Last year brought a return to social life. The confinement is over, the curfew is over and people took to the streets and terraces. That has caused the drop in attendance at cultural shows such as the cinema, but nevertheless it has not affected reading, which has resisted this 2021. It is the main conclusion of the Barometer of Reading Habits and Buying Books in Spain that was presented this Wednesday. Barometer data shows that the boom in book reading sparked in 2020 by the pandemic has been consolidated, avoiding a fall that many feared due to the best pandemic situation.
Reading promotion plans are designed in offices but generate doubts in classrooms
Last year, the total percentage of Spaniards who read at least one book increased by 0.3, and the percentage of readers who read frequently (daily or at least once a week) rose considerably, rising from 50% to 52.7%. In 2021, this last figure remains. Again 52.7%. For its part, reading has remained one more leisure activity for 64.4% of the Spanish population compared to 60% the previous year. These are the data that have been highlighted by the Federation of Publishers Guild of Spain, which has also underlined that "the improvement in reading rates occurs in practically all the autonomous communities and also grows in practically all sections of the age, as well as in women and men".
For Daniel Fernández, president of the institution, the conclusion of this barometer is that "the great leap in reading that occurred in 2020 has been consolidated in 2021". "This is very good news for the sector. This brings us closer to the reading rates of the most developed countries in the EU, despite this there is still 35% who never open a book", he said at the event held at the Ministry of Culture. That 35.6% who never read is the negative side of the report, and a figure that, according to Fernández, justifies "that pact for reading and the book" on which they work.
The Minister of Culture, Miquel Iceta, has asked "not to hide reality" and has been concerned that "there is too high a percentage that does not read" and has been determined to try to "break that barrier". The barometer indicates that this percentage "has to do with the economic and educational level", for which he has expressed his conviction that the more that is done to "reduce the socioeconomic gap, the contribution will be to improving reading rates". He has also taken advantage of this negative data to defend his two star measures, the reading promotion plan to which it will allocate 13.2 million euros, and the Youth Cultural Bonus.
"It seems as if the study gave us more reasons for the cultural bonus, since it is appreciated that this decline occurs especially when the age of majority is reached, and we want the habit of reading that is acquired in adolescence not to be lost. For this reason, the bonus is an invitation to cultural consumption in general, but the experience accumulated in France and Italy indicates that a good part of the added expense occurs in the world of books, understood more broadly, also including comics or novels. graphics that, for us of course, are also books", added Iceta.
The report also explores the reasons for those who say they do not read. Lack of time (49.8% of non-readers) and lack of interest in reading (25.1%) are the main arguments indicated by non-readers. There is also 24.9% who indicate that they prefer to spend their free time in other entertainment such as walking (25.5%), hobbies (18.1%), resting, doing nothing (15.9%) or watching television (14.7%), among other activities.
It seems as if the study gives us more reasons for the cultural bonus, since the decline occurs when the age of majority is reached
— Minister of Culture
Other data stand out from the barometer. The first, the decline for the first time in the percentage of readers in digital format. It goes from 30.3% to 29.4%. A small decrease, but for the Publishers Guild what it shows is that "the digital medium has reached a ceiling, since for the first time it has not grown." A type of reader that is not exclusively digital, but that combines the e-book and the traditional book and that they do not consider will increase in the coming years "neither here nor in other countries." The second fact is the considerable rise in audiobooks, which until now represented an insignificant percentage and now reach 5.2% of the population who claim to listen to them.
Another negative fact is the increase in piracy. Last year, the 55% of readers who claimed to download books for free dropped to 60.3%. What is most striking is that most of those who do it are fully aware that what they are doing is an illegal activity, since the number of digital readers who know how to distinguish perfectly when the download is not legal rises to 63.9%.
Although the figure for piracy has risen, so has that for book buyers. The percentage of people who bought 'non-text' books increased from 51.7% in 2020 to 52.3% in 2021. In the last decade this percentage has increased by 10.7 percentage points. In addition, bookstores continue to be the preferred places for readers to purchase books. Bookshops and chains of this type of business were the establishments in which 55.4% of customers made their last book purchase. Internet purchases also continue to grow and 25.3% of buyers made their last book purchase there.
Regarding age, the group with the largest reading population is between 14 and 24 years old (74.8% of the population reading in free time). From the age of 25 there is a drop in reading rates (67.3%) that is maintained until the age group over 65 years, in which a new drop is observed. Women once again show that they read more than men, a difference that grows as the years go by, registering the greatest difference in the age range between 55 and 64 years.
By educational level, 85.9% of the population with university studies read in their free time. The percentage drops to 61.8% among those with secondary education. 39.8% of the population that has only attended primary school is a free-time reader. Despite these differences, the barometer underlines that at all levels there has been a slight increase compared to 2020.