Thursday, March 26, 2009

Turning men into Page Turners
Publishers need to 're-masculate' books if they want to get more men reading
Jean Hannah Edelstein Wednesday 25 March 2009 10.56 GMT

Not aimed at men ... Tilly Bagshawe's Flawless

It has long been accepted by publishers that women buy – and read – more books than men, which is why so much effort goes into marketing those titles which are perceived to have female appeal. Even much-vaunted male writers have lost faith in their brethren – according to Ian McEwan, "when women stop reading, the novel will be dead".
And indeed, a survey of reading habits published this week confirmed this: through deconstructing reading behaviour, the researchers found that people's literary habits, in terms of the frequency with which they read, and the approach they take, do tend to fall along gender lines. Men, they concluded, are just not that into reading.

"Page Turners", according to the research, are avid readers – 48% of the women surveyed fell into this category, while only 26% of men showed equal enthusiasm. In contrast, 32% of men were burdened with the "Slow Worm" label accorded to those who read only one or two books a year, while only 18% of women fell into that category.

The research further labels some readers (or rather, book buyers) as "Serial Shelvers" – people who buy books because they look fetching in their lounges, not because they have any intention of reading them, and "Double Bookers", who are either great multi-taskers or in possession of short attention spans, as they always have more than one book on the go at a time (they're identifiable by the precarious stacks on their bedside tables).

Gender didn't play a significant role in these last two categories – with equal percentages of men and women being Double Bookers, it indicates there is gender equality when it comes to greedy readers, at least.
But how can the publishing industry exploit this potentially under-served market of Slow Worm men, transforming them into Page Turners and Double Bookers – or, at least, into Serial Shelvers, since they're fairly profitable for publishers as well?

Thanks to the endurance of the stereotype that reading is for girls, is it too late to persuade those in possession of Y chromosomes that enjoying a book (or two or three simultaneously) is a perfectly masculine activity? It doesn't help, of course, that so many books are clad in covers which are bright pink or otherwise offensively girly. I don't want to read them on the bus, so I can only imagine that men must be even more discouraged.

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