1. The images of the keen reader
Various concepts and images of the keen reader emerge from the studies carried out by the demographic institutes and the analysis of European statistics.
The European research bodies do not use the same parameters and methodology for classifying the book market. As a consequence the statistics only appear to refer to the same sets of texts and groups of readers. Each study takes in and applies processes which vary from body to body even in the same country.
Individual countries group the same works in different sets and genres. This variety of tools and models of analysis prevents us from reconstructing a general, uniform panorama with which to compare European reading habits.
The definition of the term keen reader is also very varied. This variety of definitions reveals how each nation tends to attribute a particular identity to this social and economic figure in the context of the hierarchies of importance of the entire set of readers.
The quantitative criteria adopted by each nation and each research body to measure the entity and types of readers show the importance attributed by the various countries to reading and to reading habits and reflect the average number of books read in each nation (for instance in Italy the keen reader is considered to be someone who reads between 10 and 12 books a year, while in France the figure rises to over 20).
2. The keen reader: buyers and users
Two different quantitative approaches are used to study the keen reader:
(i) market research, where the reader is characterised as a buyer, according to the number of books purchased per month or per year, e.g. from the number of people possessing bookshop fidelity cards, from the answers provided to publishers on questionnaires inserted into their books, etc;
(ii) surveys and specific interviews of a representative sample, such as those carried out by city libraries on the personal tastes and habits of their members.
3. The forgotten keen readers
Each study provides only approximate results, because many keen readers are not visible in market statistics, such as bookcrossers or users of digital libraries, who download books free of charge and without having to register, or members of public libraries, who read many books but do not buy.
These parallel and often uncontrollable means of access to reading represent a grey area which is ignored in most of the current surveys.
4. Keen readers and targets
Sales figures from the book market are not sufficient to reconstruct the numbers and tastes of keen readers, who cannot be identified merely as purchasers.
The tendency of surveys to identify keen readers with the key target of the publishers also shows that many of the demographic studies are aimed at increasing sales and improving market strategies, and what they identify as keen readers only represents part of a much wider, mixed group of big readers and media users.
It is more common to find information on the cultural tastes and private habits, aside from those of a purely economic nature, of keen readers, in the surveys commissioned by government bodies concerning the promotion of reading.
Some studies use different criteria to quantify reading frequency and extrapolate percentages of keen readers: from the number of books read in a year, to the number of books purchased in a year, to the number of hours devoted to reading on a weekly or daily basis.
5. Various European studies and definitions of the keen reader
Below are a few examples taken from recent studies, which show the discrepancy between the application and management of data from statistics bodies.
This comparison illustrates the lack of uniform studies and the absence of constant parameters in identifying, defining and analysing keen reading habits.
In Italy the two main demographic research bodies, ISTAT and Censis, show different images of the keen reader, which vary according to the average indices of the number of books read or purchased in a year.
5.1.1. According to Istat
According to ISTAT the keen reader reads more than 11-12 books per year, as shown in the table for 1988-1994 (table 1).
In 2000 Istat recorded a fall in the number of people reading a newspaper every day, from 47% in 1996 to 41%, and calculated that readers of more than 12 books per year were around 12.1% of the total number of book readers (38.3%).
(see AIE, Le cifre delleditoria in Italia, Rapporto 2002 (Publishing figures in Italy, 2002 Report), Rome, Ministry of Culture, Publishing division, published by the Research Office of the Italian Publishers Association, coordinators G. Peresson and L. Novati, March 2002, table 2).
Keen readers, 5-6% of the total population, sustain 80% of the entire publishing market.
5.1.2. According to Censis
In the First Annual Report on Communications in Italy published by Censis in 2001, the keen reader is defined as reading more than 10 books a year (table 3).
The parameter adopted by this institute to identify the keen reader might appear only slightly different from those used by other studies on reading, but nonetheless has an effect on the average figures for reading habits.
5.1.3. According to Demoskopea
The discrepancy between figures and the oscillation of the domains used to classify the keen reader, from readers of more than 10 books to those of more than 11-12 books continues when we take into account the figures produced by the Demoskopea Institute, which in 2001 recorded a drop of 20.3% in a sample of 1,000 people between the ages of 8 and 80 compared to 2000, regarding the number of people who bought more than 20 books a year, counterbalanced by an increase in the number of those buying between 16 and 20 books a year.
(see University of Bologna, School of Humanistic Studies, MASTERS IN PUBLISHING AND MULTIMEDIA, Giuliano Vigini, Il lettore e il suo editore: la promozione della lettura (The reader and the publisher; promoting reading), 6 February 2002,
This quantitative definition of the keen reader is closer to that used in many French studies, which consider keen readers to be those who purchase or read more than 20 books a year.
5.1.4. Keen readers and geography
According to the Censis Report on book publishing in Italy in 2000, keen readers were to be found above all in the large metropolitan areas, where the big book shops are, and were calculated to be around 16%, compared to the national average of 12%.
According to Istat, in the centres of metropolitan areas - where the distribution network has been further modernised thanks to the opening of large outlets there is a higher number of people who term themselves keen readers: 15.5 %, compared to an average of 11.7% (see AIE Rapporto 2002 (2002 Report), op.cit.).
These analyses reflect the disparity of readers according to the place they live in and the lack of supply to outlying, non-urban areas, external factors which play a significant role in the formation of keen readers.
5.1.5. Reading and distribution
The Verona conference entitled The distribution of books in Italy and Germany. A comparison of two situations (20 January 2003) focused on the fact that one of the reasons that people in Italy do not read a lot and that the number of keen readers falls every year is the difficulty of finding books.
While in Germany it takes 8 hours to find a book, in Italy it has been calculated that it takes 3-4 days and while there are 1 million titles available in the German catalogues, there are 250,000 in Italy.
It has been calculated that in Italy 43% of readers do not manage to find the book they are looking for in the shops and that the number of small bookshops is constantly decreasing (there are around 2,500 in the whole country) in favour of the larger outlets, which offer best-selling books.
5.1.6. Keen and soft readers: the difference in genres chosen
In the surveys carried out by ISTAT in 2001 and re-examined by the AIE (Italian Publishers Association), the soft reader can be distinguished from the keen reader according to the genre of the books purchased and read.
Soft readers are defined as habitual buyers of detective fiction, science fiction, manuals and romantic fiction from newsstands, and in the report were estimated to be around 6 million.
This definition reveals the implicit identification of the keen reader with the reader of high quality fiction (and not only), who selects critically acclaimed writers and books easy-to-read, while the title of soft reader applies to readers who are more interested in fiction and serial genres, that are purchased frequently.
This figure characterises the type of reader according to parameters which regard literary genres and not the quantity of books read in a year.
The romantic fiction market, which usually implies a high level of consumption, cannot be judged with the same criteria applied to a high level of consumption of high quality fiction.
5.1.7. Keen and soft readers and media users
The category of readers termed soft readers remains linked to a single or technical genre, grouped in with readers of manuals, dictionaries or leaflets.
Their exclusion from the group of keen readers reveals the tendency of Italian statistics institutes not to consider the keen reader as a great consumer of media, as a person who uses the internet a lot, travels, goes to the theatre, and the library and reads a lot, but above all reads many different kinds of texts: from high quality fiction to newsstand detective stories to texts on the web, to newspapers, monthly magazines, leaflets and the stereo manual.
One of the potential reasons to justify these lacunae in the models and frameworks of analysis and forecasting adopted by Istat when examining a cross section of the world of reading could be the lack of survey questions including other types of reading aside from books.
5.1.8. The keen reader as a consumer of media
The Censis Foundation and the UCSI (Catholic Union of the Italian Press) have made a partial move in this direction with their 2002 studies, as described in the Second Report on Communications. Italians and the Media, Rome, October 2002 (and, in detail, all the research Communication and Culture by Censis, 36th report on the countrys social situation in 2002 http://www.edscuola.it/archivio/statistiche/censis_02.pdf
), which analyses the various layers of the Italian population according to their personal rapport with the media and the number of different media used.
The categories of consumers (between the ages of 14 and 85) were divided into 5 types, but the study lacks a detailed analysis of the phenomenon of quantifying frequent reading the category Books only covers readers of 1 to 3 books a year:
(i) marginal users, who normally only use one medium, usually television, account for 4 million 500 thousand people, representing 9.1% of the population surveyed. Mostly older women, with a low level of education, living in the South or North East.
(ii) poor media users, who normally use 2 or 3 types of media but who still have an exclusive rapport only with television. This category numbers 18 million 400 thousand people, representing 37.5% of the total population surveyed. Mainly middle-aged woman in the south.
(iii) average consumers, who normally use 4 or 5 types of media, are habitual users of television, radio, and newspapers and are considerably book-oriented, but usually have very little or no contact with IT media. This group accounts for 17 million 800 thousand people, 36.3% of the population. Mostly young men, often with a diploma, in the North West.
(iv) omnivores, who use 6 or 7 types of media. What distinguishes these from the previous groups is essentially the fact that these people have also developed considerable familiarity with IT media. This group represents 7 million 300 thousand people, 14.8% of the population, and are predominantly male (57.1%) with a significant prevalence of young adults (30-44 year olds: 35.7%) and young people (18-29 year olds: 34.4%). The level of education is usually medium-high: 56.5% have a diploma, and 18.8% have a degree, more than double the national average. There are many students in this group, 21%. 78% of them read a newspaper, 70% use the internet and almost the same number read books (68%). This group is prevalently composed of young men, with a diploma or degree, in central Italy.
(v) pioneers, who essentially use all types of media available. These are people who, thanks to their generation, jobs and education, find themselves in situations or contexts which are particularly favourable to developing great familiarity with the media. This group numbers 1 million 100 thousand people and makes up 2.3% of the Italian population. Radio and newspapers are the most widely used media for this group, at 99.1%, while television is only in second place, with a respectable 98.2% of usage; then follows the computer in third place, at 97.2% and books fourth with 88%, weekly magazines in fifth place at 87% and the internet in sixth place but still with a very high percentage, 86.1%. 40.7% of them are young people between the ages of 18 and 29, and 44% are below the age of 44. 23.2% of them have a degree, and 62% have a diploma. On the work front practically all of them have a job (62.3%) or study (20.8%). This group is mostly composed of young people, with a high level of education, with an even distribution in terms of gender and geography.
5.1.9. Lacunae in the study
This study shows that the big consumer of media is also a reader, but there is no analysis of reading frequency, nor is it possible to extrapolate any figures on keen readers.
Statistics surveys should base their studies on keen readers on a new image of reading, which takes in all possible aspects and considers more than just books, but also other types of texts (web sites, blogs, press and magazines).
5.1.10. Reading and buying
Research institutes often identify reading with the purchase of books, but in actual fact these represent two very different ways of gaining access to books.
At least three different categories should be applied:
- integral reading, from the start to the end of a book;
- fragmented reading, an important indicator, which was included, for example, in the Spanish study carried out by CIDE (tables 23 and 24);
- parallel reading of several texts at the same time.
According to Gian Arturo Ferrari, general director of the Books Division of Mondadori, the book market in Italy is largely an élite, comprising 6% of the adult population, which alone buys and reads half of the books bought and read, mostly from bookshops selling quality books.
The other half comprises 44% of readers usually termed weak, occasional readers, who usually buy in the big outlets which offer popular books and bestsellers.
(see Gian Arturo Ferrari (general director of the Books Division of Mondadori), Open Letter to the Booksellers of Italy, Segrate, 16 March 2001, http://www.arpnet.it/cs/librivendoli/ferrari.html
This analysis reveals another discrepancy in the frameworks applied to study the various types of readers.
The weak reader outlined by Mondadori, an individual who does not read books in the same genre and whose choices are difficult to predict, but who often buys bestsellers, would appear to coincide with the figure of the soft reader put forward by Istat.
Both view the reader according to the type of books read and purchased, and less according to the general number of books read in a year.
French statisticians define keen readers gros or forts lecteurs.
The study Sociologie de la lecture en France: état des lieux, coordinated by Jean-François Hersent and published in June 2000 for the Ministry of Culture, distinguished two types of study of the sociology of reading in France, a discipline which came into being in this country in the post-war period and developed around two leading influences: those deriving from the theories of the Russian psychologist Nicolas Roubakine, the American sociologist Douglas Waple and the German librarian Walter Hofman on the one hand, and those deriving from Condorcet, which are linked to cultural policy: the group Sociologie du loisirs of the CNRS, the centre for the sociology of literature in Bordeaux (now known as ILTAM), and the Peuple et culture group.
This long, detailed historical presentation of the panorama of research into reading in France shows the importance that this country places on reading and its social analysis.
5.2.1. Two types of surveys
With regard to the surveys carried out in the last 50 years Hersent has distinguished the evolution of research in two directions: (i) qualitative and (ii) quantitative.
Many quantitative studies have been based on correlations between socio-cultural characteristics and reading habits, which in his opinion, often do not take into account other equally important tools and means for analysing the phenomenon.
For example, the deviations from the norm, the exceptions, and all that which contradicts the usual panorama of reading categories.
22.214.171.124. Reading and reception
The interesting nature of this question underlines the diversity and range of ways that a text can be received, in so far as the rapport between text and reader is an interactive one, and social statistics should also take into account social diversities in the reception of the same text.
126.96.36.199. Keen and very keen readers
The section regarding the 90s on the comparison between three studies carried out by means of surveys by DDL, France Loisirs and Le Monde-Fureur de Lire 1993 defined forts lecteurs as readers of more than 25 books a year (10.4% of the population interviewed), a much higher index than that applied in countries like Italy, and which reveals the great difference between the two countries with regard to average reading habits.
This group appears to be oriented above all to the habit of reading in the library, and less to mail order or via book clubs.
The readers of 10-24 books a year are defined as average readers (around 23.7% of the total number of interviewees), a reading figure that in Italy would be applied to the category of keen, or even very keen readers. This group appears to attend the library less (only _ of them belong to a library).
188.8.131.52. Reading in the library
Hersent also included data from the survey commissioned by the Direction du livre et de la lecture in 1995 for study and research purposes for the BPI, published in 2000, on the relationships between reading and attendance in a total of 36 public libraries.
In the 3 months prior to the survey 87% of interviewees had read at least one book, and 2/3 of those had read from 1 to 9 books.
20% of the sample had read between 10 and 19 books, 19% more than 20.
It emerged that 44% of the total number of library users fell into the keen reader category.
The most popular genre in the library was the contemporary novel (41%).
184.108.40.206. Keen readers and channels of usage
This study on the statistics of reading in the 90s was dominated by questions of a psychological nature, on readers motivations for preferring one type of purchase or use of books with respect to others:
what emerged from the answers were factors such as the distance between the place of residence and library or bookshop, the possibility of being advised on the choice, feeling at ease and the possibility of choosing without rushing (flaner: leisurely browsing).
The habit of frequenting both bookshops and libraries appeared to be one of the characteristics of the keen reader.
220.127.116.11. Common indicators
Hersent also noted the lack of common indicators between the different countries in studies regarding frequency and reading habits, because there are not yet any unified norms or ways of mapping one national indicator onto another.
Socio-professional nomenclature, for example, varies greatly from country to country, making it often impossible to draw an immediate comparison between the terms used by each.
In the short list of comparative studies on European reading habits he noted:
- the study by France Edition (1995);
- a series of surveys entitled Regards croisés: Lire en Europe commissioned jointly by the Books and Reading Division and France Loisirs (1994) carried out by the SOFRES group, in summer 1996;
- a 1997 survey of secondary school pupils reading habits by Grinzane;
- the 1999 Grinzane Europe survey regarding the preferences of young Europeans.
5.2.2. A 2001 survey
Many studies carried out in France classify readers using quantitative models which regard the length of time dedicated to reading every day (as is shown by the definition given in the survey Les non usagers des bibliothèques parisiennes by the permanent Observatory on public reading in Paris, where the keen reader was defined as reading for at least 1 hour a day, see BBF, Paris, t.43, n.5, 1998).
The survey carried out and published in the magazine INSEE Première (Hélène Michaudon, Division Conditions de vie des ménages, La lecture, une affaire de famille, n.777, May 2001), on the other hand, defines the keen reader as someone who reads at least 12 books a year.
27% of those interviewed (from age 15 up, 2/3 of whom were women) declared that they read at least 1 book a month (see INSEE, Enquête permanente sur les conditions de vie des ménages, October 2000).
The questions put to the sample regarded both the current habits and their average reading rate in childhood between the ages of 8 and 12 (table 4).
18.104.22.168. Reading and education
Alongside these results are some figures from the Ministry of Culture regarding keen readers.
While the ability to get hold of books is characterised by the abundance of the supply, reading itself was shown to be closely linked to socio-cultural level.
42% of those in possession of a high school diploma, and only 17% of those without a diploma are rated as keen readers, and are very often in the middle management category.
22.214.171.124. Reading and readers in the family
The INSEE survey examined the frequency of reading of the interviewees, including in relation to the cultural level of their parents, in order to gain insight into their social background, the influence of the parenting model and the habits in childhood of those who read a lot (tables 5, 6, 7, 8). In general adults read less than they did when they were between the ages of 8 and 12.
As with adults, reading was a more habitual activity for girls (72%) than boys. Only children and first-born children were more avid readers than those with many siblings.
Keen readers often have parents (at least one) with diplomas and who take great interest in their childrens school results.
This study also underlines an unusual phenomenon: it would appear that there are keen readers even among children who watch a lot of television.
In Spain there have been many detailed studies into national reading habits.
Two studies carried out in 2002 by Precisa Research and in 2001-2002 by CIDE provide two images of the keen reader.
5.3.1. According to Precisa Research
The telephone survey carried out by Precisa Research, with 4,000 interviewees from the age of 14 up, entitled Hábitos de lectura y compra de libros Año 2002, for the Ministry for Culture, Education and Sport, provides a great deal of figures which help to provide insight into, contextualise and quantify the keen reader category according to Spanish canons.
Individuals who read from once a week to every day (35.3%) are termed frequent readers (table 9).
126.96.36.199. Books owned
The sample was asked about the number of books in their possession at home, and the parameter selected to determine the keen reader was over 100 books (31.5%), while average readers were those in possession of more than 20 books (43.2%). 25.9% own from 101 to 500 books, while 5.6% more than 500 (table 10).
188.8.131.52. Books purchased
The average number of books purchased in a year was 9, an important figure when compared to the fact that in Italy buyers of 10 or more books a year are considered keen readers.
5.3% bought from 11 to 15 books, 2.3% from 16 to 20, 2.1% from 21 to 30, 1.1% from 31 to 50, and 1% more than 50, with a total of 11.8% buying more than 11 books a year, a figure close to that established by Istat with regard to keen readers in Italy (table 11).
184.108.40.206. Books on loan
The part of the study which focused on library-based reading analysed the number of books loaned in a month by a group which declared themselves to be library members (around 26.2% of the entire sample).
The average was around 2.5 books; 34.4% requested 1 book, 30.2% 2 books, 14.5% 3 books, 7.5% 4 books, 4.8% 5 books and 8.6% more than 5 books (table 12).
5.3.2. According to CIDE
The study carried out by CIDE (the Centre for educational inquiry and documentation) commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, entitled Los hàbitos lectores de los adolescentes españoles, analysed the reading habits of a sample of adolescents between the ages of 15 and 16.
The sample comprised 3,600 people. This study differed from the previous one because it was based on a prevalently qualitative model of analysis.
220.127.116.11. Frequent readers
36% of the adolescents declared that they read books in their free time, at least once a week, and this was considered to be sufficient for CIDE to classify this group as frequent readers (table 13).
This figure was compared to the results of another study, conducted in 2001 by Precisa Research for the Ministry of Culture, Barómetro sobre hábitos de compra y lectura de libros, which showed that 45% of adults (over the age of 14) were non-readers.
It therefore emerged that young people read more than adults (only 25.83% of adolescents do not read, table 14).
18.104.22.168. An increase in age and reading
Most of the boys and girls (44%) interviewed stated that they had increased their reading frequency in the previous 2 years (table 15), while the other study revealed that only 23% of adults read more now than in the past.
22.214.171.124. Not just books
This study attempted to identify frequent readers by means of questions which explored not only books, but also the reading of magazines, newspapers and comics.
16% of the sample were defined frequent readers of comics, 59.9% of periodicals and magazines (table 16).
126.96.36.199. The pleasure of reading
There was one question regarding the pleasure of reading, a factor quantified by the CIDE analysts and a fairly unusual one due to its very abstract nature and the difficulty of quantifying it compared to the criteria used by other institutes of reading research.
15% declared that they greatly enjoyed reading (table 17).
Another canon used to identify the phenomenon of frequent reading among adolescents regarded the motivations that led young people to read, or not, in their free time.
The indicators chosen to define motivations were: for personal pleasure, for learning purposes, for homework, to avoid boredom, and because obliged to (table 18).
In the chart of the 10 favourite leisure activities, reading was in second last place (table 19).
188.8.131.52. The family background
As in the French case (§ 184.108.40.206.) this study also correlated young peoples reading habits to the socio-economic and cultural level of their parents (tables 20 and 21).
220.127.116.11. Reading and academic performance
Another correlation drawn in this study was the frequent coincidence between frequent reader and student with good school results.
The threshold for the curve of good to excellent school results coincides with that of young people who read from at least once a month to every day. (table 22)
The Omnibus survey carried out by the company Quantum, commissioned by APEL (the Portuguese Association of Publishers and Booksellers) published in March 2003, and entitled Estudo de hàbitos de leitura e compras de livros, involved a sample of 2,000 people between the ages of 15 and 65. Keen readers were judged to be those buying more than 11 books a year (17% of those who classified themselves as book buyers, 942 people). (table 25)
5.4.1. Reading and geography
All the figures which emerged from the answers given in this study were analysed in relation to the place of origin and socio-cultural level of the interviewees, a criteria which enabled researchers to gain insight into cultural disparities and the availability of supply in the more or less industrialised areas of the country.
The greatest numbers of keen readers were in the suburbs of Porto and Coimbra, and in the rural area east of Lisbon, above all women with a medium-high economic level and with a high-school education.
5.4.2. Readers and libraries
As in the Spanish study carried out by Precisa Research (§ 18.104.22.168.), people were asked about the number of books they possessed at home, and the average was 156 books.
Compared to this average there was a greater number of people in possession of more than 150 books in the rural area east of Lisbon, and in the city of Lisbon.
Many of these have a medium-high cultural and economic level and are between the ages of 40 and 59. Only 1% of the sample possessed more than 1,000 books. (Table 26)
5.4.3. A 20 year comparison
This study also offers two tables comparing the annual percentages of the number of books purchased and read in a year by the same sample (2,000 people) from 1983 to 2003.
This means that annual studies were carried out over a 20 year period, using the same criteria to formulate the questions, in order to supply data which could be easily compared and which would enable researchers to measure the oscillations of statistics regarding the number of keen readers from year to year.
The way that these regular studies were carried out makes it easy to discern variations in the average percentage of buyers of 11-20 books a year, 21-50 books a year, and 50 books a year, as well as the number of readers of 11-20 books a year and more than 20 books a year.
5.4.4. Readers and buyers
The data gathered on the number of books read in a year was mapped onto the percentages of the number of books purchased in a year.
5.3% of the sample reed between 11 and 20 books a year, 2.5% between 21 and 50 and 0.4% more than 50 books.
5.6% of the sample bought between 11 and 20 books a year, 3% more than 20.
This signifies that this study made a distinction between the reader and the buyer, and above all between reading and buying, two very different activities concerning books and the use of books. (Tables 27 and 28)
5.5. Great Britain
There are many studies and surveys in this country regarding reading figures and frequency of reading according to the number of minutes a day dedicated to books.
On 1 March 2001 The Telegraph newspaper published the results of World Book Day dedicated to reading habits in Great Britian, divided by geographical area, according to the average number of hours a week dedicated to reading (table 29).
5.5.1. According to Book Market Limited
The studies by Book Market Limited, commissioned by the Orange Prize 2002, which can be consulted in the document The reading habits of individual and couples, Report on a Panel Study, May 2002, showed that women are the keenest novel readers, dedicating an average of 25 minutes a day during the working week, and 70 minutes a day when on holiday.
The survey focused on the amount of time that British people dedicate to reading, among a sample analysed according to the habits of single people and couples.
22.214.171.124. Minutes and hours
Each individual was asked to keep a diary from February to April to note the number of minutes spent reading every day.
The average was 6 hours a week, 77 minutes a day for works of fiction, 17 for manuals, and 41 for non-fiction books. 60% of the sample were readers.
126.96.36.199. Heaviest readers
Keen readers are defined heaviest readers, and are mostly people over the age of 50 who read between 8_ and 9_ hours a week. 60% of adults had read 7 books in the previous 3 months, and on this basis it was calculated that they read around 30 books a year. (Tables 30 and 31)
No correlation was made between these two sets of data, therefore it is not possible to establish the percentage of keen readers.
This survey focused on readers choices and habits according to the degree they were influenced by their partners, and the criteria for measuring the time spent reading was expressed in minutes. It did not take into account the number of books completed, but only the number of books started.
5.5.2. According to the National Literacy Trust
The British private body the National Literacy Trust, www.literacytrust.org.uk
, set up in 1993 to foster the development and increase of reading in Great Britain, where there are many people bordering on illiteracy (in 1996 the International Adult Literacy Survey estimated that 20-25% of the British working population had poor reading skills).
The study carried out by Briony Train in 2002, The Impact of National Literacy and Reader Development Initiatives in the United Kingdom
revealed that 35% of Britons possess at least 200 books and 34% read at least 12 books a year.
5.5.3. According to the National Reading Campaign
The National Literacy Trust web site published the results of an inquiry conducted by the
National Reading Campaign and the Office for National Statistics in July 2002 on reading habits in Great Britain.
What emerged was that out of the 50% of the sample (1,700 adults over the age of 16) which read at least 5 books a year, 10% read at least 20 books a year. (Table 32).
All these statistics and studies carried out in Britain would appear to confirm the fact that reading is subject to analysis by a range of bodies using various different parameters which do not allow data to be compared.
In Germany, according to a recent survey, the number of keen readers (der Vielleser), defined as readers over the age of 14 who read more than 20 books a year, rose from 5% to 9% between 1995 and 1999.
It also included a rather uncertain statistic: that the number of people who read daily had risen from 13% to 20%. This category was impossible to identify according to definite quantitative parameters, in view of the fact that there is no indicator of the number of pages read or hours/minutes spent reading per day (see www.boersenverein.de
Another study, carried out for Book Day 2001 revealed that reading was one of the Germans top ten leisure pursuits.
22% of the population belongs to the keen reader category, which represented those who read more than one book a week.
The favourite genres are detective fiction, horror, classics and bestsellers such as Stephen King and Patricia Highsmith.
6. Some European comparisons
These combinations of figures show the evident discrepancies between the various national images of the keen reader.
Countries like France, Great Britain and Germany, where reading is very widespread, apply much higher parameters than Italy and Spain to define the keen reader.
6.1. According to Eurostat
Among the few comparative studies carried out on European reading habits and averages, there was one significant result in October 2002 from Eurostat data.
(see Michail Skaliotis, Statistics in the Wake of Challenges Posed by Cultural Diversity in a Globalization Context. Keys Figures on Cultural Participation in the European Union, EUROSTAT, Unit E3, Health, Education and Culture, Luxembourg, October 2002).
This study defined the keen reader as someone who reads more than 8 books a year (Table 33), a much lower number than in German or French studies, but which was used to respond to the necessity of finding an average index of keen reading habits according to the situations in the various European countries taken into account.
This approach yielded an index of reading in which Portugal and Italy (two countries with few readers) were almost on the same level as Germany (a nation of great readers).
This result would appear to contradict the national studies carried out in these countries, and is a consequence of the inadequacy of the system used to apply a single set of parameters to different sets of data.
6.2. In order to carry out effective European research
Another study, carried out in May 2001 by the National Book Centre in Greece, examined reading habits in a number of different European nations. As shown in the graphs (Tables 34 and 35) much data is missing, and it is therefore difficult to use this study to identify the differences between the readers and countries analysed.
The method implemented by this body, if applied evenly to each nation, could turn out to be a useful instrument for ascertaining cultural differences and reading habits in Europe, as well as a comparative study of the indicators used by each body and country to define the keen reader (Table 34), by means of uniting the images and data provided by each body. (Olivier Donnat, Eduardo de Freitas, Guy Frank, Manuel de bonne pratique sur l'élaboration d'énquêtes sur les comportements de lecture, Centre National du Livre de Grèce, May 2001