Canadians Reading Canadians

How interested are Canadians in reading Canadian content?

Publisher: 

Based on a survey of 1,005 English-speaking Canadians 18 years of age or older who had bought a book during the month prior to the survey (which was conducted between July and September of 2012), this report finds that only 24% knew that they had read a book by a Canadian author in the past year. In total, 43% of English-speaking Canadian book buyers were unsure whether they had read a book by a Canadian author, while 34% indicated that they knew that they had not done so during the past year.

Compared with findings from a nearly-identical survey conducted in 2002, there was a substantial decrease in the percentage of respondents knowing that they had read a Canadian-authored book. (The text of the report indicates that the 2002 percentage was 41%, but charts provided in the report appear to show a rate of about 48%. Both percentages are significantly higher than the rate of 24% in 2012.) In contrast, there was a large increase between the two survey years in respondents not knowing whether they had read a Canadian book in the past year (19% in 2002 and 43% in 2012).

The survey also asked about reading a book about a Canadian subject during the past year:

  • Approximately 22% of English-speaking book buyers knew that they had read a book about a Canadian subject in the past year, down from about 45% in 2002.
  • About 51% knew that they had not read a book about a Canadian subject in the past year, roughly similar to the rate of about 46% in 2002.
  • Approximately 27% were unsure whether they had read a book about a Canadian subject, a substantial increase from about 9% in 2002.

The report indicates that “education and income correlate highly with whether or not someone has read a book with a Canadian author or subject in the past year”. There were almost no differences in the results by region of the country.

Despite the relatively low levels of readership of Canadian works, 70% of survey respondents indicated that they are at least moderately impressed with Canadian authors. However, when asked to name a Canadian author, 69% of respondents could not do so (up from 52% in 2002). Those who did name a Canadian author most frequently indicated Margaret Atwood (21%) and Farley Mowat (about 6%). Other authors that were mentioned by between 1% and 3% of respondents include Pierre Berton, Robert Munsch, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Alice Munro, and Linwood Barclay.

The report also indicates that interest in Canadian books is quite high: “76% of respondents said that they are somewhat or very interested in reading Canadian-authored books, and 75% said that they were somewhat or very interested in Canadian subject matter.” The report points to challenges with discovery and knowledge of Canadian books, indicating that there appears to be “a lack of awareness of who Canadian authors are, and perhaps a shortage of identifying information on products or retail displays (physical and online) that indicates Canadian authors”.

A brief summary is available at http://www.booknetcanada.ca/blog/2013/4/4/what-canadians-think-about-canadian-books.html, while the study is available for purchase ($19.95) on the same site. The report is a part of a larger initiative by BookNet Canada: The Canadian Book Consumer 2012.

Summary: 

Based on a survey of 1,005 English-speaking Canadians 18 years of age or older who had bought a book during the month prior to the survey (which was conducted between July and September of 2012), this report finds that only 24% knew that they had read a book by a Canadian author in the past year. In total, 43% of English-speaking Canadian book buyers were unsure whether they had read a book by a Canadian author, while 34% indicated that they knew that they had not done so during the past year.