Research

2018 Research: Book Reading in New Zealand

Download the report: 2018 Book Reading in NZ

This research into the reading habits of New Zealanders follows a similar report we commissioned last year and confirms again that not only are we a nation that loves to read, but also one that loves to read our own stories.

However, 442,600 Kiwis didn’t read a book in the past year. We also found that fewer men are reading books.

The 2018 study reports that 86% of New Zealand adults had read or started to read at least one book in the past year, down from 88% last year.

Looking closer at this figure shows the percentage of female respondents reading has remained essentially the same, but there was a decline in the percentage of male respondents reading.

This year we asked more questions, specifically about how New Zealanders are using their leisure time, to see how reading fits in to our lives. We also wanted to know about the other languages we read.

As in 2017, the majority of us read for relaxation and enjoyment, and our favourite fiction genres are crime, thriller and adventure stories.

It is wonderful that New Zealanders love to read and to see that books remain an important touchstone in our society. But it’s worrying to see how many of us didn’t pick up a book in the past year.

The increasing demands of society and work mean more than ever New Zealanders need to understand and apply information across a range of sources in order to function effectively at work and everyday life. Reading is the foundation for all types of literacy.

The Book Council’s vision is to grow a nation of readers. We take these findings seriously and will use them to inform a number of our programmes and projects. This research forms the foundation of our knowledge about our reading in New Zealand.

We will continue to work to ensure New Zealanders keep reading, with a particular focus on our boys.

The Book Reading in New Zealand survey was conducted by Horizon Research for the New Zealand Book Council and the final report includes data supplied by Public Libraries of New Zealand, National Library of New Zealand, and Nielsen BookScan.

- Jo Cribb, August 2018

2017 survey on book reading in New Zealand

This report confirmed not only are we a nation that loves to read – we devour an average of 20.6 books a year – but also a nation that loves to read our own stories. Almost 50% of Kiwi adult survey respondents read at least one book by a New Zealand author in the past 12 months. The majority of us read for relaxation and enjoyment, and our favourite fiction genres are crime, thriller and adventure stories.

But not all the findings were positive. The survey also reveals that 394,000 Kiwi adults did not read (or even start to read) a book in the last 12 months. 31% say that they don’t have time to read, 24% say that they don’t enjoy reading, and 16% say they feel it is easier to watch movies based on a book.

Jo Cribb 2014_CMP0136.jpg“It is brilliant to see that so many Kiwis love to read. However, it is very alarming that almost half a million people in Aoteaora did not read a book in the past 12 months. The increasing demands of society and work mean more than ever New Zealanders need to understand and apply information across a range of sources in order to function effectively at work and everyday life. Reading is the foundation for all types of literacy,” says Book Council Chief Executive Jo Cribb.

wendt.albert.jpgNew Zealand Book Council Patron Albert Wendt ONZ CNZM says that “getting reading on the national agenda is a crucial step in breaking the poverty cycle in New Zealand. There are already some excellent initiatives out there such as the Book Council’s Writers in Schools and Writers in Communities programmes, but more needs to be done. Encouraging reading, particularly reading for pleasure, is critical to ensure all New Zealanders can be part of our nation’s prosperity.”

The Book Reading in New Zealand survey was conducted by Horizon Research for the New Zealand Book Council and the final report includes data supplied by Public Libraries of New Zealand, National Library of New Zealand, and Nielsen BookScan. The Book Council will use the insights from this research to enhance its existing strategies for increasing the number of lifelong readers for pleasure, and for encouraging greater consumption of New Zealand fiction. It will also share the findings with the wider industry, including publishers, booksellers and media.

Read the full report

Horizon Book Reading in New Zealand - Tables Appendix.pdf

2016 Research: New Zealand reader attitudes and behaviours

In 2016, the Book Council completed phase one of our research into the attitudes and behaviours of New Zealand readers.

We ran a number of focus groups up and down the country to try to find out exactly what New Zealanders felt about books and reading. We published the report which revealed our findings. Some of the issues uncovered by our researchers included:

  • why sales of local fiction trail far behind local non-fiction
  • which genres Kiwis read most
  • where we get our book recommendations
  • whether the e-book is actually a threat to the printed book

The report attracted a lot of attention and generated a huge amount of discussion about books and reading which we were delighted about. Some of the more interesting discussions were:

The Book Council is using these insights from this research to enhance our existing strategies for increasing the number of lifelong readers for pleasure, and for encouraging greater consumption of New Zealand books. We are also sharing the findings with the wider industry, including publishers, booksellers and media.

Read the full report

Extracts from the report

“Younger readers bought a surprisingly large number of books; the owning of a physical object was attractive to them. They shopped at second-hand shops and online, via Book Depository, Fishpond and Trade Me, looking for bargains.”

“The Christchurch librarian said there had been a marked increase in fiction borrowing after the quakes – ‘people wanted escapism more than ever’”.

“None of the younger readers liked e-readers – all preferred physical books. The main reason was, ‘we have so much screen time with other things, it’s nice to have a break’”.

“[If] people do not, deep down, believe New Zealand fiction is enjoyable, then we may have a key part of our explanation as to why consumption of New Zealand fiction is comparatively low.”

Background to the report

The report, based on interviews with focus groups around the country, is authored by Paula Morris and Catherine Robertson.