A story from Shelf Awareness of 24 April, 2014.

Reading Agency Survey: 63% of British Men ‘Rarely Read’

British men “are giving up on reading books,” according to a Reading Agency study that found “being too busy, not enjoying reading and preferring to spend their spare time on the Internet means men read fewer books, read more slowly and are less likely to finish them than women,” the Bookseller reported. OnePoll, which surveyed 2,000 British men and women, discovered that 63% of men “don’t read as much as they think they should. Many blamed a lack of time while a fifth said they find it difficult or don’t enjoy it,” the Bookseller wrote.

Among the key findings:

  • Nearly 75% of men said they would opt for the film or TV adaptation of a book, while the same percentage of women would read the book.
  • Women are more likely to have bought or borrowed a book this year, with more visiting bookshops, libraries, supermarket book aisles and online retailers than men.
  • 46% of men surveyed are reading fewer books now than they did in the past; a third prefer the Internet and 30% engage more with film and TV.
  • One in five men confessed they have pretended to have read a specific title in order to appear more intelligent.
  • Almost 30% of men admit that they haven’t really picked up a book since they were obliged to at school.

“We know reading is really important, so we’ve got to get more people in general, particularly men, to pick up a book,” said Sue Wilkinson, CEO of the Reading Agency, which commissioned the survey to mark World Book Night. “It seems that men recognize the value of reading books but admit that they don’t do it as much as they might for several reasons. TV shows and films, and the internet, are competing for people’s time these days, especially that of young men, and our focus is to remind them of the pleasure that can be derived from reading a book as well. This year’s World Book Night list of 20 books was selected with these young men in mind”

Am I alone in finding the fact that 25% of men apparently said they’d opt for the book over the movie rather impressive? (I bet some of the women respondents may have been giving what they took to be the “correct” answer.) Furthermore, I wonder if the guys were asked whether after seeing the movie they’d consider reading the book? Should we not be more worried about the 37% of men who appear to believe they are reading too much (or maybe just the right amount)? That 63% believe they are not reading enough should fill us with hope surely — it sounds like it’ll be easy to improve! Should I not feel happy that 54% of men are reading more books than they did in the past — or is that not what the results are saying? That 30% of men confess to not having picked up a book since they left school shouldn’t really surprise (just think of your school fellows); I think the 70% who have is more noteworthy, though of course we don’t really know what that means in terms of volume(s). It’s always been a commonplace that girls read more than boys, and women more than men — and enjoy shopping more. What’ll it take to make these people happy — does everybody have to read a book a month? I suspect that when that level’s reached, we’d find surveys saying how shameful it is that some people aren’t reading a book a week.