5.4.1: 1910 - heden - Introduction

Never before were the conditions for an enormous increase in the usage of books, newspapers and magazines as favourable as in the twentieth century. In the first place, the level of education increased greatly, the working week fell from an average of 60 hours to 36-40 hours and the level of prosperity increased dramatically. The supply of books increased as well, the distribution network improved, as did the network of public libraries. Private book ownership grew steadily. The socially segregated reading societies all but disappeared and their role was taken over by the less elitist reading portfolios, reading clubs and book clubs. The shop libraries also disappeared, as a result of the close-knit network of public libraries. From the late sixties onwards, the patronisation of the readers through libraries on an idealistic basis and later the public libraries was also a thing of the past. In the twentieth century, the baneful influences of printed matter were considered much less significant than before. In the thirties, at the height of the religious-political compartmentalisation, there were still many warnings against the wrong kind of literature, especially in Catholic circles. Lastly, the professionalisation of the working population meant that great store was set by education and that large parts of the working population at some point in time gained their necessary professional expertise from textbooks.

However, the consumption of books has definitely seen rises and falls in the twentieth century. The fifties were a highpoint. Especially young people read a lot in those years. After the fifties, the number of hours of leisure time spent reading books declined, especially among young people. Television and an increase in care tasks within the family are the main reasons for this decline. As yet, the reading of texts on the Internet is not included in research into reading as a recreational activity. At the moment, 10% of the population aged 12 and over never reads for recreation, over two-thirds reads newspapers or magazines, and half reads books. Book production, however, continues to increase, with more than 25,000 titles published in 2008.

author: B. de Vries