5.4.4: 1910 - heden - Reading habits/traces of users

A new phenomenon in the twentieth century, which emphasised the importance of and the appreciation for reading, was the national reading survey. The first national reading survey, in the mid1930s showed that 63% of the working population taking part in the survey regularly read books. Twenty years after that first survey, in 1955/1956, a representative sample survey carried out by the Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) found a similar percentage to the 1930s survey. Of the people aged 12 and over, 67% read an occasional book.

The arrival of television, radio and the gramophone led to a change in reading habits. When in 1962 almost half of all households owned a television set, 17% of people's spare time was still spent on reading. In 1975, watching television had become the favourite evening pastime and 13% of leisure time was spent on reading. In the years following, the percentage of time spent on reading slowly but surely dwindled. After having gone down in the twenty years up to 1975 from 22% to 13%, the share of reading decreased to just 9% in the next 25 years. If we only consider weekday evenings and weekends, we see reading time drop from over five hours a week in 1955/56 to just under two hours in 2000, largely at the expense of book and newspaper reading. The attention given to books at this time of the week dropped from two and a half hours in 1955 to just over half an hour in 2000.

Television was the main, but not the only reason for the decline in reading. Other factors played a role as well, such as the increased number of adults with more complex and tiring day jobs, increased competition from other forms of recreation and the (all too) abundant supply of free 'reading matter'.

Despite the decline in reading, every year a considerable amount of money was still spent on books. At the end of the twentieth century, in 1999, the Dutch population bought approximately 33.5 general books (second-hand and antiquarian books not included) at an average price of 26.10 guilders (about € 11.85), resulting in a turnover of 874 million guilders (about 397 million €). Within the category of general books, literature was the largest genre with 26.3%. After the Second World War, booksellers became much more interested in translated books (mainly from English).

In the twentieth century, the interest in traces of users mainly manifested itself in collections. There was an increased interest, especially after 1926, partly as a result of the activities of Eugène Strens (1899-1980) who gathered a large ex libris collection.

author: N. van Dijk

Reading habits/traces of users