Friday, January 15, 2010

Why don't people read?

It's a sad fact and I know I'm stating the obvious, but I was recently sent an email by Audible (they sell audiobooks) that said that people who listen to audiobooks tend to read twice or even three times as much in a year as those who don't. Or something to that effect.

This got me to thinking, what does the average person read in a year, etc., etc. I did some research and found an article from The Washington Post that does a good job explaining this, even if it is a little old (2007). If anyone has anything more recent please let me know, but I wanted to share some of my findings especially in light of my reading from last year.

An AP-Ipsos poll was conducted by telephoning 1,003 adults and interviewing them. Obviously that alone has some draw-backs, but the pole has a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percent.

The poll found that 1 in 4 adults read no books in 2006 (actually it was 27%) and in that category of those who read no books, one third of men and one fourth of women belong. Big surprise I know, women read more than men.

The average amount of books read not counting those who read none was 4 in a year. In a similar Gallup Poll from 2005, it was found that people had at least started an average of 5 in a year, which was down from 10 in 1999. Compare this to the 41 that I read in 2009 while starting 3 more. I feel pretty good about the amount of books I read in a given year having read over 10 times the average.

Some other random statistics to throw in are:
- Democrats and liberals read more than Republicans
- whites read more than blacks and Hispanics
- those with college degrees read more than those without
- people 50 and up read more than those who are younger
- Popular fiction and religious works were read the most
- Women read more of every major category besides history and biography (men tend to read more nonfiction)

I thought this would make a pretty fun post even though it's a little disappointing, especially for the men (you're letting me down guys!). The article cites what else but internet, tv, and movies for the low readership.

The article also talks about those that are obsessed with reading. I might count myself in this category - or at least my wife would. But, a common viewpoint that is shared is why read when you can get your fill of stories by watching movies or tv.

Besides the fact that not all people enjoy being spoon-fed every stimulus, an avid reader would probably find that viewpoint pretty funny. When was the last movie that was actually better than the book? I know they exist, but not very often.

I would probably go crazy if I didn't read. I can watch tv, but only to a certain extent. I watched quite a bit when I was in high school and growing up, but I finally got to the point where I was really just wasting time watching so many reruns. That lead me to reading where I not only enjoy it immensely, but I feel a sense of accomplishment.

One of the ways I tricked my wife into dating me further was my vocabulary developed through reading. So I guess I can honestly say that it's possible to find a spouse through reading. :) Convincing enough? Now get out there and start reading.


  1. Hmm, last year I read sixty three books, so maybe I am making up for the part of the population that reads nothing at all...

    My downfall is the internet, which takes away quite a bit of time for reading. TV, with the return of Chuck I am up to one hour of TV a week and I might watch one or two movies a month. As for audio books, I would love to be able to listen to them, but I am used to tuning out my surroundings and my mind wanders.

    I live in a place that would likely come in at higher than 1 in 4 of people who read no books a year. It has gotten to the point that one of the librarians at our tiny library has complained to me about the people in my town basically using the place for internet access and free movie rentals. And that is really unfortunately... but at least I don't really have to wait for books...

  2. Dang, 60 is pretty amazing. Law school has been my downfall lately, but it's only gonna get worse really.

    And I think it is getting worse than 1 in 4 not reading, especially since it's been a few years since the poll.

  3. Last year I read 64 books. That is a lot compared to the average German reader. There was a poll in 2009 which showd that every 4th German doesn't read a book. That is really scary. I can't live without reading. When I don't get time for reading I get annoyed and grumpy.

  4. I'm the same way. I get really cranky when I don't read in a day. I definitely try to prevent that any way I can. :)

  5. Up until this year, my reading really slowed down over the past five years just because I had a hard time getting a hold of books in English, here in Israel.
    And in my community many people just don't have time to read because they have so many children to look after, which means that, sadly, I have no one talk to about books ( I only have 4 kids, so I still manage to read) But I kind of view reading as a cheap vacation, a method of escaping from every day life without having to pay a fortune.

  6. Reading is definitely much cheaper than movies or lots of other hobbies. At least our $8 to $30 purchases last for hours of entertainment. I'm also going to see a big drop in my reading since I have a little one due in July. :) But it's all worth it.


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