The decline of reading – let’s blame Netflix

Reading rates continue to fall; Netflix and other binge content providers are the competition.

A new study into reading trends in Germany has discovered that fewer people are buying books (the figure has dropped by nearly 18% between 2013 and 2017.  The drop was even higher for the under 50s.

Among the main reasons for this drop is competition. People are spending their time watching/interacting with screens. Binge watching of series in particular is seen as an ‘easier’ way to spend downtime.

Although the number of ‘readers’ is declining, the researchers say that the remaining readers are buying more books than ever. A similar evolution was experienced by e-books: customer numbers went down, but overall purchases per person went up.

Meanwhile in the New Yorker, Caleb Clain revisited an article about the reduction in reading he had originally written a decade earlier. Clain reviews data from the American Time Use Survey and attempts to reach some conclusions.

  • Americans are reading less
  • Women read more than men, it turns out, but time spent reading has declined steadily for both genders
  • The average reading time of all Americans declined because fewer people are reading
  • When Americans sit down to read, they typically read for about an hour and a half, but fewer are doing so, or are doing so less often
  • The activity that the [American Time Use] Survey calls “socialising and communicating” seems to be shifting in more or less the same way that reading is: those who take part spend about as much time on it as they ever did, but the overall average of hours per day spent on it is declining because fewer people are taking part. “Perhaps whatever is eating away at reading is also eating away at socialising”?
  • Television (and the internet) remain the primary forces distracting Americans from books
  • America’s average TV time continues to rise (up over an hour a day between 2003 to 2016)

Finally, a book has acknowledged the power of Netflix et al. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is updated quarterly.  In its latest update (June 2018) includes 900+ new words, senses, and subentries. 

One of its new entries is binge-watch.