Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Men vs. Women - Reading Differences

There's an interesting piece in The Guardian today regarding a study undertaken by Jellybooks to determine the differences between male readers and female readers.  As it turns out, there is almost no difference in the likelihood that male and female readers  will finish a book (said to be a 27% rate for men and 28% rate for women), but others of their reading habits are significantly different.  Do keep in mind that 80% of the volunteers for the study were female because it strikes me that that could skew the results somewhat.
“The initial decline during which most readers are lost is much sharper and earlier for men than it is for women, and this is a behaviour that we observe for the majority of books,” writes Rhomberg. “So put another way, men give up on a book much sooner than women do. Given the identical completion rates, we take this to mean that men either have more foresight in this regard or that women continue reading even if they already know that the book is not to their liking. We suspect the latter, but cannot prove it at this point.”
So, according to Arthur Rhomberg (Jellybooks founder), an author has somewhere between 20 and 50 pages to convince male readers to finish a book.  Personally, I set the limit at 40 pages, figuring by that point I can accurately predict whether or not a particular book is for me. 

The study did turn up something interesting about those more likely to complete a book they've started:
Age was a bigger factor in completion rates than gender, found Jellybooks, with readers under 35, and over 45, more likely to finish a book than those between the two ages, for the majority of books. Rhomberg speculates on Digital Book World that readers between the ages of 35 and 45 may be the “most time-pressed demographic”, with “little time for reading”.   
This makes perfect sense to me.  I have kept a personal reading diary/list since February 1, 1970 that includes information about books and pages read per year.  Looking back at the list is always fun because of how it reflects my changing literary taste over the past few decades (hopefully, proving that my taste has gotten better, not worse) - but the thing that really jumps out at me is how my overall reading dropped off from my mid-thirties to my mid-forties when family and career demands peaked.

So, while I find the "study" interesting, I'm not at all sure that it proves much because of its female-heavy, small sample and the fact that it did not include tree-books (printed copies).  Too, all the books in the study were provided free of charge to the readers, and that makes me wonder whether the "completion rate" would have been higher if the same readers had actually paid for the books with their own money.  My own completion rate (which includes purchased books, review copies, library books, and other free books) has been right at 91% for the last five years, for instance.  Whether that high rate has more to do with having "skin in the game" or the possibility that I do a better than average job of predicting books I will finish, I don't know.

Regardless of my skepticism, this is a fun study to consider, and I thank Jellybooks for sharing it with the rest of us.


  1. Hmmm. Interesting. I'm female and in my mid-60s. When I was young, I could concentrate better. I'm glad I read a lot of classics then. Now, with the clock ticking, I'm much faster to abandon a poorly written book or one that don't keep my interest. I wish I could tune out all the background noise again and read like I used to.

    1. I think that more quickly losing patience with boring books is definitely a factor of age, Joan. I know that I am much more likely now to give up on a book than I was 20 years ago. Too many books out there to be messing around with a book that becomes a chore rather than a pleasure.

  2. For years I was the only male in a book club with six women. I was the one who wouldn't finish a book if I didn't like it, sometimes by page one, sometimes by page 50. If the rest of the club started the book, the finished it even if they hated it.

    1. That does seem to be the way it is, at least from my own observation. That and the fact that younger readers seem to stick with books until they finish them than impatient oldsters like me...who realize that time's a wasting.