It was the year of the pandemic and the year of great reading opportunities. The percentage of Spaniards over 14 years of age who frequently read books in their free time, that is, at least once a week, reached a historical maximum of 57% during the months of confinement (the average, taking the whole year , reached 52.7%). In 2019, that figure was 50%.
This is the data highlighted by the Ministry of Culture and Sports in the presentation this Friday of the Barometer of Reading Habits and Buying Books in Spain . “The increase is positive, but small,” the expert José Antonio Millán, coordinator of the three editions of the book Reading in Spain , tells EL PAÍS .
The time spent on books also went up. In the months of the alarm state, eight hours and 25 minutes were reached per week. The average for the year was one hour less, when in 2019 it was six hours and 55 minutes.
The half-empty bottle reflects, however, that, despite the fact that it was a year of spending a lot of time at home, the growth of the population that reads books at least once a quarter was negligible: 68.8%, compared to to 68.5% of the previous period.
The study, carried out by the company Conecta for the Federation of the Guild of Publishers of Spain (FGEE), indicates that of the almost 69% who read, 64% did so in their free time (in 2019 it was 62.2%) . In the last decade, growth has been seven points (in 2010 it was 57%).
However, the reading of books for work or studies “declined markedly during 2020,” the report notes. It was 23.1%, when last year it reached 27.5%. This is the determining factor that causes this minimal increase in the reading index.
Another negative fact is that 36% “never or almost never read,” said the acting president of the FGEE, Patrici Tixis. A figure that slowly decreases year by year, since in the previous year the non-readers were 37.8%.
If the focus is placed on confinement, two pieces of information stand out. The first, that 65% of Spaniards between 25 and 34 years old read during confinement. It is the highest figure of all age groups. If you want, take away the 15 points more than in 2019 Among the kids between 14 and 17 years old the figure stands at 59%, nine points more.
The other significant increase was in women: 66% read in the most terrible months of the pandemic (10 points more). On the other hand, the men who opened a book were 48%, only four points more. The Minister of Culture, José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, described the results of the study as “very positive.”
The number of respondents for this work has been 2,514, although of them only 1,200 were during confinement. Rodríguez Uribes took the opportunity to make an announcement: “Before the summer, the new 2021-2024 Reading Promotion Plan will be presented, in which we are working with the administrations and book sectors.” In addition, he announced that the writer Elvira Lindo will be the next president of the Board of the National Library, replacing Soledad Puértolas.
On a qualitative level, the report collects what reading books contributed to citizens during the weeks of confinement. “Entertainment”, “disconnection”, “relaxation” and “tranquility” were the most pointed reasons.
Madrid, the most reader
Another foreseeable data is that the number of readers rose in all the autonomous communities. However, the study authors regretted that such a large imbalance remains between one and the other.
Madrid continued in the first position (73.8%), with the Basque Country in second place (66.9%). In the lower part of the table, the Canary Islands fell to the penultimate position, with 58.3% (in 2019 it was third from the tail), while Extremadura (53.9%) occupies the last position, with a figure of 20 points below Madrid. “It is a structural difference in Spain, related to issues such as per capita income,” adds Millán.
Another inequality is the one that is appreciated by age: those who read the most are those between the ages of 14 and 24 (73.8%), from there the figures are similar until the collapse in those over 65 ( 49.2%). And a third mismatch is the gap between university students (85.7% read) and those with only primary education (39.6%).
That women read more than men is known. The graph is more even in the age group between 35 and 44 years (69.5% of them read, 61.5% of them). But the gap skyrockets between 55 and 64 years. 76.5% of women are readers and only 54.5% of men.
Regarding the format, digital support grows slightly, used by 30.3% of the population over 14 years of age (in 2019 they were 29.1%). Of these, those who say that their preferred device is the digital book represent 12%. And it is striking that 6.2% already read books on their mobile.
Buyers have also grown little (from 50.4% to 51.7%), but what has increased is the percentage that says they buy in bookstores: from 67.5% in 2019 to 71.1% in 2019, despite to the months of closure and the closure of these establishments. The percentage of those who buy online also increased significantly: from 31.9% to 38.4%.
Restrictions due to covid-19 prevented regular visits to libraries. The number of visitors dropped notably: from 32% in 2019 to 23.2% in 2020.
And finally, a couple of facts about kids and books: last year, parents read fewer books to their children under the age of six. 74.4% did so compared to 83.6% in 2019, almost 10 points lower. And in adolescence, from 15 years of age, the proportion of frequent readers is notably reduced: up to 14 years they are 79.8%, but from there and up to 18 it drops to 50.3%.