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Some Surprising Stats about Reading Habits

If you are a writer at any stage, then you almost certainly want people to read your books, and this will not happen without you knowing something about your audience. I thought, therefore, that it might be useful to be aware of a few statistics and some may surprise you.

I have kept most of this data confined to the UK, although there are comparisons with other countries.

To start:

Only around half of the population read a book last year (and that is the same for most recent years). Those that read the most books are 65 and older. This is one thing I learnt quite early on and then spent quite a lot of time saying it surprised me that my audience was this age only. However, it had more to do with the fact that this is the age group that reads most. So often, when I’m designing ads, I know this is going to be my target audience.

15 to 24-year-olds are 51% less likely than the average reader to be heavy readers (those who read more than 10 books a year).

40% of the UK adult population have purchased a book in the past year, with 37% of adults purchasing a physical book, and 10% purchasing an e-book, according to purchase data.

However, again on a personal note, ¾ of my sales are e-books and that applies to the 65+ age range too.

Most researchers agree that these are the most read genres (in order).


Young Adult (YA)


Memoirs and Autobiographies

Science Fiction


Children’s Literature


Crime and Mystery

Historical Fiction

Although Amazon’s varies a little:


Science Fiction




Detective & Mystery




Historical Fiction

Young Adult (YA)

Children’s Fiction

Al the following information is from YouGov in 2020:

This is what YouGov say about genres:

Younger Brits aged 18 to 24, despite a general affection for their devices, are the least likely age group to opt for an e-reader with just 18% regularly opting to digitally download their book. However, Brits aged between 25 and 39 are the most likely to be fans of the audio book, with 13% saying they use audio books to get their fix – twice the number of other age groups.

When and where do people read?

Sometimes the hardest part of a good book is simply finding the time to get properly into to it, and Brits are split over the best time to get stuck in. One third (36%) say they prefer to read when they go to bed, and another 36% prefer to read in the evening, but before bedtime. Another 35% of Brits say they prefer to read when they are on holiday.

And, countries that read the most:

So try not to make presumptions about your target audience. You may write young adult fantasy fiction, but you will need to be quite precise about how you find that audience. Whether we like it or not, young people (and now that doesn’t just mean teenagers) are turning much more to devices for information and for entertainment.

When I use Facebook advertising, I need to be aware of those peaks during the year when people read more. A business advisor at Facebook once told me to put an ad in on Boxing Day and guess what? It worked. Having spent and spent and then finding their present pile topped by vouchers, people will go online and respond to ads. There is also a peak around summer because of holidays, and if your genre is appropriate, you can target birthdays, anniversaries, father’s, and mother’s days, et cetera, as Facebook advertising allows you to do this.

If you pick up nothing else from this, remember to get to know your audience and decided how are you going to reach them.

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