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The huge difference between what men and women read

10 February 2015

From MarketWatch:

Most Americans don’t read fiction, but the residents of some U.S. states are far bigger bookworms than others.

The number of adults who read at least one novel, play or poem within the past 12 months fell to 47% in 2012 from 50% in 2008, according to a new survey of over 37,000 Americans, “A Decade of Arts Engagement,” by the National Endowment for the Arts, a government agency that promotes artistic excellence.

Fiction reading rose from 2002 to 2008, but has been dropping ever since — and is now back to 2002 levels. By comparison, 30 years ago 56% of Americans read fiction. The decline in fiction reading last year occurred mostly among white Americans, including women and men of various educational backgrounds; rates held steady among non-white and Hispanic groups, the report found.

Men are more likely to read nonfiction books than fiction, while the opposite holds true for women: 55% of women read fiction in 2012, and 48% read nonfiction, according to an update of a previous NEA report released in 2013. Young adults are more likely to read fiction than nonfiction books, whereas the oldest Americans (aged 75 and older) are more likely to read nonfiction books, the NEA found. Literary reading varied widely from state-to-state: It was 63% in Washington state, far above the national average, and 56% in Colorado, Rhode Island and Connecticut, but just 34% in Alabama, 36% in Virginia and 37% in Nevada.

Like newspapers, sales of print books are declining. Just 54% of Americans cracked open a book of any kind last year — print or digital, fiction or nonfiction. But novels have suffered more than nonfiction in recent years, according to research firm Nielsen. Total adult print book sales fell 2.5% to nearly 501.6 million in 2013 from 2012; adult nonfiction sales were broadly flat at 225.2 million, while fiction sales dropped 11% to 103.5 million.

. . . .

In an era of social networking and sharing, it’s also harder to bond around the water cooler over a novel. Thousands of works of fiction are published every year, Sorrentino says, but only a few hundred come to the attention of a discerning reading public through newspaper reviews or celebrity endorsements like, say, Oprah Winfrey’s book club. Of course, there are occasional exceptions to the water cooler rule such as “Gone Girl” and “Fifty Shades of Grey.” “It’s really hard to read William Faulkner and go into the office and say, “What did you think of that last chapter of ‘Light in August’?” These days, people get their fictional narratives from complex characters on cable television, he says.

Link to the rest at MarketWatch and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Books in General

23 Comments to “The huge difference between what men and women read”

  1. So all of these numbers are based on nielsen?

  2. “48% read nonfiction”

    P.G.

    Har…thassalaff.

    I saw the NTtimes best seller lists Glenn Beck as non-fiction.

    On that basis of non-fiction I am 6’4″, rich beyond Croesus and there are at least 6 Ferraris in my garage.

    brendan

  3. Do they control for population growth in these things? Because if not that’s awfully misleading. Making some small assumptions here, the US population in 1984 (the 30 years ago referenced in the article) was about 235.8 million. 56% of that is about 132 million. In 2014, the population was about 319.8 million. 47% of that is about 150.3 million. So actually, about 18 million more people read fiction books in 2014 than in 1984. Where’s that message?

  4. I love the emphasis on print book declines, acting like “print book” is synonymous with books as a whole. I haven’t cracked open a printed fiction book in easily the last three years and yet somehow I managed to read no fewer than three novels a week as part of my normal routing. Why, it’s almost like there’s an alternative form of book I can use instead…

    • “Total adult print book sales fell 2.5% to nearly 501.6 million in 2013 from 2012; adult nonfiction sales were broadly flat at 225.2 million, while fiction sales dropped 11% to 103.5 million.”

      Tricksy.

    • I never understood how people can read that fast. I do a book or two a month maybe. Plus a metric ton of comics. 🙂

      • “I never understood how people can read that fast. I do a book or two a month maybe. Plus a metric ton of comics. :-)”

        Uncle Jo,

        I thought you was in a tomb in Moscow. Did you come back from the workers paradise in order to keep the masses in line?

        I read about 3 books a week. Along with about 2 or 3 audiobooks.

        I don’t watch TV, per se, although I do watch DVD’s from Netflix.

        Being retired matelot…iss good for yer reading practices.

        “The writer is the engineer of the human soul.” (Uncle Jo:)

        brendan

  5. What about women, like moi, who read both fiction and non-fiction?

    • Well, if romance sales depended on my reading habits, Harlequin and every other romance imprint would close. And I’m supposed to be a “typical romance consumer.” (Psst, I read history, geography, sci-fi, and translated historical novels, oh poll taker.)

      • I’ve never read a romance book.

        • I read some Ann River Siddons some years ago, because she has a real gift for weaving place into her work, and because she’s pretty good with pacing. Not my cup of tea, but I can see why people read her.

  6. My statistics state that many women and men like to read books. In fact, if I categorise them under the heading of human, a vast percentage of humans will read books of varying types.

    My numbers also show that gender, age, race and religion do not define the kind of books that humans read. However, more Americans are likely to buy books from Amazon.com. More British people prefer Amazon.co.uk, so there is that statistic.

    My stats also show that people shouldn’t be lumped into stupid reports based on their gender because it pisses off at least 50% of the population since reading habits are personal to the individual rather than being important to massive corporations who appear fixated on their chromosomes.

  7. “My stats also show that people shouldn’t be lumped into stupid reports based on their gender because it pisses off at least 50% of the population since reading habits are personal to the individual rather than being important to massive corporations who appear fixated on their chromosomes.”

    ^^^I agree!

    I read anything that catches my eye, fiction and nonfiction, and have been a voracious reader since I first learned how more than 50 years ago.

  8. Still looking for the huge difference between men and women.

    • ^^^ This.

      A 55/45 split is not huge in my, ahem, book. Especially considering how suspect the numbers are. The super market tabloids have won. Headlines have to be chock full of sensationalism or no one will look. To me, that says more about our reading habits than the silly survey.

  9. while reading declined amoung whites and remained stead amoung non-whites, what are the actual percentages (and absoulte numbers of readers that these percentages translate to)

    It could be that white reader percentages are declining to match others, or have dropped below others, who knows?

  10. I think the NEA study focused on reading for pleasure and excluded reading done for work and school so it’s kind of misleading about how much fiction is read every year.

    Pew found in their most recent survey 76% have read a book (says 5% of that read only the Bible). They also had to exclude certain people because their heavy reading stats skews the average.

    http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/01/16/e-reading-rises-as-device-ownership-jumps/

    Yougov found 57% have read fiction, which should be the number if you include books read for pleasure as well as work and school

    https://today.yougov.com/news/2013/09/30/poll-results-reading/

    In the YouGov poll, you can see the super readers representing. Also, 2% say they’re not sure if they’ve read fiction funnily enough.

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