Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Where Does Reading Rank for You?

Book Facts Chart

Chart from Bowkers

In Bowker’s 2008 PubTrack Consumer Survey, the activity in which largest amount of time that READERS spent doing any one thing was browsing online. Reading books came in a distant fourth, right behind reading newspapers and magazines and far behind TV viewing. The good news is that in 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts found that more adults were reading, reversing a two decade downward trend. The growth was attributed to an increase in young adult reading and in fiction, both novels and short stories.

It used to be that I couldn’t even imagine a world without books but now, with the internet, there seems to always be something to entertain me. I can go over to view one video on Youtube and get stuck there for 2 hours watching music videos and home edited vlogs. I feel like I have lost whole days at Etsy.com and it’s step sister site, Regretsy.

There is nothing quite like losing oneself in a long form narrative, though, and that’s why I love reading books, but I do wonder if I am reading less today than I was ten years ago. Of course, ten years ago, I didn’t have a child and I could laze away all evening doing nothing but reading and eating Doritos. I know that blogging and social media like Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook take time away from reading. One nice thing about tv watching is that I can often multitask. I can update my Goodreads page and still catch the worst and the best of the auditions on American Idol, particularly when Ned is at the remote where I essentially am treated to a condensed version of every show.

Books don’t lend themselves to multitasking. You read and nothing else. I can sew, surf the web, and even page through a magazine while watching TV. Books take a time commitment. It’s one that I am happy to make, for the most part, but I find myself gravitating toward shorter books. I’ve noticed that there is a trend in digital publishing to provide more short form fiction than novel length fiction. Category length books represent 40% of published books (at least in 2006). Recently, Harlequin category books popped up on the USA Today list, in part because the books are tracked individually now, but also because for a certain period of time, they sold better than their long form narrative counterparts. Of course, part of the reason for the sales could be price but it could also be that readers are gravitating toward shorter fiction. I was never sure if the move by publishers to cut word count was a cost thing or a consumer response thing. (I thought it might be cost).

I certainly don’t think I am buying fewer books than I did before, but I am buying more category books. It’s easy to get a quick emotional fix from a category book. In a couple of hours I can read the courtship, the consummation, the drama, and the conclusion.

There are so many forms of entertainment out there to compete with the time set aside for books. Reading is almost a luxury given that I have to devote exclusive time to do so.

Did your reading consumption declined or increased in 2009?

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Does anyone else feel like their overall consumption of reading has declined? If so, what other forms of entertainment is replacing your reading time? If not, is it because you eschew other forms of entertainment consciously or because reading is still your first choice for entertainment? Where do you rank books in your overall entertainment options? First, second, third?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

37 Comments

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    Jan 19, 2010 @ 04:02:35

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  2. library addict
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 05:47:19

    For me it goes in phases. Some weeks I seem to be more in a reading mood, sometimes I'm in a TV/DVD mood, and some days I spend more time on-line. I'd like to think it all balances out in the end.

    I know my reading will suffer this week as the Australian Open has started. And next month the Winter Olympics will no doubt consume much of my time. For some reason I tend to stick with favorites during the Summer games, but I will watch just about any sport during the Winter Olympics regardless if it's something I normally follow or not.

    I probably read a bit less now than ten years ago if you go strictly by the number of books. But I definitely read more category books then than I do now. (I miss Silhouette Intimate Moments. Their Romantic Suspense line still has some good books, but I think the percentage of books I enjoyed was much higher when the slightly longer SIMs). I also reread past favorites more now than I did a decade ago.

    I also tend to multi-task when watching TV whereas when I read I do not (unless you count listening to music).

  3. RachelT
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 05:55:31

    I find my online time has grown at the expense of my reading time. And what am I doing? You guessed it – trawling the book blogs and reviews buying yet more books!

    Rachel

  4. Mandi
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 06:12:04

    I find it hard to juggle my reading time with my online time. I have to close my computer and turn off my phone so I don’t become distracted with other blogs, email and twitter. I could care less about television..with the few shows I watch and with tivo, I don’t find the tv distracting…and I also “catch up” on shows while working on the computer :)

    I would say I rank books first.

  5. Jayne
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 06:13:08

    I’m reading less than I did 10 years ago. My DVD watching has increased in the past 4-5 years but then my TV viewing has decreased. A lot. So that about evens out. But the main thing taking up what used to be my reading time is online surfing and writing reviews.

  6. Evangeline
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 06:17:56

    Ugh…the internet is such a time suck–particularly since I catch my TV shows online and regularly use the instant viewer service Netflix provides. But when I do go on a reading binge, I end up online because the internet offers an immediacy a book club will never have. The second I finish a book I can find blogs, official reviews, tweets, and so on where I can discuss my latest read.

    Now that I think about it, making time for reading can be a bit of a chore because I’ve cultivated the habit of talking, talking, talking about books and the industry. I find that I lose more of the mystery and allure of reading because of the chatter rather than my simply being picky because I know the mechanics of creating a work of fiction.

  7. SarahT
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 06:25:11

    I spend more time online than I do reading books. In my case, however, I use the internet to read newspapers and magazines, so I can combine those two categories.

    As I often have music playing in the background, that’s something I do while doing other things.

    I’d say the time I devote to reading and writing is fairly evenly divided. Then comes blogging, and finally playing board games.

    As I have several time-consuming hobbies, something has to give. In my case, that something is TV. I can’t remember the last time I watched TV or a DVD.

  8. dri
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 06:53:30

    *lol* It all depends on the book for me. The latest Diana Gabaldon had me practically disassociating from the world for the entire day and half the night it took me to read it. I even resented having to eat dinner.

    But yes, I agree with library addict that it really is a phase thing. Sometimes I’ll overdose on books, sometimes it’s only one book a week sort of thing. I don’t do audiobooks, the fiction I read online is usually fanfiction and yeah I watch DVDs rather than telly. But there has to be some reading done every night, even if it is a few pages of Pratchett before turning out the light. *shrug* I definitely can’t imagine my life without an actual book. Inconceivable! :p

  9. HeatherK
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 06:59:53

    The last week of 2009, just before it rolled over to 2010, I started rereading some of my faves. Here I am most of the way through Jan. and I’ve read more than 20 books so far. I think I’ve already read more this month than I did all of last year (didn’t read much for a variety of reasons). I’ve barely watched any TV for reading and when I’m not reading, I’ve been writing and tinkering with my blogs. As soon as I finish one book, I start into the next, which is really unusual for me. I’m a slow reader, too, but apparently that hasn’t mattered much. I’ve not even been playing my beloved games. Hubby thinks something is wrong with me. :p

    So I guess right now for me, it’s reading, followed closely by online, then TV/movies and music and games. However, ask again next month and the answer could be totally different.

  10. Silver @ The Raving Readers
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 07:16:08

    I believe I read more these days than before. Mainly, because I love to read more than watching tv or browsing the internet (unless there’s something I’m researching for) or even playing games. I’d gladly forego those to read a good book.

  11. Jennifer Estep
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 07:16:57

    @library addict: I’m eagerly awaiting the start of the Winter Olympics too. Bring on the luge! And I like tennis as well, although I get into it more during Wimbledon/US Open.

    I didn’t read as many books in 2009 as I did in 2008, but I did write more books. Writing, blogging, and doing all the other author stuff sucks up most of my free time, although I try to read at least one book a week. Hasn’t happened this month though since I’ve been working on a new draft.

    I would say reading and TV are my top two entertainment choices. But like other folks have said, it just depends what kind of mood I’m in as to which is number one. Sometimes, I want to attack and whittle down the TBR pile. Sometimes, I just want to veg out in front of the TV for a few hours. And sometimes, I want to finish the story I’m working on, even if it means I don’t do much of anything else for a week or two.

  12. Tee
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 07:36:45

    I find the older I’m getting, the less reading I’m doing. I’m also getting picky, in that not just anything will do anymore. If the story isn’t interesting, it’s a send-back to the library. I believe, without actually documenting true amounts, that the number of DNF books is comparable to the number I completed (and maybe it’s much higher than I’m guessing).

    As others have noted, a lot of time is spent online talking about books rather than actually reading these days. I can also multi-task while reading (except listen to TV or radio). Since my reading attention span isn’t very long anymore, I’ll read for a while, then break to do a needed task, then return to reading, then break and do another task. It works well enough for me.

  13. Robin L. Rotham
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 07:44:34

    While I had young children at home, I hardly read at all. Now that they’re in school, I generally read at least a book a day except when I’m in a writing frenzy. Surfing the web comes in second to reading and writing. The only place I read magazines is at the doctor’s office — I don’t have a single subscription except the RWR, which I prefer to read online, and the local newspaper, which only takes a few minutes to look over. The TV, I could live happily without for the rest of my life. (Okay, so if the TV died, I’d probably watch Smallville, Fringe and House online, but that’s only 3 hours a week.)

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  15. Carin
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 07:51:35

    For me, online is probably the most time spent, but as someone else mentioned, it is also where I get my news.

    Reading probably comes next. Despite kids, I think I’m reading about the same as in the past. My reading habits have changed. I tend to get a bit “book cranky” if I’m pulled away from a book before I’m ready, so I wait and read when they are gone at school or in bed.

    Next is TV/DVD. We generally tape (well, technically it’s DVR’d, but we still call it taped) any TV show we want to see and watch it after the kids are in bed – so that’s about 0-90 min/night, depending on what was on.

    Overall, I think time online is way up and TV down, for me.

  16. Karen M
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 07:59:54

    Since discovering librivox.org, I can “read” and still multi-task… knitting or sewing, etc.

    librivox.org is a site of audio files (read by volunteers) of books in the public domain.

    Oftentimes there will be more than one version of a particular book, sometimes with multiple readers, sometimes with a single reader.

    I read more older fiction anyway, so it suits me.

    I recently “read” Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence,” while knitting and the reader was wonderful… she really captured the nuances of that work.

  17. DS
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 08:00:21

    Do audiobooks count? I listen to them when I drive, when I exercise and on those rare occasions when I do housework. Last weekend I listened to a 15 hour one (Man with the Golden Torc by Simon R. Green) and a 10 hour one (The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett). I’m working my way through Terry Pratchett right now.

  18. Ros
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 08:06:04

    For me, the one huge bonus of ebooks has been finally finding a way to knit and read at the same time. The issue has always been how to hold the book and turn the pages. Now I have the ebook on my laptop on my lap and only have to press a button to turn the page, which is easily done without putting the knitting down.

  19. Kara
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 08:47:25

    Online has taken over my reading time…Google Reader is full of book blogs that I read on a daily basis. I don’t do Facebook everyday but do check in and see how everybody is doing. I don’t Twitter.

    Sometimes I just have to shut the computer down and say no more…it is time to pick up a good book. The other problem with shutting the computer down is I read eBooks which are on my computer so it is very easy to switch between the eBook and Internet.

  20. Mina Kelly
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 08:48:15

    The internet really eats into my reading time. It was especially obviously recently, since I moved house and was without internet for a few days. Whereas before I would eat dinner in front of the telly, I found myself eating it with a book in hand (not recommended if youv’e got company, obviously! Or you love your books too much to get sauce on them). I’m an inveterate multitasker, though like most multitaskers I’m actually not very good at it. I never realise how much I miss reading until I get into a book, at which point not even the lure of the ‘net is enough to pull me away.

    One thing I have found that’s benefitted from the house move is audio books – now I’m a thirty minute walk from walk rather than a 15 minute walk, which happens to be just the right length for a radio play or a chapter of something (usually).

  21. joanne
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 09:11:38

    The ‘how’ I read has changed. I still end every by reading a book. Everyday. For decades. But now I may read them on an ereader. (I may not have read a book on the first night of my honeymoon but that, too, was decades ago and there are exceptions even for me).

    Even when my child was up half the night he was hearing me read aloud from some (inappropriate for a sick 3-year-old) romance book.

    I’ve all but given up newspapers (except for the word puzzles) and although I’m sad to see their demise the behavior has already been set with me. I read local, national and international news online. I realized that I can get the latest news online in what is almost real time without the tv’s talking heads.

    I have very specific oh-nos when it comes to vids online, particularly homemade ones, so that is not a time suck for me. Also instant messaging, tweeters and the rest are not on my to-do list so more time to read.

    Maybe the most telling change in my personal reading habits is that I do a lot of re-reads from my keepers and more tossing into the DNF pile–and no guilt–none. I won’t waste time wading through blah books.

  22. Lori
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 10:13:03

    I still read almost daily but at more specific times during the day (lunch time and late afternoon mainly).

    I’ve found that reading while writing is beneficial (read a page or two, write a page) whereas Twittering or FaceBooking just sucks time.

    I can’t imagine my life without books in it.

    (And because I’ve been teary all morning since hearing the news: RIP Robert B. Parker. A world without Spenser and Jesse Stone is a sadder world.)

  23. dick
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 10:35:18

    TV irritates, so I rarely watch it. I read a great number of books every year, nearly one a day. My family tells me I’m addicted, and of course, they’re right.

  24. A
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 10:42:17

    Since I enrolled in school full-time, I thought I’d spend less time reading (fiction, for recreation,) due to budgeting time for study and academic projects.

    To my surprise, I read just as much, if not more, than I did prior to returning to school, but my reading choices have “lightened.” I’m reading more YA books, fantasy and paranormals, and more romances. Almost like my brain needs a “break” from the more scholarly works.

    The one activity that “digs into” my recreational reading time is writing. When I’m up to my ears in a writing project, everything else falls by the wayside (recreational reading, housekeeping, etc.) After I complete a manuscript I’m all “Woo hoo! Now I can clean the house and read!”

    It may not be entirely fair, but I harbor prejudices against authors claiming they don’t read “because they don’t want their work influenced by outside sources” or “they’re too busy writing/promoting.” The fact is most great writers are also great readers.

  25. Kelly
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 10:49:06

    Does listening to audiobooks count as reading (and is an audiobook a book)? I listen to audiobooks a lot, because it is a way that I can multitask while “reading.”

  26. Moriah Jovan
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 10:55:22

    I’m reading more, but for a really stupid reason.

    It’s cold here. Like, really cold. And I’m a lot more sensitive to cold than the rest of my family. So I end up going to bed a lot earlier so I can snuggle.

    I have my eBookWise, which is backlit. That’s great. No more flashlight needed to dive under the covers. But the best thing? I can put on heavy gloves and still handle the thing, turn the pages, everything. I can fall asleep without ever unbundling and the device turns itself off.

    The day I figured out I could have my gloves and read a book too was glorious!

  27. Mina Kelly
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 11:08:37

    To my surprise, I read just as much, if not more, than I did prior to returning to school, but my reading choices have “lightened.” I'm reading more YA books, fantasy and paranormals, and more romances. Almost like my brain needs a “break” from the more scholarly works.

    College did exactly the same to me. YA, paranormals, and a massive amount of comics. My wallet would definitely have preferred I stuck with novels, alas.

  28. GrowlyCub
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 11:31:27

    I watch a lot less TV, but Facebook and Twitter are really sucking up my time.

    I’m not sure I read less, necessarily, but I’ve gotten so damn picky I’m not having as much fun reading as I used to. Major slump, I’d have to say, so I guess it’s all good that I now farm… he he

  29. Cindy
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 11:35:00

    Online is definitely my major time taker. Between Facebook and role play, plus keeping up with book things.

    Reading books is second. And I have been making a concentrated effort to spend more time in books that online. I will say my reading has decreased since getting a computer, I used to read 1-2 books a day prior. Now I’m afraid I’ll miss something if I’m offline.

    I’d combine TV/DVD watching. But since they cancel the majority of shows I watch I currently only have three nights of television…and two of them are only one hour.

    I rarely pick up the newspaper…I get my news online. I only read RT magazine, and I do that at work as I enter new books in the computer, lol.

    CD’s, when I play them, are background noise, so they’re combined with any other category.

  30. Estara
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 15:03:37

    @dri:
    “But there has to be some reading done every night, even if it is a few pages of Pratchett before turning out the light. *shrug* I definitely can't imagine my life without an actual book. Inconceivable! :p ”

    Yes, this! I haven’t watched TV in any regular form since I got broadband internet 7 years ago. I did watch DVDs and played console games until my eye troubles started 2 years ago and got really bad last year which is also cutting into my online time.

    I’m not giving up on books, which is why I bought an eink reader which lets me increase the font size. I won’t give up on reading unless I go blind (which doesn’t seem likely with my specific eye trouble) and then I’ll switch to audiobooks, which I usually don’t use.

  31. Janine
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 18:43:48

    I wonder if another reason the Harlequins sold well might be that they are less expensive and we are in a recession?

  32. Kathy
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 20:18:03

    Overall, I watch less TV and read more. TV in my assessment includes DVDs. I have a handful of regular programming I watch but it’s not alot since the advent of reality TV. The one hobby which does distract me from reading is my photography. Now that we’re digital I take an order of magnitude more photos which require the computer post processing which is very time consuming. When you add in photobooks and uploading, it can really suck up time. The rest of the time, READ READ READ. I may change up the genre, but I’ve always got a book or two underway!

  33. Sandy James
    Jan 19, 2010 @ 20:27:12

    I read A LOT less, but I had a good excuse. Five actually. My first book was released in December of 2008, and the other four were spread out over 2009. Last year was non-stop editing and promo.

    Currently trying to play catch-up with all the great books I missed last year… So I’ll increase my reading in 2010. :-)

  34. Jessica
    Jan 20, 2010 @ 13:49:35

    I’m 23, so in many ways I grew up with the internet. Not like kids these days, of course, but I remember going into chat rooms when I was eleven. In middle school I read ALL the time. I would shut myself in my room and read two or three books a day on weekends and vacations. I definitely don’t read that much any more! But I am reading more than I was four years ago, when I realized I had probably read less than fifteen books that entire year. In Jan of 2007, I found the 50 book challenge and completely fell back into reading. Now I pretty solidly read a book a week, of which only five to ten are romances.

    Like others, I find my reading comes in phases. I’m still in school, however, so I have to balance pleasure reading with homework reading. I won’t read for pleasure for two weeks and then I’ll read two or three books in one day. I also have to balance reading at all with the internet, where I definitely *waste* a lot of time, as well as spend time I don’t consider wasteful. I don’t have television in my house, but I often go home for weekends and have the TV on a lot (though how much attention I’m paying it is a different question).

  35. Stumbling Over Chaos :: La-la-la-la-la-linkity!
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 02:02:31

    […] Where does reading rank in the activities of readers? Dear Author reports. […]

  36. Lyn
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 07:55:09

    I read whenever I can find the time. Probably average 20 hours a week for leisure reading. That also means the TV is on and not paying attention to it.

    The reading time can fluctuate more or less depending on family and work obligations.

  37. Ridley
    Jan 21, 2010 @ 13:33:01

    I definitely read more last year than I did a year before, but that’s because I got laid off in late 2008 and am still out of work. High unemployment surely skews the reading surge. We’re swimming in leisure time – can’t spend all that much time job hunting, there’s only so many jobs posted or companies to spam with resumes – and books are cheap entertainment if you have a library card.

    I spend maybe 6-7 hours every day on the internet and 4-5 reading. I don’t watch TV at all, and I include WoW in my internet tally.

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