Monday, 18 April 2016

Where have all the Readers gone? (in which our Bad Girl gets serious for a change...)

Read interesting stats today from Kobo.
Apparently, 75% of ebook readers are women.

(Back in the days when I first started teaching about writing, the early 90s, the stat was 60%. That is, 60% of readers were women .)

Back to the Kobo study:
Of that 75% of readers who are women, 77% are 45 and older.

The largest single group (30%) are 55-64 years old.  (I now fit in that age group. Curses.)

The reports states that the average prolific reader (that would be me) buys on average 16 print books a year and 60 ebooks.

For all you math types, that's a total of 76 books.

Back up to my college class two weeks ago.  I ran a quick poll.  "How many books do you read in a year?"  I asked.

The poll was confidential.  I ripped up pieces of paper and had them write down their total.  They dropped the anonymous slips on a table on the way out.

The results were shocking.  Let me state first that this is a college credit continuing education class, so we have students of all ages in it.  Crafting a Novel is at the top end of the Creative Writing Certificate - most people take it last, because it is rigorous.  (You have to write a full synopsis and many chapters of your novel by the end.)  So these aspiring novel writers would be avid readers, right?

Books Read in a Year:

Most number of books read:  26
Average number of books read:  7
Least number of books read:  1

Yes, in a writing class of 20, only one person reads 2 books a month.
And one fellow manages to read one book a year.  But he wants to write a novel.

By now, if you are a writer, you should be hitting your head against your desk.

So who is reading books out there?
Aged 55-64

And what are they reading?
General Fiction (whatever that is)
(But twice the number of romance books as the other two categories.)

I have 20 students in my Crafting a Novel class.
No one is writing romance.
No one is writing mystery.
Almost everyone is writing a Hunger Games clone.  (Not the exact title. You know what I mean.)

Stephen King said it best.  "If you want to be a writer, you have to do two things: read a lot and write a lot."

For established writers, reading is part of our professional development.  Every published novelist I know reads several books a month.  I read an average of two books a week.  That's over 100 books a year.  (One hour a night, people.  That's seven hours a week.  Not unreasonable.)

I weep.  I weep for the waste of time, effort and paper.  Can somebody please tell me why anyone would set out to write a novel when they don't read and read and read as a hobby?


  1. Why would you want to write a novel if you don't read them? I'd like to run a 5K, but since I hate to jog it isn't an option. And to say books are too expensive, there's a ton of free ebooks out there. What an eye-opening post. Wow. Just, wow.

  2. It's baffling, Sheri. Most say they don't have time to read. I can hear you laughing from here. How they think they will have time to write??
    Television is easier.

  3. I'm not at all surprised, Melodie. I know someone who is writing a novel right now. He does not read. Or rather, he reads religious literature related to his sect. He does not read novels. Yet he's writing one. He says his novel is good, "substantial". How does he know this when he has no point of comparison? I know not. I hope for his sake that he's the exception that proves the rule.

    Why would someone do this? Because someone assumes that anyone at all can write a novel because it's easy and you don't need any special knowledge or skills. And when it's done you send it to Oprah who will love it and you'll be rich and famous. Right? Right?

    1. Laff! Liane, you said it all. Writing a novel is an instant way to fame, isn't it? You make a very point about how does he know, if he has no point of comparison. Well said, sister.

    2. It's sad to see the stats so low (Im on #23 for the year). How in tarnation can someone who doesn't read think they can write. Writing has changed so much over the years and if you don't read regularly you don't see the changes. Just pick up an original Perry Mason book and you won't believe it got published without major edits. And these people think they can write a novel? Too funny.

  4. Interesting thoughts. I read 1 to 2 books a week, depending on the week. Sometimes I have three books on the go. One mystery, one horror, one comedy. That's what I'm reading now. I like to do this, because sometimes when I'm home alone, at night, and there's a spooky wind blowing, it's just too scary to read a horror novel, even though I love them. Mysteries are my favorite, so that's what I write. Comedy, because who doesn't need a pick me up once in a while. Great post today.