Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Reading patterns for five generations

Here’s an infographic that is kind of interesting.

Here’s a summary:

  • Gen Z prefers fantasy to other genres.
  • Millennials read more books than other generations.
  • Gen X reads more online news than other generations.
  • Baby Boomers rely on best-seller lists to find their books.
  • The Silent Generation spends the most time reading each day.
  • A preference for physical books spans all generations.

My first reaction: Oh, good, I’m glad Gen Z is into fantasy.

My second reaction: Wow, imagine on relying on best-seller lists for suggestions. Of course, even though my first thought is the NYT best-seller list, there are lots more lists that don’t focus so much on literary, such as the Amazon best-seller list and so on — right? Still, imagine making most of your reading choices by looking at those lists, any of them. What a strange idea. So few of those books would meet any specific person’s tastes, or so it seems to me.

My third reaction: Hello, of course the Silent Generation spends the most time reading. Retired people who have physical limitations are obviously going to spend more time reading. My dad reads basically all day every day, and thank heaven he likes books.

My fourth and strongest reaction: Really, people still read physical books? By preference?

I read physical books only when I have no choice / already have the physical edition. It is so much nicer not to have to pick up reading glasses that I will never again read a physical book by choice when I could get the ebook instead.

I am very puzzled by a few paragraphs where the text says, “As French readers get older, they are more likely to read for a hobby” and so on. French? What? The generation titles are specifically applied only to Americans, aren’t they? No one would say that someone in France is a Boomer or from the Silent Generation or whatever. I’m assuming “French” is an autocorrect error of some kind that for some reason wasn’t caught before someone hit “publish.” I wonder what the word is supposed to be? Anybody got a guess?

Anyway, the post is interesting, if you’ve got a few minutes to browse through the graphic.

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9 Comments Reading patterns for five generations

  1. Mike S.

    “French” is pretty certainly intentional. The sources section at the bottom of the infographic includes at least one French source (perhaps stereotypically, on the reading of erotica) and one on world reading habits. There’s also one from the UK.

    (I agree that generations seem even less likely to be meaningful across cultures.)

  2. Rachel

    Thanks, Mike, I didn’t look closely enough to find that.

    The graphic instantly seems less applicable to anyone, if some of the data came from one country and some from another and it’s all stirred together in those images.

  3. Herenya

    I didn’t think those generation titles were American-only. I’ve assumed that they’re were just rather Western-world (English speaking?) centric. But I don’t remember ever coming across “silent generation” before.

    I prefer reading ebooks, but can see various advantages of physical books. Maps and illustrations aren’t always displayed very well in ebooks, and I find it easier to flip back and forth to something like a glossary with physical books. I like looking through books in secondhand shops and being able to lend them to other people too.

  4. SarahZ

    Those generations are all based around WW2, so they’re applicable plenty of places, I’d think. Plus, there’s a French map in yhe background of that section.

  5. Rachel Neumeier

    Henrenya, other countries may have picked up the titles for generations, but here are the meanings for recent American generations:

    The Greatest Generation = people of an age to fight in WWII

    Silent Generation = people who were children during WWII and learned to stay quietly out of the way as their parents saved the world

    Baby Boom = children born after the war, when there was indeed a boom in birth rates

    So those are specifically US terms. There are terms going back farther– before The Greatest Generation was the Lost Generation and so on — and that’s why I was startled to see the generation names applied more broadly. But the world is more connected now, so I guess the more recent generation terms have spread.

  6. Hanneke

    The Greatest generation, the Silent generation and the Baby boomers are also used in the UK; the last one or two are definitely used in northwest Europe and maybe much wider, as WWII had the same effect on a much wider area than just the US. The baby boom was a phenomenon in all the war-torn countries after the war ended, as far as I know, though I’m not 100% sure about all of the Eastern bloc. The silent generation there could apply to more than those who were children during 1939-1945…
    After that, globalisation did have an equalizing effect on generations from different areas of the globe but a similar development/wealth level, so that might have something to do with adopting the same terms; or it might be the predominance of English-language professional journals and peer-reviewed papers determining the terms used.

  7. Rachel

    Interesting about the generation terms being so much more widespread than I realized! Of course the world wars had broad effects, but I never knew that the UK and broader Europe also used the same terms for those generations.

  8. Megan

    I’ve been transitioning away from physical books due to a severe lack of space. What I haven’t transitioned is my manga, as I have yet to find a reader I feel comfortable with, and the no-DRM conversion output on the samples I’ve tried is awful. I don’t want my books locked to an account that could vanish immediately if hacked/shut down for whatever reason.

    Which is a real shame, since digital manga tends to be rather significantly cheaper than physical, especially considering most series go on for 15+ volumes.

  9. Rachel

    Amazon offered me a free graphic novel in ebook form. I tried it. My reaction:

    a) I’m really impressed with how hard someone worked to make a graphic novel readable on a Kindle
    b) But it still doesn’t work very well.

    So yes, I can easily imagine that manga would be difficult in that format.

    I gather Barnes and Noble had a very, very serious outage of all online services recently, including their Nook support. That’s what I thought of at once when you pointed out that a hacked account would take out everything. What a disaster that could be!

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