Some people believe that the onset of technological development in every aspect of our lives, paired with our allegedly shortening attention spans, would make books obsolete. Instead, books merely adapted and found new formats to spread their message, whatever it may be.
Whether you prefer the feel of paper in your hands, the backlit glow of a tablet, or the practicality of audiobooks, you’ll find something about yourself in these book reading statistics. They remain impressive, even as we move ever further into the digital age. Read on!
Top Book Reading Statistics for 2021
- 36% of China’s adult population reads books every day.
- 32% of UK adults read books daily.
- The global literacy rate is around 86.5%.
- Seven countries have a 100% literacy rate.
- The global publishing market is predicted to reach $104.21 billion in 2025.
- Around 75% of fantasy readers read ebooks.
- In 2018, around 420 million book copies were sold in France.
- On average, it costs about $3,000-$4,000 to make an audiobook.
- Allegedly, Bill Gates reads 50 books a year.
- The world’s longest book has a whopping 1.3 million words.
Global Book Reading Statistics
In this section, we’ll see how much and what the world’s countries read. Who has the most avid readers? Is America in the lead or just following the pack? Let’s find out.
1. 36% of China’s adult population reads books every day.
Global stats about reading tell us that China is the world leader in daily reading. The UK comes in second, with just under a third (32%) of its adults devoting time to books every day. The US and Italy share third place, with a 30% share of daily book readers in their adult population.
2. Around 85% of the people in Sweden read the news more than once each day.
Reading the news still counts as reading, right? From that perspective, Sweden’s readers take first place. Poland finished in second place, with a respectable 79%, followed by Turkey with 78%.
3. Print was still king in the US in 2020.
One might think that reading facts have changed dramatically since the introduction of ebooks and audiobooks.
While user preferences did adapt, stats from April 2020 still conclude that most US adult respondents (70%) still prefer print when reading, with 39% favoring newly printed books and 31% used books. Digital books were favored by 25% of the respondents, while audiobooks only fared well with 5%.
4. Across the Atlantic, 83% of French book readers are print-exclusive.
When taking a more thorough look at book reading statistics by country, data from France seems to conclude that print and paperback aren’t dead yet.
According to French figures from January 2020, out of the 83% of the population who read books, 83% read them in print, while only 23% of them read ebooks.
5. 32% of UK adults read books daily.
According to 2017 reading facts and statistics, the Island nation is the leader in leisurely daily reading for the Old Continent. In continental Europe, Italy takes first place, with 30% of adults reading books every day.
6. Only 25% of EU citizens read the written press.
Only a quarter of the respondents in 2020 stated that they read the daily print and magazines every day. This is a twelve-point decrease from this decade’s peak in 2012, when the value stood at 37%.
Which age group comprises the most dedicated bookworms? How are the youngest generations measuring up? Do we tend to read more as we age, or does our passion for the written word drop off after a certain point? In fact, how many of us can actually read? Keep reading to find out.
7. In 2019, 81% of US residents aged between 18 and 29 read at least one book in the last 12 months in any given format.
These US statistics about reading also show that 72% of those aged from 30 to 49 said that they’ve also read at least one book in the last year. Third place went to the group aged 65 and above, with 68%. Lastly, people aged between 50 and 64 were the least “active” with just 67% stating that they’ve read a book in the past year.
8. The global literacy rate is around 86.5%.
More precisely, that’s the rate for people who are at least 15 years old. For men aged 15 and over, the literacy rate stands at 89.9%, while reading rates for women are lagging behind a bit with 83%.
Generally, 99.2% is the literacy rate in developed nations. At this moment, there are around 781 million adults in the world who can neither read nor write.
9. Seven countries have a 100% literacy rate.
(World Population Review)
As of 2021, only seven countries reported a 100% literacy rate. They are Andorra, Greenland, North Korea, Luxembourg, Norway, Uzbekistan, and Lichtenstein.
On the other hand, the reading percentage is the lowest among the citizens of Niger (19.1%), Chad (22.3%), Guinea-Bissau (30.4%), and South Sudan (34.5%).
10. 42% of US consumers read science fiction regularly.
Close to a half of the US population enjoys this genre, despite it generally being regarded as a “niche” option. The average sci-fi reader is more likely to be a man (35% of men, as opposed to 19% of women, have read sci-fi books, according to a different survey).
Also, science–fiction demographics demonstrate that the average reader is likely to be a Millennial-aged between 25 and 40.
11. Only 20% of US teens read books daily.
(American Psychological Association)
Research from 2018 concluded that teenagers spent more time on the internet in the 2010s than they did consuming traditional media, like watching TV, reading books, or magazines.
More precisely, only 20% stated that they read every day, while 80% said that they used social media platforms daily. However, with age, the share of time reserved for book reading is likely to rise.
Most Popular Book Genre Statistics
Which genres are the most captivating for readers, and also, while we’re at it, how much money do these genres and best-sellers generate? Let’s talk numbers for a bit.
12. The global publishing market is forecasted to reach $104.21 billion in 2025.
The market will probably achieve this with an average compound annual growth rate of 3%. Even though these aren’t necessarily book reading statistics, the market figures may help give the reader a better understanding of the overall context.
The market is expected to reach $92.68 billion this year at a CAGR of 5.4%, from 2020’s $87.92 billion.
On the other hand, checking out the latest comic book industry numbers might also help you gain more insight into reading habits.
13. In 2018, around 420 million book copies were sold in France.
While we don’t have sales numbers for 2022 just yet, the most recent numbers suggest that this year, the most popular book genres were mostly about leisure activities, hobbies, and education.
Statistics on reading suggest that 45% of the surveyed people preferred history books. Second place went to crime and spy novels, which accounted for 43% of French book sales.
14. Romance and erotica generate profits of over $1 billion on Amazon.
Romance — with erotica elements — is the most profitable book genre to write, generating over $1.44 billion on Amazon only. The second most popular genre/category is crime and mystery, with $728.2 million.
Reading trends show that inspirational and religious books are also quite popular (generating around $720 million).
Science fiction and fantasy also generate quite respectable $590.2 million, while horror is a bit less profitable (and probably popular) making “only” around $79.6 million.
15. At the time of writing this article, Frenk Herbert’s “Dune” was the most popular audiobook.
Readers’ statistics have also shown that the second most popular audiobook choice is Lee Child’s “Better Off Dead,” (the 26th book in the Jack Reacher novel series), while the third spot went to John Grisham and “The Judge’s List: A Novel.”
16. From January to May 2020, a total of 16.2 million romance ebooks were sold in the US alone.
As stated before, romance is one of the most popular genres for book readers. These sales figures above represent a respectable 17% increase when compared to average sales volumes.
Experts agree that the jump in purchases was primarily due to COVID-19 restrictions and the fact that most physical bookstores were closed in the early days of the pandemic.
17. Around 75% of fantasy readers are reading ebooks.
(James T Kelly)
When looking at reader demographics by genre, it’s safe to say that younger fantasy readers prefer modern formats. Older groups still read paperbacks.
That being said, the average fantasy reader is a woman in her 60s and prefers to read either paperback books or ebooks on an e-reader. The typical male reader is in his twenties and prefers to use his smartphone for reading.
Interesting Facts About Reading
After all these figures, let’s kick back a little and learn some reading trivia. You’ve probably heard entrepreneurs read a lot. Well, prepare to find out just how much ‘a lot’ is, and some other interesting tidbits.
18. On average, it costs about $3,000-$4,000 to make an audiobook.
(Software Testing Help)
This is not one of the most popular reading stats, but given the fact that these formats have been gaining popularity, it’s definitely worth mentioning.
While audiobooks don’t have the costs related to paper and ink, they have higher human and technical costs. Recording and mastering engineers, audiobook editors, and voice actors can push the overall costs up pretty high. Especially in cases where publishers hire famous voice actors, or even screen actors, to narrate books.
19. Allegedly, Bill Gates reads 50 books a year.
Gates has always prioritized reading at least one hour per day. According to him, he gains new perspective from every book he reads. Who knows, all that reading may have helped him be an inescapable part of any millionaire stats. Before he became a billionaire, of course.
Also, entrepreneurs generally tend to read more than the average person. Data shows that they average out at 17 books a year. People believe reading can help improve business processes, as shown in popular entrepreneur stats.
20. Reading trains focus and reduces stress.
(The Wisdom Post)
When it comes to the benefits of reading, statistics also show that it improves memory, can help with self-motivation, helps you to become a better communicator, lead to personal improvement, and even helps reduce stress.
21. The world’s longest book has a whopping 1.3 million words.
If you’re looking for a challenge, here’s a handful! Generally, best-sellers average between 16,000 to 250,000 words, while Marcel Proust’s epic, “In Search of Lost Time” ( À la recherche du temps perdu), has nearly 1.3 million words, which makes it the longest book of all time. The entire novel was published in 13 volumes from 1913 to 1927.
22. The shortest work of fiction has only six words.
The shortest story ever written is “Baby Shoes,” a six-word story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” While the story is an excellent example of flash fiction, Hemingway’s actual authorship is very much in doubt.
Even then, there are a few writers who give Hemingway full credit.
How many books does the average person read in a year?
(Pew Research Center)
Research seems to indicate that, on average, people read at least a book every month, which then totals at 12 books a year.
Now, some people certainly read more than that, and some readers finish way fewer books. For instance, the median number (the middle value in any set of values) of books people read in the same dataset is four per year.
What age group reads the most?
(Independent Publisher, Iris Reading)
Evidence suggests that Millennials are the age group that reads the most, with around 80% having read at least a single book in the past year.
Research also suggests that people tend to read less and less as they get older. Also, they’ve concluded that people aged 18 to 29 are the most dedicated group of readers, but this age gap includes both Millennials and Gen-Z-ers.
What was the most sold book in the world in 2020?
(Amazon, NBC News, Mental Floss, Statista)
Trying to answer this specific question can be a bit tricky and confusing, mainly because the available global data isn’t compiled nor compared. From the numbers we managed to gather, we can say that one potential candidate is “A Promised Land,” Barack Obama’s memoirs.
This book is the number-one hardcover best-selling book of 2020, and also the most popular item on Amazon in its category.
To give a clearer picture, 2.6 million copies of the book have been sold only in the United States, which is almost double the second best-selling book on the list.
How many minutes a day should you read to your child?
(Baby Center, Kids Activities Blog)
Experts advise reading no more than around 20 minutes a day to your child aloud if they’re in kindergarten. After enrolling in first grade, it’s okay to increase that to half an hour.
Before kindergarten, five or six minutes can also be more than enough for most kids. If they’re not listening, it’s best not to force it.
Once the child starts reading independently, having them read aloud to you around 20 minutes a day is more than enough.
Lastly, experts also say that forcing a child to read to improve their reading statistics should always be avoided, as it can end up being destructive. If kids feel that they’re forced to read, they might start hating it which, down the road, will only lead to even larger problems.
As you can see, reading habits can be quite different from person to person. From what we’ve managed to gather here, book reading statistics show that a lot of people still prefer print and it’s far from a dying form of expression, even though audiobooks and digital books have been steadily gaining popularity in recent years.
How will things look in the future? Will print be fully replaced? Will audiobooks take over? Only time will tell.
Now, grab your favorite book and read a few pages. We know you want to.