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Britain’s reading habits

27 September 2013

Britain's reading habits are revealed Ever felt your cheeks redden as you dig out your dog-eared Mills and Boon whilst on your commute to work, or had your toes curl as you got stuck into a reality TV star’s brand new autobiography on the beach?

You’re not alone…Britain may well be a nation of book lovers but millions of readers could be denying themselves a whole world of literature because they’re so worried about what other people think.

New research released today (Friday 27 September) by Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) revealed that although nine in ten adults (89 per cent) in the UK read regularly, almost two thirds of respondents (64 per cent) admitted feeling embarrassed about reading certain types of books.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the rather personal nature of the subject, erotic fiction topped the list of the most embarrassing literary genre, closely followed by romance and books by celebrity authors.

It appears though that this fear of embarrassment is unfounded; in the survey of more than 2,000 people, just one in ten respondents (11 per cent) said they judge others based on the book they are reading.

eBooks rising

Thankfully, the rise in popularity of eBooks is helping to spare our blushes; almost one quarter of eBook readers (23 per cent) said they were more likely to read an “embarrassing” book electronically as no one would know about it.

However, it’s not just what other people might be thinking that’s holding us back; almost one quarter of readers (23 per cent) admitted that they only judge a book on its cover. The attractiveness of the book cover comes only second to recommendations when we’re deciding which book to pick off the shelf.

An overwhelming 97 per cent said that reading was an important way to relax and unwind, and when asked which one book in particular people considered to be their “guilty pleasure”, children’s books were a popular option; one in 16 (six per cent) people even said they had read a children’s book with an alternative front cover as it seemed more appropriate.

Read for RNIB Day

Commenting on the findings, Becca McRow, Read for RNIB Campaign Manager, said:

It’s great to see that so many people still love to get lost in a good book, and it’s not surprising that for so many of us it’s a really important way to relax and unwind.

Whilst today’s research is just meant to be a bit of fun, it’s important to remember that blind and partially sighted people have much less choice in the books they can read. Imagine not being able to enjoy your favourite book just because you cannot see?

Just seven per cent of all books are fully accessible and we’re urging people to get involved in Read for RNIB Day on Friday 11 October and help us change the story.”

How to help

Blind and partially sighted people face a significantly limited choice of books in accessible formats. While the world of reading is opening up for blind and partially sighted readers, the overall number of accessible books is still unacceptably low in comparison to the range that sighted people enjoy.

RNIB works with the publishing industry and electronic device manufacturers to make books more accessible. We also help readers to use new technologies, and we provide a huge range of accessible books through our National Library Service.

Read for RNIB takes place on Friday 11 October and aims to raise money to make books more accessible for people with sight loss. The charity is encouraging people to take part in a variety of fun reading-themed events such as ‘come as a character days’ and sponsored reading relays.

There is still time to get involved in this year’s campaign and help RNIB to change the story. Register online now for a free fundraising pack or call 0845 345 0054 to find out more.

For further information on the RNIB’s research on Britain’s reading habits, please contact Jessica Hall on:

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