This past Thursday the Barna Group released the results of their survey called “The State of Books and Reading in a Digital World.” Feel free to click through to read the report yourself. Meanwhile there are a few observations of my own.
Confirms What We Already Know About Gender
For the entire 34 years I’ve been in the book industry we’ve concluded that women buy more books than men. The survey reported that 40% of women read five or more books a year versus only 28% of men.
When it comes to Christian books the results stay consistent. 11% of women read Christian fiction versus 5% of men. And 17% of women read Christian non-fiction versus 9% of men.
Back when I managed a Christian bookstore Bob Hawkins Sr., the head of Harvest House Publishers, would call me and ask, “Steve, how many women customers are there in your store right now? And how many men?” The ratio was always predominately female. And that was nearly 30 years ago.
Thus this aspect of the survey comes as no surprise. It has always been that way and will likely remain.
Why We Read
Knowing the motivation of your reader (meaning “why they buy”) is a key part to understanding your audience and whether your book has the potential for commercial success.
The survey found that readers overwhelmingly read for pleasure (64%). This suggests that fiction is an “easier” sell because of its entertainment value.
But that does not universally hold true because another part of the survey asked “Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction.” Only 53% said they preferred fiction. That suggests that non-fiction can still provide “pleasure” in the reading experience. A look at the recent non-fiction bestseller list on the NY Times bears that out with titles like Humans of New York Stories by Brandon Stanton; Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling; The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. Photos, comedy, and history.
So while people buy books for Entertainment, Inspiration, or Education they still want their reading experience to be enjoyable. In other words, “Don’t be boring.”
People are Still Reading Books
While the survey jumped on the statistic that 25% of adults do not read books at all, I’d rather focus on the statistic that 75% of adults are reading books!
And 14% of all adults read 15 or more books per year! I only wish they had asked “How many read 40 or more books per year?” I think they would have been shocked to find that there are a lot of voracious readers out there.
The bottom line is that books are still being read. Despite the competition of 1,000 TV channels, feature films, streaming movies, YouTube channels, Video games, and more.
The power of a good story, whether fiction or non-fiction will still captivate an audience of one. And that one will likely tell another, who will tell another. But it all starts with a good book.
And that is your pleasure to write.