April 21, 2014

Men don’t want to read, would rather wait for the movie


There are so many books to choose from. Can World Book Night help men find one they'll want to read?

There are so many books to choose from. Can World Book Night help men find one they’ll want to read?

A recent study commissioned by the organizers of World Book Night seems to support the truism that men don’t read books.  The study of 2,000 British men found them making excuses, like they don’t have “time,” or they don’t “enjoy” reading. The Bookseller reports:

Nearly three quarters of the men surveyed said they would opt for the film or television adaptation of a book, whereas the same percentage of women were as likely to go for the book itself. It also emerged that women are more likely to have bought or borrowed a book this year, with more visiting bookshops, libraries, supermarket book aisles and online retailers than men.

Almost half (46%) of the men asked are reading fewer books now than they did in the past; a third prefer the internet and 30% engage more with film and TV. One in five men confessed that they have pretended to have read a specific title in order to appear more intelligent. It also emerged that almost 30% of men admit that they haven’t really picked up a book since they were obliged to at school.

Matt Haig, whose The Humans is included in this year’s giveaway, thinks the problem doesn’t lie with the books being published, but rather with the way they’re marketed. From the Guardian,

“There are as many books being written as ever for men to enjoy,” he said. “It’s just about making them feel relevant. TV dramas and even video games start with words. Words are the essence of culture. Books are pure essence. They are not for women or for men, but for all of us. Without books, civilisation falls into the dark ages. It wouldn’t just be a shame, but a catastrophe if half the population stopped reading.”

For what it’s worth, I’m sitting in an office surrounded by men who read more in a year that I probably will in a lifetime. But I get it; we’re talking about the general population here. Maybe we can start marketing books to men as “anti-spoilers.” After all, no errant tweet about who dies on Sunday’s “Game of Thrones” will matter if you’ve read the books, out for years, on which every single plot point is based.

Sue Wilkinson, CEO of the Reading Agency (the charitable organization that puts on WBN), thinks that they can help motivate more men to pick up a book. “It seems that men recognise the value of reading books but admit that they don’t do it as much as they might for several reasons.” The goal of this year’s World Book Night, she said, is to “give these books to men who aren’t reading enough and show them what they are missing…Next year our challenge is to have inspired them to apply to be volunteer givers themselves.”

 This year’s WBN book choices include titles from Roald Dahl, John Grisham, Nora Roberts, Armistead Maupin, and Agatha Christie. If those don’t appeal to the men in your life, the Guardian offers their “five perfect books for men who never read,” all, coincidentally, written by men. 


Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.