By the time you finish reading this article over 1000 new book titles will have been published. Six months into 2013 the number of new titles published is 1,305193. By the time you have finished this sentence another seven titles will have been added to that number.

Simplistically, by this time in six months, almost three million new titles will have been published. Globally, more than 796 million people in the world cannot read. Forgive the statistics, but there is more. At the time of writing, there are over 140 million books available to read ,

An astonishing 42% of college graduates, after graduating, never read another book for pleasure, and over 80% of American families did not buy or read a book last year. The United Kingdom fares little better. More than 4 million people in UK have never read a book. In the past six months more than 12 million people in UK had picked up a book to read for enjoyment less than twice.

I was never good with numbers, can just about do long division and work out how much cash I have left for food and entertainment after paying necessary bills.


But something about these figures is scary. Of the world’s 7 billion+ population probably half of them either cannot read, or never read a book for pleasure. That leaves about 3 billion who do read, and probably half of them don’t read books regularly or often. If estimated figures are to be believed, there are more Google, Twitter, and Facebook users by far, than book readers.

Is it that books are just too hard? Or take up too much precious social networking time? Someone better than I will have to address those questions.

On the one hand more books are being published every year than in the whole of history. My google stream is full of people writing books, joining writing communities, talking about books. It seems too that in spite of the previously quoted figures, the book business is very healthy. The book business is healthy because those few of us,; an actual MINORITY who do read, buy the majority of books sold. writimg

Since I began this article the number of new titles published this year has just reached 1,305,453 and the chances of most of those titles ever being read is tiny. That number is only the number of books actually published. If my social networking is to be believed, there are many many more people writing books that will never see the light of day. Of all those writers, (and given the figures quoted) I wonder how many of those people writing books, and talking about their books actually buy a book, or pick up a book and read it. I would hazard a guess that easily half of those wannabe novelists don’t actually READ or buy books themselves.

It seems to me that if you don’t read books, or don’t read books regularly and often, then writing a book and hoping to have others buy it and read it, is a pointless and pretentious exercise. books and reading   

How many books have YOU bought this year?

  1. Steve Connolly
    October 28, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    yes there is something weird going on here but the most weird thing are the bizarre stats we are given about reading habits in UK. We are told by the pollsters Yougov that 25% of Brits. never read a book and yet throughout my varied life (66 yrs) I virtually never meet a real reader (defined as someone who always has a book on the go; can’t travel anywhere without a book; is always drifting into bookshops etc). Constantly in people’s houses, I seldom see books on the shelves and you never hear people talking about books at parties on in pubs. As a teacher I can safely say that virtually no teachers are regular readers and that includes English teachers. Certainly most kids don’t read at all unless they are the Harry Potter generation (and HP is all they read). If books are read they tend to be fat blockbusters read for a couple of weeks a year on holiday. So where the idea comes from that 25% don’t read, I don’t know. The figure must be far higher than that. On the London underground you see about 4 or 5 commuters reading per 100 passengers per carriage so I reckon it is probably around 85% of the adult population who never read a book for pleasure. How then does the book trade flourish? 1) Yes, the few who do read buy a disproportionate number of books. 2)The industry is largely sustained by rubbish like self-help, celeb biogs, etc 3) People in Uk like to buy books (because we are told that they are good for us) but they tend not read them. How else to explain the fact that charity shops are filled with recently published but now second hand books in near mint condition? 4) Publishers use the scatter gun approach to bookselling – a model they’ve borrowed from the pop music industry. You publish a a plethora of rubbish in the hope that a couple of % will sell big time. How else do we explain the fact that new titles in the shops stay on the shelves for three or four weeks before being remaindered. So yes, we should kiss goodbye to the fantasy that we live in a literary culture, which is a pity as the great classics are actually very easy to read (that’s why they got their high status in the first place) and give far more pleasure that TV. One tip though. Most of the fiction written before the 20th century was designed to be read aloud (to the family round the fire place). We should go back to that, even when reading alone. The words of Dickens, Jane Austen, Thackeray, etc will spring off the page. Go for it.

  2. July 17, 2013 at 9:30 am

    You are such an intellectual. Love you. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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