Reading, A World View

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April 21, 2017:

An international reading survey carried out by GfK, a German market research company, has turned up some surprising results. More than 22,000 adults in 17 different countries completed the online questionnaire which lead to the following discoveries.

In every country, high-income households are more likely to read books more frequently, especially for pleasure, than low-income households. Well, yes we already knew that. In fact there have been countless studies about it. And women read more frequently than men do (32% of female US respondents said they read every day in comparison with 25% of men). Again, no surprises there. But where it really gets interesting are the cultural differences that the survey reveals.

The global average for people who said they read every day is 30% and 60% for ‘once a week’ readers. The biggest readers were Chinese respondents who at 36% were avidly reading every day or most days.  Spain and the UK were hot on the heels of China with 32% saying they read every day or most days. And even when the question was widened to include those who read once a week, China is still in the lead with 70% of respondents. This time, the Russians (59%) and Spanish (57%) followed with their respondents keenly reading once a week.

Interestingly, across all nationalities the ‘once a day’ readers were highest in the 15-19 age group (35%) followed closely by the 60+ age group (33%). While the 30-39 age group were the highest ‘once a week’ readers (32%) followed by the 20-29-year-olds at 31%. Shockingly, 10% of the 60+ age range and 9% of those aged 50-59 said they never read at all.

This leads nicely into the second surprising finding. The Netherlands and South Korea have the highest percentage of people who never read books (16%) followed closely by Belgium (14%) and Canada, France and Japan (11%).  What is also surprising is that the link between high earners and reading for pleasure doesn’t seem to apply. For example, in the Netherlands 26% of high-earners read every day while 22% of those on a low-income read every day. Compare this to 12% of high-earners who said they never read and 18% of low-earners who said they never read. So while the gap between the ‘high-reading high-earners’ and the ‘no-reading high-earners’ is more than double, the gap between the ‘high-reading low-earners’ and ‘no-reading low-earners’ is minimal. Reading a book regularly and for pleasure doesn’t appear to increase a person’s economic prospects in the Netherlands.

The stats are similar for South Korea with just 18% of high-earners and 10% of low-earners saying they read every day while 10% of high-earners and 24% of low-earners say they never read. So are the economic prospects for low-income respondents who read a book every day the same as they are for high-earners who never read?

As if to prove the theory that reading improves a person’s social and economic outlook, in China a whopping 40% of high-earners and 27% of low-earners read every day (still higher than the Netherlands), compared to none (yes, none) of the respondents in the high-earner category and just 6% of low-earners who said they never read.

The United States’ respondents follows a similar trend, with 35% of high-earners reading every day, and just 6% professing to never reading.

The survey is an interesting exercise in national and cultural differences and can be downloaded for free for further reading. Amnet is proud to represent a diverse team of skilled publishers from around the world. Find out how its multicultural and multilingual specialist team can benefit your business.