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Reading Definition Poll

Do you thinking the definition of reading should include internet reading?

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The National Endowment for the Arts said that there was an uptick in reading this year for the first time in 26 years, but it is also the first time that the survey included reading on the Internet.

The PDF report is here. (Haven’t read it yet). From the report is this statistic:

11. Most online readers also report reading books.

  • 84 percent of adults who read literature (fiction, poetry, or drama) online or downloaded
  • from the Internet also read books, whether print or online.
  • For adults who read online articles, essays, or blogs, the book-reading rate is 77 percent.
  • Nearly 15 percent of all U.S. adults read literature online in 2008.
  • Online reading rates drop with age.

N7: As with novel and/or short story readers, the greatest percentage of online literary readers said they enjoy reading mysteries (46.3 percent), compared with the percentages for thrillers (32.2 percent), romance (23.3 percent), science fiction (29.4 percent) and "other fiction" (40.1 percent)-‘the second most popular category.

There’s a difference between immersive reading and blog reading, so should the internet reading be counted in this study? I.e., is reading, reading no matter what the form, length and format?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. theo
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 11:25:28

    There's a difference between immersive reading and blog reading, so should the internet reading be counted in this study? I.e., is reading, reading no matter what the form, length and format?

    The immersive reading should be counted. Many people read novels of all genres on the internet however, how do you separate them from the blog hoppers? I don’t see how that’s possible unless the online novels are tagged somehow. But then do you also include newspapers? Ours is moving to a Thursday through Sunday print schedule now but you can read the paper Monday through Wednesday online.

    Unfortunately, it’s an all or nothing at this point in time. Which is why I voted no.

  2. Sarabeth
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 11:25:40

    Perhaps I’m not the typical internet reader, but many of the essays I read are quite long. So, for me, reading content via the web is reading.

  3. veinglory
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 11:41:03

    Only immersive reading, such as substantive essays and online books, should be included. As this is not what they are doing I opted for ‘no’.

  4. Chele'
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 11:49:14

    I had to vote “yes” because there was no “depends on what’s being read” option.

    As a reader of various newspapers, novels, short stories, and essays online, I’d have to say that it should be counted, and I do tally such things toward my weekly reading goals. I don’t, however, count blogs and message boards in my reading goals.

  5. Lorelie
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 11:49:20

    I said no but what I really would have liked is a maybe option. :)

    It depends, IMHO. A three line description of where Cameron Diaz had lunch? Not so much. A three page exploration of politics. Yeah, prolly.

    But most curious to me in the original report was this paragraph:

    Presented with the following genres-‘“mysteries,”
    “thrillers,” “romance,” “science fiction,” and “other fiction”-‘ 53.0 percent of novel and/or short story readers said they enjoy reading mysteries. The next greatest percentage
    (40.8 percent) went to “other fiction,” while thrillers were the third most popular (32.6 percent), followed by romance (28.5 percent) and science fiction (25.4 percent).

    So I assume for this to jibe with market share reports, it means there maybe be a fewer number of romance readers who then read more books per year than other genres. Is this a correct leap? Can anyone straighten me out?

  6. rebyj
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 11:51:12

    Question: Define what you mean by immersive reading please? I’m not stupid, just not familiar with the term.

  7. Monique
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 11:54:05

    I’ve opted for yes. It was a close call, but in the end my reasoning is thus:

    I am the only reader in my family. Neither my sister nor my brother bother reading books. On the very off chance they pick one up, it will be non-fiction about their career choice.

    So, when someone reads, regardless of what it is, I applaud it. It may not be Tolstoy, but at least their eyes ran over words strung together in sentences and paragraphs in order to impart meaning. In a world where “r u there?” is the norm for folks under 20 (and some over 20 as well), any reading of full words and sentences is important.

    However, my gut instinct says that we need to encourage more immersive reading across the board in every age group.

  8. GrowlyCub
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 12:36:52

    I was also struck by the low percentage for romance for online reading, compared to the sales numbers for physical books.

    Does that mean as a reader group we are more stubbornly invested in reading paper books as opposed to reading e-books? Considering that most e-pubs are pretty romance/erotic-centric, I’m even more surprised.

    I guess the distributors like FW and BoB are the purveyors of the mysteries, thrillers and SF/F.

    I also wonder whether the numbers are skewed by readers not wanting to admit they read romance or by how they assembled their survey sample.

  9. Sandy D.
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 14:24:11

    Have you all seen the NYT article on this?

    This phrase struck me as particularly laughable: “The proportion of adults reading some kind of so-called literary work”. Ouch! “Some kind” just wasn’t enough of a qualifier, the author had to add “so-called” in there just to drive home the point that the public likes trash.

  10. MaryK
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 14:55:36

    @GrowlyCub: “I also wonder whether the numbers are skewed by readers not wanting to admit they read romance”

    Probably so. If I were filling out a form survey, I’d put romance down; but I wouldn’t give it as an answer in an oral survey. I’d say fiction or novels or something like that. This survey was probably oral since it was attached to the Census Survey, don’t you think? I’ve never done a CS so I don’t know for sure.

    “The findings in this brochure are based on early results from the 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA). … it has been conducted five times in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau: 1982, 1985, 1992, 2002, and 2008. The last two surveys were administered as supplements to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey (CPS).”

  11. Beau
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 20:00:42

    @ GrowlyCub

    Could it also be that there is less free content to be found in romance? Not counting the p0rn anyways…

    How much of the copyright free material archived on various sites is considered “romance”?

  12. MaryK
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 22:41:59

    I voted no based on my own experience. As my blog reading has increased, my substantive, book reading has decreased. And I find when I do read, my attention is more fragmented and I don’t read as “immersively.” I think it’s because I’ve gotten used to jumping from topic to topic.

  13. K. Z. Snow
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 11:30:20

    It depends entirely on what the Internet reading consists of.

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