Friday, November 18, 2011

My Piece of the Pie: How Many Books Have You Read in 2011?

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?


irisheyes said...

I'm not that surprised that romance readers read more than the average, Janga. I know I read so much because it is kind of like an addiction - I consider it a good one. LOL

I think there is more to that physical thing than most people think. I'm pretty convinced that reading a really good romance pumps me up and releases some kind of feel good endorphins or something. It also engages my mind more so than almost anything else I do - I always learn something from each book I read, whether it is about a certain occupation, an historical fact, or even just the meaning of a new-to-me word. The bottom line is that it makes me feel good and who doesn't gravitate to what makes you feel good (look at all the people who turn to cigarettes, alcohol and drugs just to get a high!).

You know I was going to say that I read about 4-5 books a month, but I decided to check my Excel spreadsheet just to see. On the low end it would be 4 (December is the only month when it is that low cause I'm so crazy busy) and on the high end it would be 13! I really couldn't believe that. I guess I can read a whole lot more than I thought. LOL

I do like my Nook! I'm still have a really hard time paying the price for a book I can't hold in my hand or lend to a friend. I've spent so much time feeding my reading habit cost effectively (The Public Library, Used Book Stores, Walmart, Target, etc.) that it is really hard for me to pay the full price required when I buy my auto buy authors on the Nook.

quantum said...

I'm somewhat startled to find a discussion of mirror neurons embedded in my favourite romance blog!

I think that on the whole women are perhaps more empathetic to the situations arising in the romance novel. Falling in love and all the romantic (I nearly said soppy *grin*) emotions involved in that.

Men are brought up to be more 'macho' and will empathise more with sport and competition which are best watched rather than read about.

Just watch the spectators at a boxing match or a football game where the men predominantly will identify with one side and really feel the pain or joy as if they were the competitors. That's mirror neurons in action man! *LOL*

I am surprised that romance readers devour so many books. And Janga, you deserve your own personal slice of the pi chart, with an olympic medal to boot!

I rather expected that thriller readers and fantasy readers would be fairly competitive. It would also be interesting to link age and occupation with the reading statistics.

I get through 2 audio books a month and perhaps 1.5 e-books on average. I can listen to audio while driving, which is a big plus so I'm definitely an electronic book enthusiast.

I'm also a big fan of text to speech software which helps to save my tired eyes for scientific stuff.

PS Thanks for the review of Elizabeth Rolls. Another new-to-me author to look out for! *smile*

Janga said...

Addiction is the word, Irish. I definitely suffer withdrawals when I can't find the time I want to read.

Romance is the perfect antidote to all the gloom and doom that bombards us daily. Did you see the latest article anout Nora in The Guardian? I cheered her comments.

Funny that you mentioned book prices. Tuesday Review this week is about some ebook bargains. :)

Janga said...

Q, I hope you enjoy Elizabeth Rolls.

In terms of sales at least, I think thriller and fantasy fans fall well behind romance readers. I believe I read that religious books and children's books are the closest competitors. Of course, most of the romance readers I know also read in other genres. I know many who read thrillers and fantasy too, and I suspect I'm not the only one who buys lots of children's books. All this goes to say that numbers such as these never give the full picture. A bookseller told me once that 10 percent of the people buy 90 percent of the books. That I can believe.

MsHellion said...

Holy crap--according to that poll, an "AVID" reader is someone who reads 9 books a year? Do they even know the meaning of the word "AVID"?

I probably read 4-5 in a month (if I average about 1 book a week), so at least 50 books a year. Some books I read FAST--like Eloisa James or Elizabeth Hoyt (say 1 day), and others can take a week or more (that DEVIL COLONY book, egads). But some months I read more than the average. Maybe I read closer to 4-8 books a month?

Anne said...

Great blog, Janga. I probably read around 3-5 books a week. Of course I claim it's part of the job, but really I've been doing that most of my life.

When I was a kid a read about 6 books a week — and the school librarian who initially didn't believe I was reading that much used to make me retell the story before he'd let me take out another book. LOL.

For me reading is more relaxing and involving than TV, and since I'm a fast reader, I'll read a book in a few hours, so it's not hard to read one a night.

Even when I had a busy, stressful job and worked long hours, and had more to do at home, I still read voraciously. I buy lots of books and I still borrow regularly from my library.

Janga said...

Hellie, I was floored by nine a year as an avid reader too. I have friends that I consider light readers who typically read a book a month. And I too read some books more slowly than others. Generally I read fiction more quickly than nonfiction, and I can spend several months on one book of poetry, reading the same poem a dozen or more times and thinking about it in between readings.

Janga said...

Thanks, Anne. I'm with you on television. I think 4+ hours daily is the American average, and I'm not sure I average that many hours a month. I do sometimes indulge in marathon viewing of Monk, West Wing, or the BBC's Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries.

We agree on libraries too. I visit my local library once a week to pick up a bag full of books I have on hold, and I make full use of my university library too. It helps that I still have faculty privileges and can check out books for 90 days since the books I get there are usually the ones that I read more slowly.