What are the reading habits of Britons?

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
March 05, 2020, 10:46 AM UTC

Brits still prefer a paperback over an e-book, and most prefer to do their reading before hitting the hay

One in five Britons (21%) describe themselves as an avid reader – but what is the nation’s favourite genre? Have British readers finally joined the digital dark side and swapped to e-readers? And when in our busy lives do Brits find the time to read? YouGov Profiles data reveals all on World Book Day.

Who are Britain’s book worms?

Two in five (43%) Britons say they read for pleasure at least once a week, with a third (35%) doing so multiple times and 19% of UK adults reading every day.

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Britain’s keenest readers tend to be older, with 34% of Brits over 55 saying they read at least once a day, compared to just 7% of 18 to 24 year olds.

Of the genders, women are also much more likely to be frequent readers than their male counterparts. Over a quarter (27%) of women read daily, compared to a sixth (13%) of men. Men are also less likely to be readers overall, with 22% saying they never read, compared to 12% of women. 

What type of books do Brits go for?

There is undeniably a simple, analogue pleasure in a paperback book – and it remains the firm favourite format of the British reader.

Six in ten (60%) of Brits say the typically read paperback books, with another 47% opting for hardback. E-books on other hand, are only typically read by around half as many Brits at 24%, but still beat out audio books at 8%.

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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 do Britons prefer to, or find the time to 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 when they go to bed, and another 36% prefer to read in the evening, but before bed time. Another 35% of Brits say they prefer to read when they are holiday.

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When it comes to the genders, women are more likely to prefer reading before bed (43%) than men (30%), whereas men are more likely to read on their commute (13%) than women (9%). 

When it comes to commuting, Londoners are twice as a likely as other Britons to read on their way to work or college, with 23% of those in the capital saying they typically read or listen to audio books on the tube and buses of London.

What takes Britons fancy? A thriller, historical fiction or an autobiography?

A third of Brits (36%) say they do not have preference when it comes to choosing between fiction and non-fiction, but another third (35%) say they prefer fiction, and 20% prefer non-fiction.

Women are much more likely to prefer fiction (42%) than men (29%), and the opposite is also true, with men much more likely to prefer non-fiction (24%) than women (16%).

Diving down into the sub-genres, Brits are most tempted by biographies and memoirs (26%) in terms of non-fiction, and ficton readers tend to opt for crime and thriller novels (33%).

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Other popular non-fiction books among Brits include historical writing (20%) and food and drink (19%), while fantasy (22%) and action and adventure (20%) prove to be the most popular fiction genres.

Crime and thriller novels prove most popular with older Brits by a count of two to one, with 40% of Britons aged over 55 saying they enjoy the sub-genre, compared to 20% of Britons aged 18 to 24. These younger Britons are more likely to opt for fantasy fiction (25%) compared to their elders (18%)

Image: Getty

See full results here