Last week, via Twitter, Susan Mallery shared information about how many books romance readers are reading. The information, interesting in its own right, becomes even more interesting when juxtaposed with other statistics about readers. A 2007 AP survey found that avid readers among women read nine books a year; men read only five. Now look at the figures for romance readers. Even those in the community who read the least—1-2 books a month—read more than the average avid reader, and the middle third of romance readers reads more than six times as many books in a year as the general avid reader. The largest group of romance readers (37 percent) reads more than ten books in a month. That’s more in a month than the general avid reader reads in a year. And when we factor in the 50 percent Americans who fail to read even a book a year, romance readers are even more amazing.
Some of our phenomenal reading can be attributed to the fact that more than 90 percent of romance readers are women, and surveys are consistent in reporting that women read more fiction than do men. Some experts have posited that women, who are more empathetic than men and have a greater emotional range, naturally find fiction, which requires a reader to empathize with characters, more appealing. The explanation may extend beyond cognitive psychology to include biology. Some neuroscientists believe that “mirror neurons” located behind the eyebrows control empathy and that women have more sensitive mirror neurons than men, making them more empathetic. Perhaps there is a scientific explanation for the emotional punch we look for in our romance fiction.
I belong to the 17 percent of romance readers who read more than twenty books a month. My average this year, as of November 11, is 1.2 books per day. I may read less since I’m reading more e-books, and currently I’m reading them on my laptop, not optimal reading conditions for me. By the beginning of 2012, I expect to be a new e-reader owner. I’m interested in seeing if the Kindle will increase my reading.
One market study found that many readers who owned an e-reader (40 percent of them) were reading more than they had read before they owned a reading device. Amazon, the biggest seller of e-books, says its customers buy 3.3 times as many books after buying a Kindle. I’m not sure the increase in purchases means the Amazon customers are actually reading more or if it just reflects a shift in where they purchase their books. After all, print books can be bought on line or at local bookstores, Targets, and Walmarts, but Kindle books are largely ordered from Amazon. It seems that almost every day brings news of something new available as an e-book. It’s hardly surprising that romances are the fastest growing segment of e-published books. It takes a lot of books to satisfy the appetites of 29 million regular romance readers.
Are you surprised that romance readers read much more than the general population? Why do you think we as a group are voracious readers? How many books do you read in a month? In a year? Are you an e-reader convert?