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Reading Fiction is Being Squeezed out of Our Lives

1 June 2002

A rather dismal recent UK survey of reading habits carried out by Book Marketing for Orange has revealed that the time pressures of modern life are eroding the time spent on reading fiction, which is likely to be a stronger trend in the United States. Although fiction sales are growing by 4% a year, even the 60% of people who do read books are spending less and less time doing so. The average daily breakdown of time spent shown by the study is as follows:

  • 11 minutes on reading fiction
  • 8 minutes on non-fiction and reference
  • 22 minutes on newspapers/magazines
  • making 48 minutes in total on reading
  • but this is dwarfed by:
  • 3.5 hours on watching tv
  • 3 hours on listening to the radio (perhaps combined with another activity)

Book sales are up 25% since 1990, but there seems to be strong evidence that people simply don't have the time to read all the books they buy, with longer working hours and competing claims for leisure time pushing book-reading into weekends and holidays. Women spend more time reading books than men and account for 70% of the books that are read, with some evidence from other studies that they regard reading novels as their private indulgence. It's comforting for writers that book purchases are increasing, but worrying that so many books seem to be piling up unread.