46% of Americans didn’t read a book in 2023

From Nathan Bransford:

First up, some stats that are as bracing as the January weather outside (not really, I live in Southern California) to kick off our roundup. A full 46% of Americans did not finish a book last year and 5% more read just one, so if you read two books you’re in the top half of American readers. If you read more than fifty, congrats you’re a book one per-center! Meanwhile, 42% read on paper, 22% digital, and 19% audiobooks, with e-books attracting the heaviest readers.

Lincoln Michel dives a level below the stats and notes that while it’s a tad obscured how they categorize the genres, a quite robust 12% of readers read literary fiction–the same as the number that read science fiction and more than the 11% who read romance–puncturing some of the “we write books people actually read” sneers among certain genre enthusiasts.

Back in December, Maris Kreizman took stock of the pervasive issues at Goodreads and wrote, quite accurately, “You might wonder if Goodreads isn’t just an enabler of scandal but the problem itself” and declares “Goodreads is broken.” I would add: Goodreads has been broken. This has been going on for years and years. Maris is right. We all deserve better, Goodreads and Amazon.

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford

4 thoughts on “46% of Americans didn’t read a book in 2023”

  1. Going back to the OP^-1 (the OP, in WaPo, that inspired the OP here), it was based solely upon books purchased, not books read. And we’ll leave the categorization aside for the moment; that WaPo article has separate categories for “science fiction” and “fantasy,” which together are nearly equal and double the OP’s supercilious championing of “literary fiction.” Which, if one were to look at the way publishers deal with things, would include — do include — a smattering of “science fiction” including 1984, The Sparrow and Children of God, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Overstory and Galatea 2.2, Gravity’s Rainbow, and The Plot Against America. Each of those novels is treated by bookstores (especially brick-and-mortar bookstores) and their publishers as “literary fiction”; indeed, not one of them is from a recognized “speculative fiction” imprint. They are nonetheless all speculative fiction, and if there’s one book on that list that needs a rocket on its cover it’s Gravity’s Rainbow

    Worse, the OP^-1 entirely neglects libraries and other borrowings (like from a friend/roommate). Considering that in 2022, I only purchased four books — but read well over a hundred total — that’s not statistically insignificant.

    Of course, this particular rant would require the OP’s author to have some concept of ambiguity in data sets, even before some concept of the math involved in analyzing data sets. That’s, umm, not something that’s fostered by a career working for a BigLit agency…

      • 5.

        Obviously: I cited 1984. (Which leaves aside that Mr Blair was financially ill-educated, and admitted his trouble with balancing his accounts in several letters. And, due to his own near-innumeracy, got ripped off when he bought his “retreat” on Jura.)

        Certainly, the valuation of S&S at its most recent sale was conjured up by people who believed that 2+2=5. Frankly, if they had subtracted most of the senior leadership there† for the past quarter century they’d have ended up with a bigger number…

        † I feel free to disparage people who demonstrated — to my satisfaction and that of the judge — that they didn’t know what their own contracts, that they had drafted themselves, allowed them to do regarding derivative rights based on a big-name franchise originating in another part of the same corporate empire. They spent more on legal fees, either directly or as later recovered by their E&O insurer in the form of increased premiums, than the demand for damages; and I know that because I know the hourly rates charged by their lawyers from another, contemporaneous matter.

    • I would be willing to lay a small bet – if it could ever be determined, that is – that the “literary” readers are rather concentrated in that 5% that managed one book. Also that the romance readers absolutely dominate the 1%.

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