5.4.3: 1910 - heden - Types of reading public

Little is known about types of readership in the first half of the twentieth century. The increase in spare time and wealth, the falling book prices and the expansion of the network of lending libraries will have given workers and junior employees more opportunities to read than they had ever before. Research undertaken in the mid-1930s among part of the population showed that fiction was the most popular genre. As well as the stimuli for reading, there were also competing forms of recreational activity, first the radio and the cinema, then television and later still the computer.

After the Second World War, a number of large-scales studies were carried out with regard to reading. These tell us a lot about different types of readers and changes in reading habits, especially in the recent past. These studies concerned reading as a recreational activity for people aged 12 and over, not reading for study or work nor reading user manuals, subtitles or Internet data.

In 1990 71% of the population read newspapers, 44% read books and 72% read magazines. At that time, all readers together spent over six hours each week reading newspapers, books and magazines which is a sharp decline compared to the 1950s and it manifested itself most strongly in less-educated readers.

Around the year 2000, one third of the book readers read literary novels. Readers of literature also frequently read newspapers and magazines. There was a difference between men and women. Women read more magazines, romantic books and literary novels than men. Men more frequently read informative books or suspense novels and newspapers. There was also a difference between men and women with regards to the development after the war. In 1955/1956 and in 1975, men over forty spent more time reading than women in the same age category. In 2000 the roles were reversed; women over forty read more than men in the same age category. Another remarkable difference between the 1950s and the year 2000 was that in the fifties, young people (between the ages of 12 and 19) spent a lot of time reading; their reading numbers declined more rapidly than those of other groups of readers. Lastly, the decline of the religious-political compartmentalisation after the war also made its mark. In 1955 members of the Dutch Reformed Church read more than Catholics did, but these differences have disappeared completely.

Reader types can not only be categorised by age, education and gender, but also by the way in which they obtain books: borrowing or buying. As was the case in the nineteenth century, more books were borrowed than bought, but the difference was no longer very large. Romantic books and books in the adventure genre were borrowed rather than bought. Both buyers and borrowers had a preference for narrative prose and contemporary authors. At the end of the twentieth century, readers could choose from a huge range of Dutch and foreign titles, a range which was continually changing. The media also presented a large amount of information on these books. This raised the question as to how readers choose from the vast mountain of books. The choosing process turned out to be very individual, but all readers, when buying or borrowing a book, considered the information they had about the author, the subject and the genre. The more experience a person had with books, the easier this complicated choosing process became. In the end it was apparent that buyers' and borrowers' preferences focus on a limited number of authors and titles.

author: B. de Vries

Types of reading public