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We read less in 2020, reveals the barometer “The French and reading”

Since 2015, the National Book Center (CNL) has published with Ipsos a “French and reading barometer”. The objectives of this barometer are to measure, understand and identify the practices and perceptions of the French vis-à-vis books and reading. In 2020, reading practices were affected by the health crisis. A sample of 1,000 people, representative of the French population aged 15 and over, interviewed by telephone between January 8 and 26, 2021. Unveiled on March 30, the 4th study published by the CNL shows the impacts of the health crisis on French reading habits.

The French read less in 2020

Crossed by the health crisis, the year 2020 was marked by a decline in the practice of reading, even if the French are still very numerous to read and confirm their attachment to this practice. The French are less likely to see themselves as “book readers”. This perception is especially declining among 15-34 year olds and almost as much among women as men.

This drop can be explained by the constraints imposed by the health crisis, such as reduced travel, a special time for reading for many French people, or the closure of libraries and bookstores. “We can also explain this decrease by teleworking and the porosity that this has caused between reading related to work or studies and reading for pleasure”, explains Régine Hatchondo, the new president of the CNL. “This has created a certain weariness among some readers which has not played in favor of leisure reading.” The study even speaks of “burn-out” of reading, which is explained by the feeling of “read more often” than in surveys of previous years.

The explosion in the time spent on screens may also partly explain the decline in the practice of reading, as well as the psychological disorders resulting from the crisis revealed by this study, which also undoubtedly constitute a brake on reading, believe the researchers. authors of the study.

But reading remains a practice with high added value

If the practice of reading fell in 2020, the French nonetheless remain readers. More than 80% of them have read at least one book in the year, and they say they are very attached to this practice. “The French have never valued reading so much and so assertively as in 2020”, emphasizes study and enjoyment is cited first in the reasons why they think it is important to read. “There are very positive values ​​associated with reading. The reader tells us I get rich, I learn things, I understand how the world works, I relax, I have fun, I am more happy and more fulfilled, I escape “, emphasizes Régine Hatchondo. The French also continued to donate books, “proof that it is a precious object in their eyes!”, remarks the president of the CNL.

Fewer novels, more reportage and current affairs books

The novels remain at the top of the preferred readings by the French but in 2020, they read more “utilitarian” books, essays, history books, scientific books, and also more reports and current affairs books, especially on the women’s side, and fewer novels (-7 points) and practical books (-7 points). “This phenomenon is undoubtedly explained by a need in these times of crisis to understand, to understand what is happening, in the short term, in this very particular situation, and probably that this opens up perspectives on the desire to understand the longer term world, too“, suppose Régine Hatchondo. Also to be noted in the order of reading preferences of the French, the BD-Manga category is dethroned from its third position by books on history, whose readership rate remained stable in 2020.

Readers favored classics, big names or literary prizes

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Deprived for a time of the possibility of strolling in bookstores, and consequently of consulting the back cover, or of benefiting from the prescriptions of booksellers, the French have favored classics or books by already recognized or awarded authors, to the detriment of early novels or more confidential authors. “These books and the small publishers have been crushed by the health crisis”, regrets the president of the CNL.

In 2020, the French have gone to the end of their reading

Whole reading, from the first to the last page has increased strongly in 2020 for “utilitarian” genres such as how-to books, scientific books or on personal development. This is less true for novels, comics and manga.

The avid readers are still mostly avid readers

In the category of heavy readers of paper books (those who read more than 20 books per year), it is still women who remain the most numerous, and we note an aging of this population, with an average age of 52 to 55. years and the proportion of people over 65 which has never been so high (45%, compared to 36% in 2019. More than half of these avid readers are graduates of higher education. The proportion of young people in this population of Large readers, on the other hand, fell, returning to their level of 2017 (against 16% in 2019). The profile of large readers on digital media is different: large readers on digital medium are mainly men (53%), well established in Ile-de-France, and younger (41 years of average age).

The French have not read more digital books

The rate of digital book readers remained broadly stable in 2020 (while this rate fell for the paper book). Men and 15-24 year olds are the most likely to favor this mode of reading, while women and those over 50 remain more reluctant to use this format.

French people are more than ever attached to their bookstores

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The French bought fewer new books, but still declare themselves “very attached to the bookstore”. They mobilized and affirmed their attachment to their bookstores from the first confinement (#tousenlibrairies). General bookstores are thus ahead of supermarkets and internet purchases in 2020 in the ranking of declared places of purchase. For those who do not buy in bookstores, the first obstacle remains the fact of not having one near their home, and second the price (they continue to believe, wrongly, that books are more expensive in bookstores) .

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