover, according to Eurostat, it seems that Romania had the highest percentage of people who don’t read any books out of the EU, in 2011. Romanians appear to be reading less than 5 books per year (a little over 20%).
The most preferred genres by our respondents are romance (22.1%), general knowledge (17.3%), thriller/ mystery (12.9%), action (12.7%) and SF (8.8%).
The classic format overweights the modern one, as most respondents (83%) prefer to read their books on paper, while only 16.9% are using an e-Book. More than half of respondents choose to read international authors (62%) while 38% go for Romanian literature.
The emotional impact seems to be the most appreciated aspect of a book plot (48.5%), while 35.7% are interested only in the plot itself.
Why do we read in the first place? According to Statista, the main reason why Americans read is for pleasure (98%). For our respondents the main reason seems to lie in the relaxation, pleasure and personal growth trio - we just want to escape from this world for a little from time to time.
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